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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Facebook hypes dean, alum’s charity “

Lisa Beth Earle / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ray Umashankar, Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering, and his wife Sue, senior lecturer of marketing (and academic director of the global business program at ellers college of management), help their daughter Nita run the ASSET India Foundation. Their foundation to aid victims of sex trafficking in India was formed by Nita, a UA alumna, and her parents in 2006 while Nita she was still a UA student.
Lisa Beth Earle
Lisa Beth Earle / Arizona Daily Wildcat Ray Umashankar, Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering, and his wife Sue, senior lecturer of marketing (and academic director of the global business program at eller’s college of management), help their daughter Nita run the ASSET India Foundation. Their foundation to aid victims of sex trafficking in India was formed by Nita, a UA alumna, and her parents in 2006 while Nita she was still a UA student.

The Achieving Sustainable Social Equality Through Technology Foundation, created by a UA assistant dean and his daughter, is currently helping victims of sex trafficking in India.

“”In India alone, somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million children get trafficked into prostitution (per year),”” said Ray Umashankar, assistant dean of the UA College of Engineering. “”Our greatest interest is in how many students we actually place in jobs and how many families’ lives have been changed,”” he added.

“”The overall mission of ASSET is to educate the children of sex workers, to break the cycle of abuse and to provide employment to these children,”” said Nita Umashankar, a UA alumna who started the foundation with her father in 2006. “”We believe that education in skilled labor is key, English training, IT skills, India has a need and we want to fill this need,”” she added.

After completeing her undergraduate work in 2003, Nita spent a year in India working with abused women and children.

“”When she came back she dropped this big bombshell,”” her father said. “”The children of sex workers and girls rescued from trafficking were the lowest of the low, the most ostracized, with absolutely no opportunities for getting out.””

The Umashankars were troubled by this and began doing research of their own.

“”We found that there were organizations working with this particular population, but they were taught bag making, sewing, those kinds of things,”” Ray Umashankar said. “”There’s nothing wrong with those professions, except they could not earn sufficient money to keep them out of the flesh trade.””

Ray and Nita Umashankar began thinking of the ever-growing demand for low-end computer skills in India.

“”If we provide computer skills and English language (skills) to these girls, they’ll be easily employable,”” Ray said. “”Because if they have skills, nobody cares what their background is or where they came from.””

The funding for the Umashankars’ foundation mostly comes from private organizations in the United States which are taking part in fundraising contests. To date, the Umashankars have raised more than $400,000, but they are not stopping there.

“”We plan to open up several more centers in the metropolitan areas in India and expand into the rural areas,”” said Nita Umashankar.

The foundation has garnered attention on a global scale, competing in a contest for charities on Facebook. Chase Community Giving is a contest in which Facebook members can vote for their favorite charity. The winner receives $1 million.

ASSET Foundation placed in the top 100 out of more than 700,000 charities in the first round. They advanced to the second round, but did see the success of the first round.

“”This entire competition has been a great learning experience and I have absolutely no regrets about not winning, because we’ve learned so much from it,”” Ray Umashankar said. “”Our next goal is to really increase the number of fans for the ASSET India foundation and its projects, so when future competitions come up I can turn to the fans and say, ‘Hey, I need your help.'””

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