Thangjam Chanulenbi Devi was born in a small town of Imphal, Manipur. She was a mere three years old when her father was shot dead by an unidentified gunman at Keisampat on April 12, 1992. With the death of her father, she and her mother found hoards of hitches in their lives. Chanulenbi’s mother, Satyabhama Devi, was very young when she was widowed. In order to earn a living and fund the education of her little daughter, Satyabhama began to embroider clothes. The income which came from embroidering clothes was not enough to make a living, however. The difficulties of earning a livelihood were hard on mother and daughter until the KSDO identified their case and sent Chanulenbi’s application of educational sponsorship to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The Foundation selected her for its INTERACT scholarship in 1997. Chanulenbi was in lower kindergarten then. The Foundation took care of her school fees, uniforms, books and everything additional pertaining to education. Her mother’s eyes puffed up with happiness when she received her first cheque in 1997. Chanulenbi has a prompt and creative mind, which helped her overcome her unfortunate times. Chanulenbi’s mother was toiling hard with her embroidery work, yet still earning little. She tried opening a small paan shop at her residence, which then failed as insurgents declared attacks over Zarda and Meetha Pan Sellers. She was left with no alternative but to frequently visit a nearby town to buy goods to be sold in Imphal. The continuous efforts of mother to earn a livelihood had adverse effects on the education and schooling of little Chanulenbi. She had to stay with neighbours or friends for 2–3 days while her mother was away to buy goods from the other city. The situation was getting difficult for both the mother and daughter to handle. After consulting relatives and neighbours, Chanulenbi was sent to St. Savier’s International School, Shillong, in class VIII. The school authorities were impressed to see the hard work and spirit of Chanulenbi and transferred her to St. Savier’s International School, Kerala. It is from this school that she passed her class X examinations in the first division. She completed her senior secondary education from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhawan in Andhra Pradesh. Having discovered her interests, she joined Vivekananda College of Engineering and graduated with a degree in B.Tech. (Information Technology). In 2014, besides a degree in engineering, she returned home with hopes and happiness. After spending a considerable amount of time with her mother, she headed back to Bangalore in 2015. There, she took a job at Omega Healthcare Management Services as an AR associate. Her eyes reflect contentment and her smile speaks of gratefulness to the INTERACT scholarship now.
The lives of N. Thambou Singh and his three siblings were completely devastated when their father was taken and killed by insurgents. Call it divine design or luck, this bright boy was recognised by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Thambou was taken in under the Foundation’s education scholarship programme, INTERACT, and his life changed for good. He was sent to Agnel Bal Bhawan, Greater Noida, by the Foundation when he was barely in class I. But the family had hardly recovered from his father’s death his mother died as well a year later. The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation did not turn its back on the orphaned children but pledged to support them throughout. Thambou grew up in Noida, excelling in every field, whether it was academics or sports. He set a record in the Delhi Marathon and even captained the Delhi state football team. He took up a hotel management course at Punjab Technical University after completing high school. The Foundation didn’t withdraw its support even then and aided him under a scholarship programme for higher education called INTERACT-II. As part of his training, he started working at KFC and became an ambassador at The Taj- Vivanta hotel. After receiving his degree in hotel management, he joined Crowne Plaza, Greater Noida. In order to satiate his urge to live in his homeland, he returned to Manipur and joined the Classic Group of Hotels as chief steward. While visiting Delhi to stay with his relatives, he felt nostalgic seeing KFC and immediately applied for the post of shift manager there. Having got himself transferred to Guwahati, he spent most of his time with his family. He has grown up to be a perfect gentleman and married a lovely lady on October 18, 2015. He is leading a happy and contented life with his wife at Dimapur, a peaceful life with the family he always yearned for. He earns a good salary and returns home to a loving wife. He has shared with the Foundation his future plans of working in the tourism sector and helping the needy.
Govardhana Devi’s father was a police constable in Warangal district of Telangana. He was killed by Naxalites on October 7, 1996. The unexpected death of her father left the entire family in shock. Her father not only supported the family, but also her old grandfather and grandmother. The unanticipated demise of her father paved the way for many troubles and difficult times for the family. Govardhana Devi’s father was the backbone of the family. His absence left the family shattered both mentally and financially. In this situation, Govardhana Devi received help that was very important in these punitive times. She received an education scholarship from Rajiv Gandhi Foundation under the initiative named INTERACT. She was in class I when she received the first cheque. That cheque received by her family held an importance for her future that nothing else in this world can. The INTERACT scholarship helped her complete her primary education. She passed her Class XII examinations with 96% marks and made not only the family but also the Foundation proud. She further cleared her M.B.B.S. examination and secured a seat in one of the most reputed medical colleges, Gandhi Medical College, Hyderabad. This was made possible with the rigorous financial support of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Govardhana happily told us, “I am going to become a doctor in coming days, and the credit goes to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. My entire family is grateful of the help rendered by [the Foundation].” Furthermore, the state government of Arunachal Pradesh gave her mother a job in the police department, as a clerk, on June 1, 1998. The scholarship helped her to complete her education and gave wings to her dreams. The scholarship covered her college fees, costs of textbooks and uniforms, and everything else pertaining to education. Govardhana strongly feels that the valuable support of the Foundation has enlightened the lives of many Naxalite-affected families. She appeals to the Foundation to extend its support to as many families as possible, to improve their lives socially, financially and psychologically.
