In September 2017, after our house got flooded by Hurricane Irma, I quickly realized that my plans to attend the World Youth Championship in Uruguay were over. I remember being very disappointed. However, as our friends helped us recover over the next several weeks, that disappointment gradually gave way to relief and finally gratitude. When the news on TV laid bare the extent of human misery that Irma had left in her wake, I realized how lucky we were in comparison. It was then that I decided that I had to help – and my gut told me the best way would be through chess. By November, I had started my first GoFundMe campaign, Chess for Charity, and all the money that I raised went directly to the Red Cross. While reaching the initial goal of $500 was gratifying, this experiment also made me realize that I could do more.
So, last year, when my dad mentioned his trip to Parikrma’s schools, I thought about my GoFundMe experiment once again.
I have been a chess player for more than a decade now. Chess has been an essential part of my life, teaching me to think ahead, be resilient in defeat and calm under pressure. It has also brought me quite a bit of success. I was awarded the lifelong title of National Master a year back – a title that is given to less than half a percent of all junior chess players – and I have represented the United States in international competitions. Last year, I was honored to be one of the five recipients of the Scholar-Chessplayer award from the United States Chess Federation, for excellence in academics and in chess.
I have been teaching chess locally to players young and old for several years now. I began teaching chess because I wanted others to experience the same thrill I felt when I played the game the first time. It is immensely satisfying to see the happy faces of the children as they come to appreciate the joys of the game that has given me so much over the years. But much more importantly, I always find myself learning from my students. I now realize that the best prizes come not from winning but from connecting with the person on the other side of the board. When I teach chess, I become a better player – and a better person.
So, in many ways, chess has been an important influence in my life and I firmly believe that it can be so for many other children like me. The goals and philosophy of Parikrma have always inspired me – and I asked my father whether I could do anything to help Parikrma start a chess coaching club within the school.
As far as games go, the capital investments required for chess are modest – all one needs are a few chess sets along with some eager learners. What is more important is to have a good coach – someone who can instill the joys of the game among the students and inspire them to learn and experiment more in their free time (for example, I can attribute much of my progress in chess due to my coach). So, in order to start the chess club, Parikrma would need a regular chess coach – and for that, we needed funds.
Again, my gut told me that the fundraising had to be through chess. I already knew the template of GoFundMe, but this time my goal was higher: I had to raise around $1000.
You make progress in chess in two ways – through coaching, when you learn about new techniques and through playing, when you get to utilize those techniques in actual games. I offered my services in both ways – I could play games with interested players or coach them online. In return, I asked the players to contribute to my GoFundMe campaign for a chess club at Parikrma schools.
Over the next several months, I played with many players and coached many others, mostly during the night or weekends. The players contributed generously and finally, one day, I reached my goal: over $1000 had been contributed to my campaign. Thankfully, I reached my goal before I became too involved in my college applications (I will be starting college from Fall 2019), so everything worked out in the end.