In the month of July 2015, Three cyclists undertook an 1200km ride from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and back in 5 days. A cycle ride with a social purpose of helping an orphange in Kashmir, Rahat Manzil. We appreciate their determination & selfless efforts. The three cyclists were supported by the Rotary club of Bombay Worli in the first 1200km ride. We got in touch with Mirza Saaib Beg, one among the three cyclists, who is currently working for the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in their Legal Affairs Department. In the last two years, he has covered over 14,000km cycling in and around Mumbai.
Q: What was the thought behind your initiative?
The plan was to cycle from NCPA, Nariman Point to Ahmedabad and back in 5 days (approx. 1200km) and stop at every law university on the way to get students involved in the literacy campaign. Our contribution is not much but we intended to do as much as we could to make a perceptible difference to the lives of those children.
I was accompanied by Sumit Patil & Pranaya Mohanty. We stopped at every prominent law school on the route and did not solicit any financial contribution from the students we met but we only wanted to put forth the ground realities of what these children face and get the students’ involvement in voluntary skype classes of 30 minutes per week or to assist in facilitation of sharing of reading material for the children. The classes can be of any subject- music, art, law related, history or even sport. The idea is to give the children some exposure as this is the one thing that they lack the most. They are quite articulate and expressive but lack exposure to a world beyond what Kashmir offers them.
Q: What was the response you received? How cooperative were the people you met or institutions you visited?
The response has been overwhelming and we have 22 students from some of India’s finest institutions who have pledged 30 minutes per week for the orphanage over various subjects. We intend to take this number up to a minimum of 50 and then commence the skype sessions for one year. We are now planning the second phase to further our literacy campaign to get more students involved.
Q: What was the motivation behind?
While collective outrage is easy to find, it is not easy to channelize that outrage into proactive and positive action as this takes time, effort, money and other resources. Luckily, I’ve found some individuals who are willing to give most, if not all, of these requirements. Undertaking this journey gives me the satisfaction of having tried to make a perceptible and positive difference to a severely dilapidated place that I call home. I plan to connect law schools on my journey and show interested people how they can contribute to making a difference to the lives of orphaned children, without necessarily making a financial contribution.
We have planned to undertake THREE rides, each over 1000km across the country and are done with Ride No. 1.
Since I am a lawyer, my reach is limited to only law students but it would be great to have engineering students, arts and science students as well as sports enthusiasts to talk to the children so that they can choose their career in an informed manner and at the same time we build bridges in a place where the trust deficit is a cause for much concern. Kashmir is my home and it is where I spent some of my formative years. This activity is a very small one but I feel its my contribution towards securing the future of my home.
Q: How can anyone contribute online to the Skype classes?
Anyone who volunteers for the classes, has to submit a courseproposal. This proposal can be on any subject that you find interesting and can teach. It can be a vocational subject or even just an interactive session where you can share your experience as a student or as a professional with the children at the orphanage. We would appreciate if you could mail us a sample 5-10 minute video and the outline of your course so that we can place it appropriately in
the schedule for the children. There are 400 children in the orphanage in classes 1st to 12th. So you can choose your audience and design the lecture/course accordingly.
The second way to contribute is for those volunteers who are not in a position to take classes but still would like to contribute. Such people can send reading material, relevant links from online sources or even youtube links that they feel are useful for the children of a particular course. For eg. a student of history may be interested in a crash course video that is readily available on youtube but since the level of exposure is quite low in Kashmir, they may not be aware of the same. So you can contribute at that level in creating an online database for these kids.
About Rahat Manzil:
Raahat Manzil was established under the auspices of J&K Yateem Khanah in 1998. The Organization is registered with J&K Govt. for carrying on welfare activities and is a non-political, charitable institution providing monthly financial assistance to 700-widows, 200- physically challenged persons and 200- orphan girls.The NGO currently have 400 orphans (boys) who are residents at the orphanage. They also provide financial assistance to 200 orphan girls but these girls do not reside at Rahat Manzil.
9-Craft Centers have been set up in different parts of Srinagar city where the orphans are given training in basic arts such as tailoring and shawl making to earn a sustenance after they leave the orphanage. They have recently set up a medicare center including a dental clinic which renders the first aid service round the clock to the orphans.Rahat Manzil has a school on its premises, the children who are meritorious are sent to the best schools in Srinagar. Rahat Manzil is in the process of setting up a charitable Degree College at Village Gogo Tehsil and District Budgam, Jammu & Kashmir for higher studies as well.
During the Kashmir floods, the NGO suffered an estimated loss of Rs 40 Lakhs in terms of infrastructure, educational resources and food supplies.