One of the most beautiful and developed cities in India has to be Bengaluru. The pleasant weather alongside the meteoric growth of the metropolis has turned it into the home for millions. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Bengaluru can give a tough competition to the topmost cities in the world if adjudged on the basis of standard urban parameters.
However, the city too has her share of recurring issues – ranging from sociopolitical to environmental. The city’s municipal corporation BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) definitely works with commendable alacrity. To make their task way lot easier, a non-partisan citizen’s group has taken up the onus to “improve governance in Bengaluru and to enhance the quality of life of every Bengalurean.” For the past few years, Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) has been a frontrunner in identifying, training and spotlighting civic warriors, who truly dedicate their time for the comfort of the people. The Logical Indian latest series identifies a few of the exemplary leaders at B.PAC.
Today, we are featuring Sampath Ramanujam, the founder of Anvaya Foundation, which for five years has conducted a series of social endeavours in and around Bengaluru, mostly for the lesser privileged children, women and village youth. His free Kannada learning classes – Kannada Kaliyona – happens to be one of his most acknowledged initiatives, which has assuredly transformed over 500 non-Kannadigas to Naanu Kannadiga. Incidentally, he is also one of the key contributors of the prominent citizen’s group on Facebook – Whitefield Rising.
Giving Something Back To The City
It has been fourteen years in Bengaluru for Sampath Ramanujam, who originally hails from Tamil Nadu. He arrived in the city for pursuing his career as a software professional and got married to a Kannadiga. With passing years in the thriving city, he realised how Bengaluru is housing an inflow of job seekers from different states, mostly owing to the IT-boom, which indirectly creates tough competition for the local citizens, both in terms of employment and resources.
“I decided that as an outsider here, I should give something back to the city,” exclaims Sampath. Soon, Sampath and his wife started the Anvaya Foundation as a community-connect initiative.
Sampath shares, “Our main motto was that a portion of our salary should go back to the people of the city which is sustaining us with such care and comfort.” His first project was working with students in government schools in and around Whitefield. Most of these students came from the lower-income strata and had little exposure to the outer world, unlike their counterparts in world-class schools of Bengaluru.
Even in 2019, most of them have dreams to become a driver or security personnel, completely oblivious of the fact that their own city in a software hub. So, Sampath decided to give these kids a tour of the IT companies inside the city’s popular tech parks. He often accompanied a fresh group of young learners showing them how the entire software industry functions, and how they can one day sit in front of those computers too, all decked up with crisp shirts and codes at fingertips.
A Peer-To-Peer Learning System Aside The Textbooks
Anvaya Foundation also arranges for higher education support for youngsters in eleven government schools in Whitefield. “We have a dedicated citizen’s network, comprising of cohorts from residential associations as well as my cycling group – Zest Pedal. The members actively identify needy students and after a few interactions with their families, we connect them to the well-wishers who promise to fund their education,” Sampath explains.
A striking initiative by Sampath’s NGO is a unique peer-to-peer learning system where senior students from international schools in the city teach junior pupils in government schools.
At the government schools, the curriculum is predominantly limited to textbooks and syllabus, whereas these high-end international schools train students in diverse domains – ranging from basic coding to robotics to fine arts. “We encourage these students to share the same knowledge to the government school students, which also hone their teaching and management skills,” shares Sampath.
From July this year, Sampath is also provisioning wholesome breakfast in government schools of Bengaluru, under the project name Anvaya Annapoorna. A steaming plate of breakfast accompanied by fruits and sprouts not only helps to kickstart the day for the young minds but has also significantly improved their attendance rates. In time, a simple plate of food can also go a long way in preventing school dropouts.
Cycle Distribution Project
An avid cycling enthusiast, Sampath is also the coordinator of Zest Pedal Cycling Group which plays a crucial role in networking and connectivity for Sampath’s social efforts. In this context, Anvaya’s cycle distribution project deserves special mention.
On one of his trips to Kaiwara in Chikballapur, he came across 8-year-old Shaila who was somehow riding a broken bicycle with utter difficulty. “I realised how these kids cannot even afford a decent bicycle in their growing years, while I spot hundreds of hardly-used bicycles lying piled up and useless in garages or apartment parking lots. That’s when I thought of connecting the two aspects,” shares Sampath.
Over the last three years, he has procured over 750 unused bicycles from apartments and households, serviced them and distributed them to the kids in need. Mostly they conduct the distribution in government schools, orphanages and shelter homes, and sometimes even discrete families who are desperately in need.
Non-Kannadiga to Naanu Kannadiga
Except for a few, most of Anvaya Foundation’s projects are self-financed by Sampath and his wife. In fact, until a few months ago, all classes of Kannada Kaliyona were completely free, which was often misused and taken lightheartedly by the registrants. That is why one needs to submit a refundable deposit of Rs 500 for enrolling in the class, which is duly refunded once a learner completes 80% of the course.
The learning process at Kannada Kaliyona is quite unique. In just six weeks, they have successfully enabled hardcore Delhites or NRIs to speak fluent Kannada and even give impromptu speeches in the language.
Every Saturday and Sunday, two-hour classes are conducted for adults in the classrooms of government schools. The classes are divided into two segments – 1.5 hours of intense learning and 30 minutes of interactive activities. Both Sampath and the learners agree that this interactive session is the icing on the cake for Kannada Kaliyona and contributes to the group’s astounding success.
Interestingly, Sampath himself could not speak Kannada when he arrived in the city. His passion for learning different languages as well as the roadblocks he faced in day-to-day communication prompted him to pick up Kannada quickly, which he now speaks fluently like any person born and brought up here.
Women Empowerment & Youth Support
To empower women in villages in and around Whitefield, the Anvaya Annapurna initiative provides them temporary employment as food distributors during any occasions in the locality. These women prepare snacks, lunch and all components of a hearty meal from home and Anvaya ensure them a marketing space in community functions or celebrations. Within nine months of its start, the project has helped these women to earn as much as Rs 2.5 Lakhs.
Sampath Ramanujam’s social endeavours are undoubtedly thoughtful and encompass every stratum of the society, including the village youth. Anvaya has set up youth clubs in suburban colleges and high schools where the local youth is trained to strategise and execute social activities in their own neighbourhoods.
If all of this was not enough, Sampath also gained the much-deserved spotlight around two years ago when he turned a garbage dump yard in Whitefield into a sprawling Kabaddi ground. He and his team of volunteers achieved the impossible in just three weeks – a feat which was acknowledged by the then Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore as well as PM Modi himself. Though prolonged exposure to the waste took a toll on many of their health, their efforts earned accolades when a Kabaddi tournament was held in the grounds for the local youth.
Be The Next Civic Warrior Like Sampath Ramanujam
Following his training at B.PAC, Sampath had contested the polls in Whitefield as the first person nominated through B.CLIP. Though he lost by a minute margin of just five votes, he had already won people’s hearts.
If you are interested to make a positive impact for Bengaluru and her people, you can register with B.PAC Civic Leadership Incubator Program (B.CLIP) – a flagship initiative which trains you to be a civic leader. After a period of rigorous training and mentoring through classrooms and field projects, one can be eligible to contest in municipal elections or support the citizens in an individual capacity as a conscious public representative. For more details, visit http://bit.ly/bpacbclip.
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