Tribute to Bhulabhai Vannmalibhai Patel

As part of its Learning and Migration Program (LAMP), which aims to universalize access to elementary education while empowering communities to improve the quality of their children’s education, AIF inaugurated two Learning Resource Centers (LRCs) in the Kakshala and Keshvand, Dangs districts in Gujarat in memory of late Bhulabhai Vanmalibhai Patel.

Learning Resource Centers are safe, supportive, and creative spaces in villages equipped with interactive and technological education materials, where children come to learn, engage, and explore. Launched in 2013, LRCs hold regular classes in both mornings and evenings to close learning gaps among children and instill a joy of learning—transforming how children learn in rural regions of India.

Impacting ten villages, these centers will also assist ten nearby public government schools in adoption of quality teaching–learning practices to address the root causes of learning deficits. Most importantly, the LRCs work to demonstrate quality education to the surrounding community and shift emphasis from marginal improvement of inputs, like school infrastructure, to improving and ensuring higher educational outcomes. The project will work closely with the community on school governance issues and strengthening the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act through actively engaging the local self-governing body Panchayats and influencing them to use their funds effectively in two Gram Panchayats (self-governing districts). Efforts will be made to ensure that there is convergence with other government departments and schemes, like water, sanitation, and health. AIF envisions that such a multi-stakeholder approach, in combination with the learning interventions, will bring a sustainable change in the educational status of these communities over the next four years.

These Learning Resource Centers are supported by Pramod and Roshni Patel in memory of Pramod’s grandfather Bhulabhai Patel. Pramod is a hotelier based in the San Francisco Bay Area; the respect he has for his late grandfather is visible when talks about his grandfather’s life. Born in Asta, a village near Surat in Gujarat to a family of farmers, Bhulabhai always had a quest to do more. After India gained independence in 1947, 100 immigrants were granted citizenship annually to come to the US every year. Bhulabahi was selected number 23 out of 100, first arriving on Ellis Island in New York on a ship on March 12, 1949. From there, he took a train to Sacramento and worked in farms for six months. In November 1949, he leased his first hotel in November 1949. Over the past five decades the family business has grown to include 8 hotels in Northern California.

Bhulabhai was a strong follower of Shrimad Raj Chandra, the guru of Mahatma Gandhi. He was a generous man and believed in helping the needy and supporting principles of ahimsa and non-violence to students studying in schools and colleges. He was instrumental in developing a university near Bardoli, Gujarat–Uka Tarsadia University, which currently has over 10,000 students and 55 faculties. Despite being a successful entrepreneur, he lived a simple life and used public transportation whenever he traveled in India until the age of 90.

His main goal in life was to attain self-realization (atma gyan) and have a samadhi maran (pious death). In spite of supporting the society philanthropically, his individual practice of following the path of ahimsa and non-violence through thoughts, words and action was his primary focus. He had a very peaceful and much celebrated samadhi maran at Shrimad Raj Chandra Ashram Agas near Anand, Guajrat on December 5, 2016 at the of age of 96. Pramod says that the true inheritance that they received from him was an inspiration to lead lives by their grandfather’s principles.

His principles and his legacy will now live at the centers in Gujarat where students will learn and strive for a better tomorrow—while, at the same time, learn human kindness.

Shelby Crowell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *