We all might have heard several stories in which the hero dressed in a cape or with a super motorbike goes on to make the world better. In these stories, he/she fights all odds, without worrying about themselves. Here, we have a real-life hero with a slight difference. The hero here does not wear a cape rather he wears an apron that says “No to plastic”. He does not have a super motorbike instead he travels on his old bicycle to save money that he can instead use for the needy. This hero, a 41-year-old government employee has adopted many schools and has been providing them with basic amenities. He has started cancer awareness camps and is also an environment crusader.
Mannem Sridhar Reddy, a native of Edulagudem village, near Miryalaguda in Telangana, started to work for the people almost 15 years ago. It was in 2002, that some unknown guest at Sridhar’s house in Hyderabad (where he worked) changed his life.
Taking forward father’s legacy
Sridhar lost his father in 1998 in a Maoist attack. While talking to The Logical Indian, he told us that the attack happened when his father had gone to Yadagirigutta Police Station in Telangana to meet one of his cop friends. The Maoist attacked the police station and mistook his father as a Sub-inspector and shot him dead.
Grieving son took his father’s government job which was given to him as a compensation and moved to Hyderabad with his mother. Almost two years later, some government teachers visited his house in Hyderabad and asked him to be the chief guest of a government school on the occasion of Independence Day. Suprised, Sridhar could not fathom that such kind gesture was bestowed upon him. He was told that the government school was adopted by his late father who used to take care of the school needs. Sridhar agreed to visit the school but little did he know that this would change the meaning of his life.
When he reached the school, he was left stunned to see how his father without his family’s knowledge was taking care of so many children. “I was speechless, to see that as an ordinary person like my father had done so much for the little children and how he never even boasted about any of this. On that day I just decided to continue my fathers legacy, and I adopted the school,” he said.
He further said, “Though my father had been providing money to the school, yet there were so many things that the school was deficient of. There were no chairs and tables for the student. Children were studying in old dusty classrooms and no toilet in the school. At that time I had some Rs 90,000 in my savings. I thought that this was the right time to use my savings and I donated the money to the school.”
From government employee to a philanthropist
Soon Sridhar took complete charge of the school. Every Saturday and Sunday he would travel from Hyderabad to see if the children are getting all the facilities. Indeed, this was just the start of Sridhar’s journey to become a philanthropist from a middle-class government employee. He said that many other school principles have also started approaching him to see what he could do for their school’s welfare. This made Sridhar understand that in his district most of the government schools are in pathetic conditions.
“Technically in these schools the government provides for all the amenities. However, these amenities do not even cover most of the basic needs. For example, the government will only provide the subject textbooks to the children. But if a child is interested in drawing or painting or any sport, he or she would be left with no options. Which is why I decided to get them drawings books, colours, general knowledge books and other sports equipment so that they get a healthy growth and will have many more options to choose their career from,” he said.
By now Sridhar had adopted two schools. However, soon his pocket started to face the brunt and he understood that he alone would not be able to carry this further. So, he decided to ask for help from his friends.
The power of the Internet
“After my college got over many of my friends went to different cities in search of a better job, some of my friends also went abroad. In order to reach them, I took the help of the internet, and that did help me as well. So I decided to use the internet to its full potential,” said Sridhar.
In 2007, Sridhar created a facebook page called Manna Miryalaguda, which means “Our town Miryalaguda”. On being asked why he chose this name he said that it would unite all the people and will give identity to his village.
He says that he was delighted to see the kind of response he got from his page. He says that now he has more than 23,000 people on his Facebook page. “They are not just my friends and my relatives, but many others who do not even know me but understand the need to help others,” he said.
Till now Sridhar with the support of his Facebook page has adopted almost 34 schools. “Now many people in the village want to volunteer with me in my visits to different schools,” Sridhar adds.
On one such visit to a school, he realised that these government schools are in open areas yet they do not have any playground for the children so even if they provide sports equipment to school children it would be useless. To get these children a proper playground, Sridhar and his friends decided to clear bushland near the school and convert it into a playground.
“I along with my few friends went to Mukundapuram government school, which is almost 20 km away from Miryalaguda. We cleared the bushes, and it took us some three days to clear the area. After which children started to play on the grounds rather than just staying in their small classrooms,” he said.
With full excitement, he further told us that two of the Mukundapuram government school kids, Uma and Shilpa who are excellent volleyball players had received a scholarship to study for their intermediate education. “It was not just our effort, it was the children effort, and Telangana Cultural Association of Portland also helped them. Now the childer will have a better future,” he added.
Sridhar who is also an environmentalist urges people not to use private transport and try using public transportation. Sridhar travels by his bicycle, and he says to reach his office also he would cycle at least 15 kilometres daily. He says that by this he at least save Rs 5,000 per month that he spends in school welfare.
Higher drop out in Telangana schools
He says that in most of the schools there are no toilets, which is why there is a higher girls dropout ratio in schools. “Boys can go in open to but the girls can not that is why after third standard there is a drop in girl students in most of the schools,” lamented Sridhar.
He claims that several times he has written to the state education board. The school headmaster has also written the government yet there is no change in the situation. “Even in the school that do have toilets. They are filthy or are closed. What is the Modi Swatch Bharat Mission doing now?” He says that his teams have also made toilets in many schools also they take care it those toilets are properly maintained or not.
Sridhar and his team have also started health camps. He told us that Nalagonda District NRI Association asked him to start a cancer health check-up camp in his village. A camp was set up and a team of doctors from Indo-American Cancer Hospital in Hyderabad supervised the camp. He says almost 700 people had attended the camp. Unfortunately, about 24 people were diagnosed with cancer.
Sridhar says that as soon as they were found cancer positive, they started their treatment. Out of 24, the 18 who were at the first stage of cancer are now out of danger, he said.
Sridhar who now works in Mekad district in Telangana. Says that he has exhausted all his casual leaves because he has to travel to many schools. He is also sponsoring the education of two students from his pocket. “This two kids, Kaushik and Shankar are from the very poor background but are very talented. I heard about them from the school teachers and decided to take care of their education,” he said. He claims that he spends 30% of his salary also every month for the welfare of the children in these many schools.
However, in all the work he does he is sad only about one thing. He says that because he has to travel on every holiday. He some time regrets that he is not able to give his full time to his family. “I feel bad about it. But I have tried to explain this to my wife and my children that there are so many others who need us and we must help them. I think they understand me which is why they sometimes accompany me to my visits to schools,” said father of two.