Amjad Khan, 30, was born in the Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh on July 4, 1980. In 1981, he was nine months old when he contracted polio. While communicating with us, he went numb while describing his life before receiving the vehicle. He told us the kind of social humiliation he faced while travelling from one place to another. People around him not only pitied, but also reduced him to a subject of laughter. Even as a child, he faced a lot of difficulty while carrying out normal day-to-day activities. It happened to be a warm summer day that brought with it lots of hope and happiness for Amjad Khan. He got to know about the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation’s Access to Opportunities programme, and after that, it was a matter of months before the vehicle was in his hands. This was a trailer for his upcoming value-added days. He completed his master’s course in arts after receiving the vehicle. The 20km distance between home and college was now covered with ease. On being asked about the biggest benefit of the vehicle, he proudly said, “Autonomy.” He is currently working as a secretary at the Human Ability Foundation. Apart from this, he is also a member of the Students Islamic Organisation (SIO). He is also General Secretary for a trust that he himself initiated one year ago. On being asked about the trust, he proudly shared his goals and objectives. He revealed that the main objective was to uplift people from underprivileged backgrounds. The trust also aims to create awareness among the people about the physically handicapped. Besides, Amjad also engages himself in teaching a class of 40–45 children free of cost. Parents who are unable to pay for the education of their children are sent to the classes run by Amjad Khan. He also works as a teacher at Noodal Academy School, Noida.
1993 was a tough year for a three year old boy named Rati Nath, when he lost his leg under a fever. His family never knew that a meagre fever would hamper their son’s ability to walk. Frequent visitations to doctor went futile and resulted in lowered family income. Today, when our team got into conversation with Rati Nath’s, his eyes went moist while recalling that unfateful night. He grew up in lower middle-class family, where his father engaged in a small business of herbs. Due to increased financial constraints, he had to leave his education in between. He had no option but help his father in his business of herbs.
Even after working for hours, his disability hindered his ability to work. He faced difficulty while commuting from one place to another. The sale of his business was suffering on the verge of his physical disability. He failed to take another job because of lack of educational qualifications. He shared with the team his episodes of humility and depression because of his physical disability. He faced heaps of difficulty in selling Surma (traditional eye-liners) in different areas of his village. Earlier he could cover only a region or two along with heavy transportation cost. This did not benefit the family income, instead pushed them into poverty.
It was in year 2014, Rati Nath got his vehicle from Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. And after that his life changed for good. It is widely said that every cloud has a silver lining. The scooter provided by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation was a glimmer of hope in the room full of darkness. Rati Nath seized the ray and rode towards light of success. With smile on face and contentment in eyes, he thanked the foundation for the support. Now he manages to travel in different villages and sell Surma, along with other herbs. There is a considerable increase in his daily earnings. Earlier, he managed a meagre earning of ₹ 150-200 rupees a day, but now with the assistance of scooter he earns ₹ 300-400. Apart from increased income, Rati Nath saves a lot of time and invest it in social and family gatherings.
In 1980, Sunder Lal Yadav was born healthy to a family in Rewari, Haryana. When he was 11 months old, he and his family met with a dreadful accident. He nearly drowned in a sewage pool and stopped breathing for a while. On gaining consciousness, he was struck by a strong fever and consequent stiffening of body parts. After consulting the doctors, it was discovered that he had lost the use of his leg. Sunder Lal could not have imagined that this accident would have snatched away his ability to move. His broken voice and moist eyes reflected the adverse aftermath of the accident.
Because of the disability, his studies and ambitions suffered. It took him 2–2.5 hours to reach college from home. The onerous task of propelling the triwheeler with his hands resulted in unbearable pain developing in his hands. It was in the year 2010 that he was noticed by a member of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, who suggested that he seek aid from the Foundation.
