A single man’s dream of changing many lives aptly describes Team Everest. Karthee Vidya laid the foundation of Team Everest, a nonprofit organisation, in 2006, when he clubbed a part of his first salary with three of his friends to raise the first sum of money to help financially poor children. Today, after 16 years, Team Everest is still operating with a team that’s crazy about volunteering.
One man, one dream, and one decision made Team Everest. Helping 40 rural kids has grown to touch 40,000 children every year. Team Everest’s vision is to ‘Inspire everyone to Volunteer.’ They believe in the power of every person’s endless love and want to tap that potential to make a difference in this world.
Creating volunteering opportunities and providing scholarships to financially poor students are the critical activities of Team Everest. They have inspired 1 Lakh+ individual to volunteer and touched the lives of 1 million children till date.
The desire to do something for the less privileged has existed in Karthee since he was a little kid. It broke his heart to see the huge contrast between his friends in his rural school and the private school in Chennai. He always says, “If you have money, you get one kind of education. If you don’t, you get a different one altogether.”
While he could not do much during his school and college years, he still volunteered at old age homes and orphanages, helping in any way he could. After completing his engineering, he joined cognizant, an IT company and donated parts of his first salary. With contributions from three of his friends, he accumulated an amount of ₹4000. He utilised it to donate uniforms, notebooks, and dictionaries to children in a village called ‘Sirumoor’ in Tamil Nadu. This was the first activity of Team Everest.
Volunteering was like second nature for Karthee, and he was working 12-15 hours daily to manage his work and volunteering. After 100 months, on Dec 31, 2014, Karthee quit his high paying IT job to volunteer full-time. Till 2014, Team Everest had no employees or office with just the volunteers.
From Jan 1, 2015, Karthee gradually started building a team, and today, Team Everest has around 30+ full-time employees and 25,000+ active volunteers working towards the dream of making everyone volunteer. They work with 1 Lakh individuals for volunteering and 250+ corporate partners. Some of them include Microsoft, IBM, Ford, CGI, and KPMG.
Many corporates do not have full-time people to do CSR and want to engage their employees in volunteering. With their expertise, Team Everest with their ‘Employee Volunteering Program’ makes volunteering at scale possible and engages more than 15,000 corporate volunteers clocking more than 2 Lakh volunteering hours and making a difference in society.
Team Everest focuses on converting people into givers. Karthee shares, “Indian Government and 3 million nonprofits are trying to solve society’s problems, but people are still struggling and suffering. It is because a majority of individuals have not taken ownership in solving society’s problems. It is very important to make an individual a giver, as when a crisis happens, the immediate person next to someone in trouble is not a government or nonprofit, but a common person.”
Honesty: A key value dear to our heart, honesty helps deliver impact, grow further, touch more lives and create more volunteers.
No shortcuts: Following every regulation without breaking any laws in society. We believe, the shortest way to success is the one that has no shortcuts.
Focus on Impact: Impacting both the beneficiaries and volunteers.
Don’t fear failures: Keep experimenting with new things, facing failures, and bouncing back.
With a vision to inspire everyone to volunteer, Team Everest considers both the actual beneficiary and the volunteer as beneficiaries. If volunteers get a great experience, they will go and solve a lot more problems in society. Hence, creating more volunteers in the society is very important.
Team Everest makes volunteering inclusive to all age groups with diverse volunteering opportunities. Anyone from the age of 3 to senior citizens in age 90 or 95 years old can volunteer in Team Everest, with 75 different kinds of volunteering opportunities. People could volunteer from any part of the world.
Pioneers in the ‘Employee Volunteering Program’, Team Everest do end-to-end program management for employee volunteering programs. They also provide help desk support to solve volunteers’ and beneficiaries’ queries.
With a core philosophy to create more givers in society, Team Everest has achieved several recognitions and milestones, including,
Appreciation from Dr A P J Abdul Kalam
iVolunteer Hero award in 2012, an international award
Radio City - Chennai Citizen award in 2020
iVolunteer Leader in Volunteer Engagement award in 2020
Puthiya Thalaimurai’s Best person of the Year award
‘The Hindu,’ ‘News 7,’ ‘India Today,’ and many others featured Karthee Vidya’s volunteering efforts.
In 2021, ‘The Hindu’ featured an article discussing the impact of virtual volunteering during the pandemic and the significance of Karthee Vidya and its team.
I am the Change - A scholarship to sponsor undergraduate for Parentless, Single Parented, and Financially Poor students.
Smile 100 - Sponsoring the entire school education of 100 Parentless and Single Parented children.
Rural Scholarship - 10 free study centres in Tamil Nadu, helping many rural children with academic doubts, support, summer and winter camps, talent contests, and many more.
Career Ready Scholarship - A scholarship for college students to equip themselves with career skills.
In the initial days of Team Everest, Karthee, as a founder, didn’t know much about how to be a social entrepreneur. The key challenge was learning what a finance team does, how to do fundraising, the HR dept, or legal compliances. He shares, “To be a social entrepreneur, We can’t be just masters of one thing; we have to be jacks of all trades.”
Team Everest keeps experimenting with new models and doesn’t shy away from failures. Remembering one of the failures, Karthee says, initially, while providing undergraduate scholarships, they only supported financially without any skills-building training. As a result, not many students were getting jobs, as they didn’t have guidance on what to do next. Instead of just financial support, they needed guidance and mentoring on what to do next.
“Learning a lesson, in addition to financial support, we started giving them skills-building training, internship opportunities, and even job interviews with corporate and startups we work with,” Karthee adds.
With the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, many corporate programs of Team Everest came to a halt. All corporate projects dropped, and 100% of corporate donations went off. Karthee shares, “We work with both individuals and corporates. Luckily, we had a very good diversification of funds from individuals.”
Although covid impacted in-person volunteering, virtual volunteering boomed, with 90% of programs shifting to virtual volunteering. They have volunteers from 30 different countries and 2000 various places in India. Although they have been into virtual volunteering since 2016, it wasn’t popular with corporates then, with volunteers wanting to meet beneficiaries in person. When Covid happened, it was easy for the team to scale up their virtual volunteering programs with all the systems and processes in place. More than 35,000 people volunteered, clocking over half a million volunteering hours to teach children over phone calls. With the pandemic, volunteering programs became more flexible and accessible.
With the lessons and experiences the pandemic has taught, Karthee grew more as a leader, effectively managing distributed teams in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Noida, Gurgaon, NCR, and Delhi.
With the pandemic, the volunteer programs of Team Everest turned 100% virtual. Now that kids are returning to school, the team is working on diverse in-person volunteering programs. Five years down the line, Karthee Vidya dreams of making 1 million people volunteer. To make volunteering easy and accessible to people of all age groups, Team Everest focuses on diverse volunteering programs to engage school children, college students, working professionals, homemakers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, retired people, and senior citizens.
Other than that, environment-related initiatives are also something Team Everest is working towards.
Karthee shares, “Never stop learning. Because we live in a very dynamic world, we quickly become obsolete. The key to success is to keep learning. Try, fail, get up, iterate, and try again. Don’t shy away from failures.”
He adds, “Remember to volunteer. The world looks more beautiful when everyone volunteers. This world deserves more givers than takers. If you love volunteering, work in a corporate looking for a volunteering opportunity, or want to create a culture of volunteering in your company, don’t hesitate to reach out to Team Everest. Happy volunteering!”