To See Visually Challenged Students Become Top-Rank IAS Officers He Started A Free Audio Library

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Over the years, the integration of visually-impaired individuals has increased in government services. However, they still have to encounter many difficulties, ranging from the lack of accessible infrastructure to the unavailability of materials in a suitable format. For instance, a visually-challenged aspirant preparing for UPSC can only avail 20% of the entire syllabus in Braille. Akella Raghavendra from Hyderabad observed their plight from close quarters when he started coaching visually-challenged UPSC aspirants in 2016.

“Suppose if there are 4 core books in Geography, an aspirant needs to study all 4 thoroughly to have a wholesome idea. Sadly, only 2 of them are available in Braille format. So if blind students wish to read the other 2, they have to depend on someone else to read the entire book to them,” explains Raghavendra, who has recently published the first-ever comprehensive study material for UPSC in Braille and Audiobook format, opening new doors for visually-challenged civil service aspirants across the country.

Akella Raghavendra was almost blinded by an accident

Akella Raghavendra met with a terrible accident which left him bed-ridden for over six months. After a series of surgeries, when he was on the way to recovery, a doctor revealed to him that by some miracle, his eyesight was saved narrowly. Startled with the truth, Raghavendra wondered what might have happened had he become blind. This prompted him to think about the hundreds of visually-challenged young people in India who were denied a bright future, owing to the lack of accessible facilities and infrastructure.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

Akella Raghavendra

Once working as an editor and writer in his youth, Akella Raghavendra changed his career direction to start guiding civil service aspirants. He has produced more than 350 successful candidates who are now top-scale government officers, including over 40 IAS officers. Since 2010, Raghavendra has been training the visually-impaired and physically-challenged students for UPSC, Graduate-Level, Bank and other competitive exams. “My dream is to see my visually-challenged students become top-rank IAS officers,” he shares.

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The problems faced by visually and physically-challenged aspirants

“Most of the aspirants are not aware that many visually and physically-challenged bureaucrats are there in the service,” he says.

Their problems can be enlisted as three-fold. First is the absence of a single source of study material in their preferred format. Normal aspirants prepare by compiling information from a lot of UPSC books available in the market. Most of these books are printed on paper. It is near impossible for a blind candidate to scan through a heap of paperbacks and study material and jot down notes. So far, not a single book has been written in Braille. The online lectures are either in audio-visual format or not authentic enough. Raghavendra’s comprehensive book, whose details have been explained below, makes the job much easier for them.

Secondly, for physically-challenged candidates, it is not possible to regularly attend coaching centres, especially if hailing from remote areas. Disabled-friendly transport is still a utopia in most of India.

Lastly, finding a professional scribe to write the exams is a major challenge. UPSC is undoubtedly considered the toughest examination in India. Since most visually-impaired and physically challenged candidates cannot write their own exams, they are solely dependent on scribes. But it is hard to find qualified scribes who can accurately document the students’ answers.

The Braille and Audio-book project

During his trip to the USA in 2016, Raghavendra visited a number of special institutions there. “I was amazed to see they were offering so many facilities to the visually and physically-challenged students,” he shares, “That inspired me to implement something similar for Indian students immediately.”

Started in October 2016, Raghavendra registered the help of his students Sagar and Sivaprakash, both of whom are visually-impaired government officials, now preparing for civil services. Together, they thoroughly compiled around 30-35 must-read books for UPSC into audiobook format.

Soon he translated the book into Braille and prepared 10 master copies of the same. The project was completed around February 2018. It deserves an applaud that he has contributed over five lakhs from his own savings for this project.

“The strength of my book is that I have synthesised the crucial gist of the whole syllabus,” he explains that unlike the already existing audiobooks, his book does not dump a huge burden of information on the students. The book already offers a meticulously researched collection of salient points from all subjects.

“The final version of the book was published after incorporating step-by-step feedback from the two students and many of our volunteers. So the book can be considered fool-proof. I am a bit of a perfectionist you can say,” he shares with a hearty laugh.

So far he has distributed the copies among visually-challenged students and trainers in Hyderabad and wishes that more aspirants are benefited from the book.

The audiobooks are available absolutely free on his website: http://online-ias.com/ and can be accessed from anywhere in India by simple registration. “Now no student with any physical limitation needs to travel far for attending any reputed coaching centre,” he declares proudly. He has also prepared a time-oriented preparation routine, customised for these candidates.

The major roadblocks

“It was not an easy journey to execute this project,” narrates Raghavendra. “I have never considered money a problem. I never hesitate to spend my own savings in helping these youngsters. However, I received very little moral support and encouragement from the people.” he adds with a sigh.

So far Raghavendra has successfully converted over 1500 pages into audiobooks. However, his work is only half-done because another 1500 pages still remain to be recorded. His organisation is actively looking for women teachers with clear articulation and pronunciation to volunteer as voice-artists for the audiobook. If you are interested to be a part of his amazing campaign, you can reach out to Akella Raghavendra at [email protected] or 9849311109.

Akella Raghavendra Foundation

Primarily self-funded, the Akella Raghavendra foundation organises the Life Building Training Program in coordination with schools, colleges, communities and dedicated individuals to promote career guidance among students who do not have access to quality education.

Trained volunteers conduct skill and personality development campaigns for the unemployed rural youth from low-income families. They have successfully organised classes in English, socio-cultural, scientific and environmental awareness in over a hundred schools. Akella Foundation also provides educational support to orphaned and visually-challenged children, alongside reimbursing their guardians with money for clothes, books and other needs.

The founder himself travels to remote areas to deliver motivational lectures encouraging marginalised students with the hope of a decent career.

A substantial percentage of civil service aspirants are visually or physically-challenged. Thousands of coaching institutes all over India provide every possible help to the regular candidates, but only Akella Raghavendra have pioneered the responsibility of these candidates.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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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.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

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

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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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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“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.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

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.

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It's not how much we give
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