When you educate an individual, you change not only their lives but the lives of all the following generations in the family. Thanks to one student of MNNIT Allahabad and Alumni, the underprivileged children from this city will get the gift whose impact will be felt for years to come. Here is their story.
Kanad Kumar Amar, then 15, was walking to his school in Mirazpur when he saw a sight that is all too familiar for those of us in India—children working in cycle repair shops, at the sabzi mandi, and running errands for kirana stores. Children who have no access to education and have to go to work at early age to support their families’ incomes. His heart would hurt whenever he saw this sight, but like most of us, he would ignore it hoping that someday perhaps he would do something about it.
Fortunately, Kanad got the chance just two years later when he joined MNNIT (Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology), Allahabad. This time he knew he would act on it. “When you see something that gives you pain, you can either ignore the pain or you can heal the pain,” says Kanad. Often times, we blame the system for ignoring the marginalized. Even after we begin the work, we may feel that the beneficiaries are reluctant to take our help. Yet, it is our internal motivation and zeal that keeps us going. When there is no support or encouragement from the outside we have to keep our engines going.
And so, in 2016, along with a few of his batchmates and friends from the university, Kanad began teaching the children of Naya Gaon as a community service. The name they chose for their organization was ‘Anokhi Pehel’. “There were five of us batchmates initially. We approached the parents of these kids and we convinced them to let the kids study for one hour every evening.” After attending lectures from 8 AM to 6 PM, Kanad and his friends would head over to the marketplace where they had created a makeshift classroom.
This went on for two weeks but it was difficult to keep it going. “It was very hectic for some of my friends to continue teaching. Apart from our own lectures we used to have projects and other things that we also had to manage.” In a bid to continue what he had started, Kanad recruited some more volunteers from his college. Some would volunteer on certain days of the week and others would drop in whenever they had the time. The drive and ambition to succeed, something ingrained in the culture of MNNIT Allahabad, was apparent here as well.
In year one, Kanad and others from the university managed to teach fifteen kids from the ages of 8 to 10 years on a regular basis. Seeing their kids going to the class regularly, the parents were encouraged to continue sending them. Word spread, and another 10 children joined the classes. “Still, I was not satisfied,” says Kanad. “The kids were of different ages and at various levels. I could not give all of them my time. I would have liked to give them more dedicated attention.”
Kanad and the others from Anokhi Pehel approached the Director of the university, Dr Rajeev Tripathi, about taking this initiative to the next level. They explained all the work they had been doing so far and asked if they could start building a team of volunteers in the college itself. Dr Tripathi was impressed by the dedication and initiative shown by the students in selflessly pursuing their dreams. He suggested that instead of holding the classes in the marketplace, they should do so in the university itself. This was a shock to Kanad, who till now had assumed that some of the faculty in the college may not like such an arrangement. But when the go-ahead came from the Director himself, there was no stopping them. “So the classrooms where we used to study during the day were now used by the kids in the evening,” says Kanad, with pride.
This inclusion from the university gave Kanad and the other volunteers a much needed fillip. The went around the neighbourhood and made sure everyone knew of these classes. A systematic schedule was created with two hours on weekdays and Sundays dedicated to workshops and extra-curricular activities. “Those few hours that I would spend teaching the kids were the best part of my day. I would forget all the pressure,” says Kanad, reminiscing about the classes.
Today, Anokhi Pehel caters to more than 50 students between 5th-8th standard and close to 80 students from 9th-12th standard. They have also enrolled 30 plus students into regular schools and Sainik schools. “Most of our kids have scored more than 80% marks in 10th board exams,” says Manzar with pride. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Anokhi Pehel has deftly taken the classes online. Students who have smart phones attend classes on Zoom while those that don’t have smart phones are given a topic in the morning with a follow-up call in the evening to solve doubts and check on their progress.
This year, the organization has formally become a part of MNNIT and so there are four faculty members from the university that are involved. Dr Basant Kumar, who has been a constant support to the organization, is now the faculty in-charge. There is also a strong base of 50+ volunteers from various engineering streams who have come together to under a single purpose of providing education to underprivileged children. Dhruv Kushwaha, one of Kanad’s batchmates, who has played a crucial role in the success of Anokhi Pehel, continues to be a part of its progress even after graduating from the university.
Kannad’s actions have inspired some illustrious alumni of the college as well. As if my divine providence, at the 25th reunion, three gentlemen by the name of Mahesh Gupta (Director , Delta Airlines, Atlanta), Sachin Kucchal (Associate Vice President , Infosys, San Francisco Bay Area) and Kanak Kanti Choudhary (MD, Accenture , Germany) found out about Anokhi Pehel. They wanted to come together for the reunion not just as friends, but as people who could give back to their alma mater in a meaningful way. Meeting Kanad was the opportunity that they were waiting for. Now they have decided to get actively involved and take the organisation to the next level. Thanks to their insistence, Anokhi Pehel is now a registered NGO. As we write this article, Kanad is brainstorming with the alumni to take Anokhi Pehel not just to all corners of Uttar Pradesh but to the rest of India as well. Inspiring such industry heavyweights is a testament to Kanad’s efforts and single-minded focus on giving back to society.
At Giving Circle, we encourage individuals and causes to help them scale-up, gather momentum and receive the contributions of others. In the same spirit, we have joined hands with Anokhi Pehel to devise ways in which we can create an even larger impact!