In the year 2013, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation gave wings to the dreams of Sunder Lal Yadav. It is well said that resolute goals only require a slight push. One such push was offered by the Foundation. After receiving the scooter, Sunder Lal’s life changed radically. All his dreams and aspirations started turning into reality. With the help of the scooter, Sunder Lal completed his postgraduation course and got a diploma in computers. The vehicle enabled him to get his vendor licence from the DC office. He is currently employed selling and writing stamp papers at Rewari tehsil. All this has contributed to an increase in his monthly income to Rs6,000.
Apart from economic support, the scooter strengthened his social standing as well. He mentioned his increased participation in the cultural activities of the tehsil. With the assistance of the scooter, he has contributed to social work and mixed with people. This social attitude towards the community has made him a member of the panchayat of his village. On being asked about his objectives on becoming a member of panchayat, he mentioned education and electricity as the key areas. With the support of the scooter, he actively engages with the youth club of his village, which focuses on environmental, social and educational issues. He is perceived as an active member of society, and he acknowledges the help that the scooter has given him.
Deepak Kumar was born to Suresh Kumar, an auto driver, and Phool Kumari on October 23, 2003. Deepak are three siblings living at 21-A Janpath, New Delhi. He has been a regular at the Wonderoom since many years. “I saw some children from my locality making paper peacocks. Later, they told me about a place called Wonderoom where they are taught such kind of stuffs for free,” he remembers. With a longing to learn new things, he asked his mother for permission to join the Wonderoom. Fearing high expenses, his mother declined the proposal. Next day, he went back to his friends and again inquired about the charges and was delighted to hear “None!” Deepak started coming to the Wonderoom with a desire to learn beyond what he encountered in classrooms. On being asked, he revealed his interest in science. With a swift laugh, he tells of his skill at repairing the circuitry of the house. And because of this reason, he takes a keen interest in the Fun Science sessions held at the Wonderoom. He loves being around Ashwini-sir, who conducts the Fun Science sessions. The sessions have helped him in his studies and school projects. On being asked to say more about his favourite thing about the Wonderoom, this shy boy said, “I enjoy the weird facts that Ashwini-sir articulates in between the sessions.” Playing kabaddi, kho-kho, and dog and bone with his friends has become another of his favourite pastimes at the Wonderoom. Being a big-time Salmaan Khan fan, he also engages in drama and dancing. He is currently studying in class VIII at Navyug School, Mandir Marg, New Delhi. He loves to draw and paint during his spare time. He even involves himself in reading mythological books and his favourite book is the Ramayana. “I like Hanuman-ii the most!” he adds with a smile.
Neha was born to Devendra Kumar, a taxi driver, and his wife Lata Kumar on December 13, 2001. She was born in Ghaziabad, but soon shifted to 21-A Janpath, New Delhi, and has been living here since then. She is the eldest child among three siblings. She started coming to the Wonderoom in the year 2013 and since then has been a regular. She was only a small girl when she got to know about a place called the Wonderoom. One day, while playing with some friends in the colony, she heard them talking about the Wonderoom. “Didi was talking about a place which had hundreds of books and thousands of things to learn,” she recalls. With a desire to learn new things and a zeal to read all the books, she ran back home to tell her mother everything she had heard about the Wonderoom. Coming from a financially backward family, her mother feared the high fees and doubted the reliability of the place. Neha smiles and tells us that one day, her mother finally came and inspected the place herself. As anticipated, the Wonderoom won her trust as well! And so began the sequence of laughter, joy and learning. Neha was already developing an interest in acting, and the Wonderoom gave a boost to her talent. She learnt a lot of about acting during the drama sessions held at the Wonderoom. On being asked about her favourite session, she says “Drama!” with excitement. She admires and takes Rajneesh Bisht as a role model—he conducts the drama sessions at the Wonderoom. Her words of admiration were fulsome while describing Rajneesh Bisht and she continued, saying, “I like his sessions a lot. I follow the small piece[s] of advice he delivers while conducting a session. He is a brilliant actor and director!” Besides the drama sessions, Neha loves to sit in the Wonderoom and read historical books. She loves reading about the World Wars in particular. She also reads picture books. She feels that there is a vast gap between the teachings of schools and the Wonderoom. Expounding on the same point, she took history as an example. She said, “In schools, the history classes tend to become dull and monotonous; whereas in Wonderoom, Ashwini-sir explains the same thing, making it livelier.” Neha considers the Wonderoom a storehouse where children get an opportunity to enhance their personality. She has been recommending the Wonderoom to several children around school and in her locality. She has even put up posters of the Wonderoom’s events across colonies and schools. “Children should join Wonderoom, else they are missing on something really worthy,” she says. She is currently studying in class X at Navyug School, Mandir Marg, and loves to do some acting and dancing during her free time.
