When Raj Jariwala lost his 12-year-old son, Hardik, it shook completely him and his personal life went for a toss. The shock of losing his son to an accident in 1999, sent his entire family into a tragic state.
His elder son, Ravi, was also merely 15 when the accident took place, and the unfortunate loss lead to a dismal atmosphere in the family. Jariwala recalls that he was totally shattered and it was a difficult time for his family. He decided to shut down his business to look after his family and instead work towards some social cause.
In the memory of his son, Raj Jariwala, who is also known as Raj bhai, established the Hardik Jariwala Foundation that would work for various social causes. The Not-for-Profit Organisation (NGO), named after his son, aimed to work towards three main areas - vidyadaan (gift of education), annadaan (gift of food), and finally, vastradaan (gift of clothes).
Jariwala decided that he would focus on serving the needy and the underprivileged in the rural areas. With the help of a few close friends, he began working in the Mokhamal village near Sabaridhaam in Daang, a tribal district in Gujarat, towards the issues of education, food and clothing.
He recalls first visiting the tribal village of Mokhamal in 2002. As the tribal village is situated in a remote area, he noticed that there was no development happening in the area for years. The people in that area were leading extremely difficult lives. Mokhamal is home to just 2,500 tribal villagers.
Due to the remote location, there is no proper mobile connectivity in the village as well as no power connections available. The lack of basic infrastructure makes it difficult for further development to take place in the village.
Since 2002, he started visiting the village and also started interacting with the kids and the villagers.
After conversing with the locals, including the kids, he realised that the lack of basic stationery materials and bags is one of the major reasons behind low attendance and even drop-out rates in the village school.
He started donating these necessary items that would be required in school after the NGO was formally established. Over time, Jariwala realised that the attendance would improve if all required stationery items are provided in school, and the situation in the area would also improve.
Soon after his ideas were implemented, it was observed that even children from neighbouring villages started showing interest in attending this particular school. Students who stayed 12 kilometres away from the village of Mokhamal started travelling from their village so that they could attend school.
Jariwala shares that these students came to live with their relatives in the village and went home only for the weekend. "This was a huge motivation for us," he explains.
What had started with just one school in the village has now become a movement with over 800 children being supported with education, nutrition, health, hygiene and sports equipment.
Apart from the main school which was started initially in the village, he now helps four other schools as part of the foundation's work.
He recalls an experience where he helped a girl during one of the medical camps which he had set up. The heart operation of the girl would cost around two lakh rupees. The foundation contributed one lakh rupees for her surgery and Jariwala also found a hospital in Chennai that was ready to provide a 50% discount for the girl's heart surgery.
He went ahead accompanying the girl and her parents on their journey. A heart specialist from Switzerland operated upon the little girl, and the surgery was successful. The girl now leads a normal life after the surgery.
Many other students who studied in the schools eventually took admission in colleges in Ahwa and Mehsana. The students who passed out from the school even came back to teach kids in the village.
From 2019, the foundation also started offering scholarships to exceptional students for their college courses such as for diploma and bachelor's degrees. At present, the foundation is also sponsoring courses in Hospitality and Management for three girls in Anand, Gujarat. Post completing the bachelor's degree, they will also extend the funding so that these girls can complete their Master's Degree.
Before the pandemic was even started, Jariwala and other volunteers of the foundation had introduced the concept of using sanitizers and handwashing to the villagers in Mokhamal. Since 2017, they were conducting cleanliness camps in tribal localities where the importance of washing hands was discussed. It helped in preventing mild and severe illnesses.
Jariwala continues to honour his son's memory by distributing stationery kits and uniforms. He has been continuing with this ritual since 2013 in remembrance of his son's birth anniversary. His journey has not been smooth at all.
He explains that when he decided that he would only work in the tribal areas. Although he chose to work in rural areas, it was a big challenge travelling to these areas. He feels that one's attitude towards challenges matters more in resolving it.
He has given himself entirely to social work. He has also put his factory on rent, and whatever he earns out of it, he uses it for basic needs and charity work. His entire family, including his son Ravi, his daughter-in-law, his granddaughter also support his ongoing social work and help him with his projects for the foundation.
The volunteers of the organisation continue to strive to make the foundation's impact more significant. He is satisfied with the work which he is doing for the kids and wants to continue doing the genuine work.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.
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