Image source: Varun Shrivastava (Facebook)
When we see small kids begging at railway stations or traffic signal, eating leftover food with no hope left in their lives. At least, at that time, we think about them with a desire to do something but after that we never take out time to do anything about it. Varun Shrivastava an Ex- IITan when visited a street village near Mouda in Nagpur felt the same helplessness. The awareness of the value of education, personal hygiene and nutrition was missing in the village. The blank faces of the children compelled the young engineer to do something for them.
With the inspiration of uplifting downtrodden children, Varun with some of his engineer friends started an NGO, UPAY (Under Privileged Advancement by Youth) in Nagpur. As Diogenes, a Greek philosopher once said, “The foundation of development for every society is the education of its youth”. Varun took forward this thought and determined that if children can’t reach to school, school must reach to them.
With the sole aim of educating underprivileged children the unique idea of ‘Footpath shala’ sprouted in his mind. In ‘Footpath Shala’ – an open school at footpath, Volunteers of UPAY go to footpaths of city where street children beg and live. This initiative has been very successful replacing begging bowels with books and is operating at 5 locations with more than 100 street children coming to the open school. But developing a school infra-structure at footpath was very much challenging so the idea of starting a mobile school with mobile library came forward.
The NGO’s success story can be gauged by the mere fact that where children were unable to do basic arithmetic calculations are now, not just producing excellent academic results but also bringing laurels to these underprivileged areas. Where only 5% children used to pass 10th class exam now UPAY students clear 10th and 12th board exams with 100% success.
Children who could barely dream about secondary school education are now pursuing and feeling confident in going for higher education. Today 125 students are pursuing various graduation courses.
Varun speaks about his dream, “The vision is When not even a single child will sleep hungry, when every child will get ready in the morning to go to school ,not to traffic signals for begging, not to a dhaba or restaurant for cleaning the utensils, not to pick up rags. Till our vision is not fulfilled, we will have to work very hard”.
Varun believes that the progress of the civilization is not judged on basis of the progress made by the upper class but on the basis of progress made by the most disadvantaged & underprivileged people.
The Logical Indian community appreciates Varun for his initiative and hopes that his stories will inspire many others to take the same path he has taken.