Project Sitara Foundation is a nonprofit, for-purpose EdTech organization based in India that works to provide accessible education to students in rural communities. The organization is founded and run by a team of young adults who are able to curate curriculum and deliver content through platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp in students’ own language, making learning more inclusive for students in underserved communities.
In 2018, Project Sitara Founder Shriya Shankar became aware of an education gap in the underserved communities in India. She discovered that many high school students from lower-income backgrounds lacked the foundational knowledge needed to find success in mathematics and science. As their education progressed and topics became more complex, these students struggled to keep up. Shankar launched a “project” aimed at helping students pass their board exams and has continued growing and expanding that mission over the last few years, meeting different needs as they arise.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem of unequal and inaccessible learning opportunities in rural Indian communities. As the pandemic swept through India, schools across the country shut down, many of them going remote. The students and the schools in underserved areas didn’t have the resources to facilitate online learning, and many of them were left without education for almost an entire year. Project Sitara sought to fill that gap by providing accessible, quality education for free. By using technology that the students already had access to, like YouTube and WhatsApp, and crafting curriculum in the students’ local language, the team at Project Sitara created an educational support system for the students in rural and underserved communities.
The students served by Sitarta Foundation are often low-income, first-generation learners. Many of the area schools are short on teachers, and now some entire schools are using the content from Project Sitara. Having a quality education can sometimes mean the difference between success and social disaster for these students — preventing them from dropping out and reducing the likelihood of child labor or early marriage.
The Project Sitara platform was initially built on a cloud hyperscaler, but the team at Project Sitara is made up of students, meaning they lacked the funds necessary to pay a high cost for infrastructure and the time it takes to learn and understand the complexities of that cloud providers offerings. They needed a partner who could provide robust support to their organization through an easy-to-use platform and affordable pricing.
The Sitara team had used DigitalOcean in the past for college projects and found it extremely easy to manage. They found that the platform didn’t require a lot of technical knowledge or extensive courses to understand how to use it. When their developer looked into DigitalOcean, he found Hollie’s Hub for Good, a program that provides infrastructure credits and other support to nonprofits using DigitalOcean.
The team at Project Sitara applied for support through Hollie’s Hub for Good and was accepted into the program. By supplying infrastructure credits, DigitalOcean helps Project Sitara use more of their donations for on-the-ground operations rather than the costs of maintaining their technology. The Project Sitara team uses infrastructure credits to host their website and their WhatsApp chatbot on DigitalOcean’s platform. They also have access to additional resources and support supplied through the program, including a community of other organizations committed to social impact projects. By having reliable infrastructure and other supports that they know they can count on, the team can focus on what’s most important—working with the kids.
“One word I would use to describe DigitalOcean is enabler. DigitalOcean has played a huge role because without their support, I don’t think we could run everything as smoothly as we are currently.” - Shriya Shankar, Founder, Project Sitara
The team currently supports over 11,000 children in India and has exciting growth plans. While they’ve been primarily focused on Academy Content, they recently expanded that focus to include helping children build 21st-century skills, better enabling students to face the fast-paced world out there. They also plan to expand across additional states in India, working with more children in their own cultures and languages. As they continue to provide support and build community through their services to students, Project Sitara also seeks to have its own community of supporters. DigitalOcean is a partner that is alongside them every step of the way.
“Having access to the community and support that DigitalOcean provides through Hollie’s Hub for Good has made me feel like we don’t have to be alone. They are here to support us in whatever way that they can, and it feels like we are all in this together. That’s quite motivating for me.” - Shriya Shankar, Founder, Project Sitara
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