Running for India's good: Q&A with Gundeep Kaur | Milaap

Running for India's good: Q&A with Gundeep Kaur

Gundeep
When Gundeep Kaur, a young professional working with Barclays Capital Technology, decided to run her first marathon, she knew that she wanted to use the opportunity to raise funds for a charitable cause. A friend suggested that she consider Milaap and, highly impressed with our microfinance model, she decided to work with us to raise funds for GRAVITY. A joint venture between the Vidya Poshak Institute for Training Youth and the reputed MFI Grameen Koota, GRAVITY visualizes a vocational training program for youth in sectors as varied as Retail, Microfinance & Banking, Hospitality and Health. Gundeep ran her first full-marathon (42.2 kilometers!) at Sundown Marathon in Singapore, in an impressive 6 hours and 36 minutes. She was successful in raising an astounding 1100 USD in five days for GRAVITY.

How did you first get involved with Milaap?
I was looking for an organization to raise funds for my first marathon. One of my colleagues suggested that I should check out Milaap. I was very impressed by your micro-financing model!

Tell us how you became interested in the field of youth empowerment through vocational training.
I have been always supportive of causes related to education of women and children. Out of the four causes that Milaap provides micro-funding for, this one touched my heart the most. I felt that coming from a middle class family, I was able to get education in Singapore because the Singapore government provided me scholarship. The micro-funding for vocational training to these youngsters was similar to my case.

Congratulations on successfully completing your first full marathon! We're very impressed with your effort. :) What made you decide to raise money for Milaap/Gravity through a marathon? 
My charity runs began with a competition with two other colleagues of mine where the winner gets $500. When I won the race, everyone asked me what I will do with the money and immediately I said I will donate it in charity - the thought was it was not my money but my colleagues. So I went back to India, bought 75 blankets and went around my hometown to give to people sleeping in the cold night on the streets. The feeling was great! After that, I decided I will run not only to push my limits but also to raise awareness of charitable organizations that I support.

Could you tell us a few more ways by which an interested citizen can be involved in these kinds of organizations?
The most important thing for the citizen to be involved is if his heart is with the organization. If someone believes in the cause, in his/ her own way he will contribute.

What other causes are you passionate about? What other organizations are you involved with?
I have raised funds for EPICS before. Despite having raised funds for these organizations, I regret that I've never been involved in the work. Next time, I wish to give my time for an organization too.

For every concerned citizen, there are hundreds and hundreds who don't know or care about these causes, or these organizations. In your opinion, how can awareness be raised about the state of India's poor? 
I think people know about India's poor but since there are so many organizations doing multiple things, people will help only if the cause touches their hearts. But doing various events and tapping on other people's network is a great way of raising awareness.

Over 800 million people in India face dire situations every day in terms of sanitation, health, energy, water, and many other spheres. Can you outline a few basic steps that you think would help us in a big picture improvement of these conditions?
Honestly, I really like the idea that Milaap team gets involved with the villagers for their micro-funding schemes. As long as Milaap team does not take a back seat, it is a great way to help people facing those situations. We can contribute in our own small way and if the project gets bigger, I think government should come in.

Tell us about your experiences working with the Milaap team.
The Milaap team was very supportive. From registering the society in Barclays databases to applying for match funding to getting the website up, I felt that they were giving in their best every day. Great team work! Great vision!

You raised 1100 USD in just five days. That's a great feat! What was your experience in raising money for Milaap? How did you manage to garner so much support from so many people?
I was running 42 kms for the first time and my close friends knew how much I had to go through to achieve this. I used to say 'No' to Friday night outs for the sake of training. I gave away my weekend getaways. So my friends and colleagues were aware how much this marathon meant for me. So when I asked them for the donation, I was surprised of getting emails of big contributions from everyone within hours of mailing them. Moreover, they could relate to the cause as all my friends and colleagues have always wanted to do something for India all the time.

What were people's reactions when you requested them to support your cause?
Quite surprisingly, I did not receive a single 'No' for contribution. May be, it was the first time I was asking them for money.

Now that you've completed your first marathon, do you have plans to run in any future events? Do you have other plans to raise funds for other causes close to your heart?
As I have always said, all my runs will always be for a good cause. I will set high targets for myself which will motivate people to contribute. I am a believer of giving it my best and if people believe in me and my intentions are clear, I should be able to raise money for India's good. 

Thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate what you've done for us, and more importantly, for the youngsters that are benefitting from your run.
No problem. Good luck with everything!

You can check out Gundeep's fundraising page at www.gundeep.causevox.com