Who would have imagined kids who used beg on the streets to sustain life are now studying in Aviation, Medicine and IIITs? Dhasarathan and Dhanraj were child labourers working in brick kilns. Presently, one of them is studying medicine in Crimea State University and the other studying Bachelors of Design course in IIIT Jabalpur. Not only them, but about 50 students from the below poverty line (BPL) category are successfully pursuing higher studies. Their dreams were made a reality by Dr Uma, MBA, Ph.D and her friends. They started the Suyam Charitable Trust and are currently helping 500+ children to receive a good education.
Uma and Muthuram
Twenty years ago, Uma and Muthuram were documenting the lives of street children in India when they came across 3-year-old Jayavel.His mother was an alcoholic. Everyday, he along with his three sisters and a brother, begged on roads for survival.
Uma and Muthuram wanted to help these children who are the future of our country. They established Suyam Charitable Trust to help them and took in Jayavel. He was the first student of Suyam Charitable Trust-established Siragu Montessori School in 2003. Jayavel has finished his schooling and is now at the near-completion of his graduation in aviation in Philippines.
No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank
Muthuram said ” We have mortgaged our properties to fund the higher education of our students and also few people have gave us interest free loans.”
Majority of us feel sorry when we see a child beg on the road, and few of us donate money and move on, but a very few of us want to change the lives of those children. At 12, Uma and Mathura started teaching mathematics to children who lived in slums. Apart from this, she used to volunteer at health camps for the elderly, blood donation camps and used to help accident victims.
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During her masters, Uma came across Mahalingam who used to work in a factory which makes bronze lamps. While cleaning a compressor, someone accidentally switched it on. Molten bronze gushed out of it and burnt Mahalingam’s face and entered his wind and food pipe. He was admitted to a government hospital, Tirunelveli where the doctors gave primary treatment and sent him away.
Uma came to know about him through one of his journalist friends who got her in touch with Mahalingam in Chennai. She admitted him to the RIGID hospital. Dr JS Raj Kumar, Chairman of RIGID Hospitals in Kilpauk, operated the boy for free. During his stay at the hospital, Uma helped him with his intermediate maths. Later, Mahalingam completed masters in economics, was reunited with his family, got married and is now a happy parent.
She, along with her friends, in 1999 established Suyam Charitable Trust. Initially, the trust accepted only child beggars, but later on, started taking child labourers too.
Creative And Innovative Curriculum
In Suyam school, Siragu, Montessori, innovative education is followed from LKG to the 12th standard.
Icono Write is one of the innovative methods where the children learn to write and remember spellings and concept in a quick and creative way. At Siragu school children are encouraged to learn and voice their opinions and ideas independently.
Now the school is implementing Theaters into their curriculum. Resource persons from Delhi and volunteers from Ahmedabad are supporting the school to bring “Theatre in Education”.
Building The School Boundary Wall With Discarded Bottles
Due to lack of funds, the school was unable to rebuild a broken wall. One of the students in the school asked why cannot they build the wall using waste plastic bottles. With Dr Uma’s encouragement and motivation, students built a sample wall with discarded plastic bottles. Later students, parents and volunteers collected discarded plastic bottles from marriage halls and hotels, washed them and filled them with sand and built the boundary wall of 47 feet in Rs.32,000, which previously budgeted at Rs.1,50,000.
“Now nine classroom walls are built using discarded water bottles. There is no electricity provided in the green hall. We are using translucent roofing sheets classrooms lit. Every classroom window grills depict various math and science models.” said Muthuram.
Uma herself is an educationist and a doctorate awardee who trains teachers regularly on innovative practices to handle the classrooms efficiently. Teachers are taken to various school visits where they learn from seasoned teachers.
Muthuram said “The teachers are exposed to various creative projects around the country. They are taken to all India tours and they visit various institutions and interact with experienced teachers and come back and try to implement those practices in their classrooms”.
Uma visits the classrooms regularly, interacts with the teachers and gives suggestions on how to handle difficult kids and topics.
It wasn’t an easy task for the duo to accomplish this. They have undergone many challenges to educate the children. The trust is paying the fees for most of the students who are studying graduation. Uma and Muthuram have undergone severe financial problems, finding the means to fund the higher education of the students. One of the donors also pledged his property to get a loan for two students’ MBBS education.
They also feel that the solution to the financial crunch is “Pay Back Model”, where the students who get help from the trust plough back the money to help other students in the trust.
Support Suyam for their dreams to come true and educate hundreds of kids who still wait at their door to get in. Be a volunteer, well wisher, a mentor. Timely support bring meaningful impact in the lives of hundreds of children.
You can get in touch with the organisation at : Mr. Muthuram 9840365819 or [email protected]
Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.
Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge
Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.
No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank
‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles
It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.
The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.
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“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.
In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.
“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.
On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.
Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.
“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.
After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.
Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.