Investing In Changemakers: IDS experience with Madhukar Despande

Are you curious to know about IDS beneficiaries?

Well on the 28th of March 2020, is an opportunity for you to learn not only about a specific project funded by IDS, but also hear from the beneficiary themself from the comfort of your home. An open and interactive dialogue to peak your curiosity and answer your questions.

Here is what we are thinking – A new series, once a month,  that will talk about what inspired Change-makers  to start their work, what challenges they faced and how they overcame. They will discuss their learnings and how IDS support helped them in their project.

This will be interactive session so bring your curiosity and ask questions. All you have to do is dial in from your phone. Scroll down for more info.

Our March  presenter is: Madhukar Despande

Mr. Madhukar Despande, our very own ex-president of IDS  from 1992-94 returned to India with his wife Pushpa to start Vidnyanvahini in 1995, taking early retirement from their profession to start mobile science vans in rural Maharashtra.

It is said that man is a social animal. It is certainly true that in the development of an individual, the society in which s/he grows makes an immense contribution along with the family. An old African phrase ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ expresses this idea succinctly…

-Founding Members Madhukar and Pushpa Deshpande

THEIR  STORY: Science on Wheels’, a program on NBC, caught Pushpa Deshpande’s attention. A Math teacher at Milwaukee Technical High School in Wisconsin, she and her husband Dr. Madhukar Deshpande, also a Math professor at Marquette University, began reflecting. And then came the classic epiphanic moment. 
The couple decided to move back to rural Maharashtra and help equip schoolchildren with practical knowledge of science. In 1994, they took premature retirement and returned to Pune, a city the Deshpandes graduated from. “The idea of a Mobile Science Lab (MSL) for rural schools came like a flash to Pushpa’s mind,” recalls Madhukar. 

It was thus that in 1995, Vidnyanvahini, a not for profit organization, was launched in Pune. Today, a state-of-the-art bus, furnished with a lab, audio-visual equipment, countertops, cupboards, a water tank and a generator, visits about 200 schools per year in 24 districts in Maharashtra. Over 100,000 students have been able to imbibe applied scientific knowledge so far, thanks to the Deshpandes.

MISSION: Although Vidnyanvahini was founded with the objective of providing rural schoolchildren an opportunity to handle scientific instruments and learn the basics through application, it has today become a collaborative platform, supporting other development works. In fact, Vidnyanvahini helped villagers of Surodi learn watershed development and management. It organized a workshop where eminent social workers like Anna Hazare and Popatrao Pawar trained the villagers in watershed management.
The Association for India’s Development’s (AID), Pittsburgh chapter, provided $6,000 for this effort. 
From water-harvesting to science education to agriculture, Vidnyanvahini’s integrative and collaborative efforts have helped create vibrant communities, imbuing them with a scientific temper.

RECOGNITION: The Deshpandes served as members of India Development Service (IDS), a not-for-profit organization in Chicago, for over a decade. The couple has been honored with various awards for community service. Pushpa has been recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Award and a Sewasadan Award in recognition of her service to the cause of education in rural Maharashtra. In 2003, she received an award from Bhagini Nivedita Trust for community service. Dr. Madhukar was among the recipients of the 2005 World Technology Award (WTN).



Date: 28th March 2020. 

Frequency: 4th Saturday of the month

Time: 9 am CST (8:30 pm IST)

Meeting info: Click here to take you to the page 


Call-in number: +1-510-338-9438 USA Toll

+91-11-6480-2006 India Toll (Delhi)

Access code: 622 455 983

This is a great opportunity to learn and connect with actual people making a difference in people’s lives. Looking forward to your presence on the 28th, either listening or asking question!