Julie was born to Shri Panna Lal and Smt. Lalmani Devi on June 15, 1996, in Varanasi. Her father was a poor weaver whose meagre income failed to support the family. Her mother worked at a nearby school as a maid, her small income making no dent in the family’s deep financial turmoil. As a result, Julie’s elder sister had to leave school after class V. Julie too was growing up, and the precariousness of her future grew too. Her schooling was at stake due to the family’s deteriorating financial situation. As anticipated, her father pressured her to leave school after class V. Julie had been a bright and hardworking student since childhood. She had a keen interest in the principles of science and the formulas of mathematics. She wanted to continue her education but the low income of the parents made it a little difficult. In all this, a blessing came in the form of the VidyaGyan scholarship programme. Julie was selected for this scholarship when she was in class VI. The scholarship left her father with no choice but to allow his daughter to complete her schooling. She was overjoyed on seeing her future clear. Julie uses the money she gets from the scholarship to pay her school fees and buy her uniform and books. “Before getting the scholarship, my school fee was always paid late, but now it is paid in time,” she says. She is taught mathematics, science, English and general knowledge at a coaching class, which helps her studies. She is very grateful to the VidyaGyan scholarship for supporting her education and expresses a great desire to study further.
Maria Varsi was born to a very poor family in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. Her father works as a daily-wage labourer and is unable to provide even twice-daily meals for the family. Humans earn in order to fund the basic necessities—food, clothing and housing. After fulfilling these necessities, they invest their income in secondary things such as education. But in small places like Barabanki, families still have the mindset of not educating a girl child. Maria’s father, Mohammed Shafiq, and mother, Sufia Khan, shared a strained relationship and thus lived separately. Maria and her little sister lived with her mother. Due to lack of employment, her mother could only barely manage food for the family. Her mother’s meagre income and seasonal employment made education an unrealistic dream for Maria. Because of her mother’s determination, Maria was admitted to a nearby school where she completed her primary schooling. She was enthusiastic about reading and writing. But her dreams of studying came to a halt when the family’s financial crises left them unable to sustain her education. It was the little girl’s fortune or blessings from above that she got selected for the VidyaGyan scholarship. Under this scholarship, she was given coaching in different subjects free of cost. Besides, she was even given Rs 500 per month to assist in her schooling. Maria’s mother was always worried about the future of her daughter. But the scholarship provided under VidyaGyan gave her the spirit to think about Maria’s future. The scholarship enabled Maria to brace her determination too. Maria now works tirelessly at coaching and home to excel in her studies. She is one of the best students in her class and is looked up to by her classmates. She aims to become a teacher herself and teach the underprivileged for free. She does not want any child to sacrifice his or her education because of financial crises. Her mother is grateful to the Beti Foundation and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation for securing her daughter’s future.
I worked with Rajiv Gandhi Foundation as an intern. Although my journey with the Foundation team was of few months but I got to learn a lot there. People, environment and the working sphere is quite peaceful and enthusiastic. It is very different from other NGO’s. The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation gave me an opportunity to meet some great people who are not physically able but are living their life with great joy and will. It was because of this foundation that I came to know their struggle with life
Pursuing Post Graduation in English Literature
University of Delhi
I worked in the Communications wing of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. It has been one of the best experiences I have had interning at an organization. The work was good and I did not feel like I was being exploited! (which kind of happens at a lot of internships)
I enjoyed working on the newsletters and the new website; my opinions were taken and valued.
As far as the work culture is concerned, it is neither too rigid nor too relaxed. It is quite on-point. The team is super warm and absolutely welcoming. They made me feel like a part of their family. Everyone finds time to eat together, celebrate birthdays together, and conduct movie screenings on socio-political issues. Also, not to forget, my favourite part of the internship were the impromptu tea breaks where everyone would break into discussing politics or current affairs! Hence, not a single day was dull or lax.
I feel that the Foundation has a lot of scope for interactive learning, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it.
Delhi School of Economics
The RGF Summer Camp was an incredible platform to work together with children in an attempt to go through a more natural process of learning.
Great environment to work with amazing people, both staff and students.
This experience would help to improve and refine my learning.
From start to finish, had a great time.
I have spent some great time[s] with the children in the Foundation. Although I was there with the intention to teach them but guess what? I have been taught many things by them. Life is all about happiness and experiences and it always gets multiplied when there are kids around you.
The enthusiasm in the kids is something which tells you to keep going and it has always motivated me. I wish to continue my volunteering at the Foundation for the great cause they are into. It has given me some proud moments which I will carry with me through out my life.
I wish all the success to the Foundation for their mission and making kids’ lives more wonderful each day.