Maharashtra is witnessing severe drought every summer for almost two decades now. Thousands of farmers, unable to feed their families, die starving or commit suicides. These deaths have cast a grim shadow of uncertainty among their children, who do not know where to go and what to do. Education has become a distant dream for many.
To stand beside these and other children who come from the deprived families of farmers, 27-year-old Ashok Deshmane has founded his NGO Snehwan. The NGO today takes complete responsibility of these children and looks after their education.
Deshmane’s primary motivation behind starting such an initiative comes from his background.
Speaking with The Logical Indian, he said, “After coming from a similar background — a family of farmers in a small village in Parbhani district of Maharashtra — I have always wanted to do something for the kids”.
Deshmane’s father was a poor farmer who cultivated land to meet the requirement of his family. He barely had any savings. Like others, their family was also struck by the pangs of hunger and poverty. Deshmane’s feelings always found words in his poetry. He added, “I didn’t have an idea of how the world worked or how to help my father and the farmers. Hence, poetry was my only escape from the situation”.
Deshmane’s passion and willingness found a new direction after he came across a documentary on Dr Prakash Baba Amte, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee. This documentary made him realise how much he cares for the farming community and how much he is willing to help them.
He worked hard and completed his education after pursuing Masters in Computer Science. He joined a well-paying job in a software company in Pune. On weekends he used to go around the town teaching children of street vendors and labourers. But it is hard to gather all children at a single place.
2015 was an eye-opener for Deshmane as he went to his village to find it was again severely affected by drought. There was no trace of water, and people had started to leave their homes.
“That is when I decided that something has to be done. People were barely able to survive, how would they afford to provide education for their children? I didn’t want their future generation to meet the same fate. In December 2015, I officially registered my NGO Snehwan in Pune, and decided to quit my job,” Deshmane told The Logical Indian.
Ashok didn’t leave his job initially, as he could do his job in night shifts. But owing to the immense work pressure, and not being able to give 100 percent to the kids, he later quit his job and became a full-time worker of his NGO.
“My parents were initially upset because I left my job. However, I made them realise that I have dedicated my life to the welfare of the poor. Today, they have joined me in my work. My mother cooks all the food for the children.” Deshmane also got married last month and set a great example in his village by not taking any dowry from the bride’s side. Her wife has even joined him to bring about a change in the life of these children.
Today, Snehwan is taking care of 17 children. While some of their fathers have committed suicide because of the drought, few could not afford education for them. All these kids live a healthy life, study and learn under Deshmane’s care. Besides academics, they are trained in music and art.
“We don’t have any girl child under our NGO as we are trying to arrange funds for building a separate house for girls to stay. By the end of 2017, I hope I’ll be able to induct at least 50 kids in our NGO, with at least 20-30 girls,” Deshmane said.
Deshmane thanks his friends and colleagues who have helped him build his NGO. He is currently looking for volunteers to help with the education and growing the organisation.
You can visit Snehwan in Pune at Sr.no. 186, Mayur Colony, Near Chakrapani Vasahat, Bhosari, Pune or you can call them on +91 82372 77615.