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To better acquaint our members and the greater community with our grantees, we are highlighting some of the nonprofit organizations that have received WGC grant funds. This quarter, we reached out to Lakshmi Darbha, Founder and President of Aavanee, a new WGC grantee organization.

Please introduce yourself. What is your role at your organization and how long have you been with the organization.

My name is Lakshmi Darbha. I am the founder and President of the non-profit charitable organization Aavanee. Aavanee is relatively new, a little over 3 years old.

What is the mission of the organization, and what personally moves you about that mission?

Aavanee serves as voice for Women and Families. Our mission is "Work Today to Bring a Change Tomorrow." As the mission states, we started primarily as a women's organization and soon realized that we can improve the career choices for women through early education and motivation. We achieve this through our STEM programs for kids. Some of the changes in my own personal life such as divorce, domestic violence combined with unemployment motivated me to start finding solutions to these situations and empower women ahead of time with a wealth of resources and support.

What are the most significant challenges that the organization is facing right now? What are the most significant challenges faced by the clients/populations that you serve?

Our organization received a boost with the Women's Giving Circle grant. We are motivated to apply for more grants and increase our workforce support program to ALICE household women as well as Women returning to workforce after a break due to childcare as Stay-at-home Moms. We believe that we do not have to wait for an adverse incident such as domestic violence to happen in order to provide training and support. Empowerment can start early on.

Our clients, mostly women, are enthusiastic to sign up for the program, however less than half of them discontinue midway until only a few complete the program, as their daily schedule such as work, childcare, homemaking, takes up priority over their personal development. We do collect the information about childcare support (if needed) and provide laptops for online training. We are looking forward to providing help with employment internships and interview help after the participants complete training.

Besides these, we have a mindfulness program for women conducted by a highly trained yoga master. Aavanee is able to manage online training easily through Zoom, however, the in-person training costs would be slightly higher otherwise. We do not have any other active grant supporting the organization except for in-kind donations.

We are also growing with regard to STEM Education among children. This year we were recognized by Society for Science as one of the 66 STEM Advocates across the country promoting Science projects among Middle School and High Schoolers.

What is the nature of the Giving Circle grant that you received in 2021, and what impact will it have on women and their dependents in Frederick?

We received a grant from Women's Giving Circle to conduct eight sets of workforce training for women from ALICE households and Female Heads of Households. We are working in collaboration with Minnodi LLC and we have already completed four sets of trainings in various fields including Basic IT Administration, HR, and Cybersecurity.

We are hoping to see a positive impact on women who are from ALICE households, especially single Moms who can now think of taking up a better-paying career opportunity through our programs. We are encouraging them to make better career choices and also help their children take up STEM careers in the future.

Is there anything further that members of the Giving Circle can do to help, in terms of volunteering, in-kind donations, etc?

Aavanee welcomes support in the form of volunteering, wider outreach, and help with awareness to all eligible women in the county. We definitely accept in-kind donations to be able to incorporate more aspects into the training program!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for giving us this opportunity and support to serve nearly 50 women with better career choices and to slowly take them out of the financially challenging situations in life.


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