Changemakers of India: Learning Legends

At the foothills of the Himalayas, there lies a village with a population of around 5000 people. Over two decades ago, this lush haven would have been hard to locate. But that changed when an economist from Tamil Nadu found his new home there.

G.K. Swami and his wife Chinni were based in Mumbai in the 1990s. A series of incidents that he believes was destiny led Swami and Chinni to Purkal. The breathtaking little village won them over instantly. Towards the end of the decade, the couple decided to leave behind their city life and move to Purkal.

“A simple, easy life – that was the plan,” says Swami. “A small home with no servants. Chinni would cook and I would do the dishes.”

Little did he know that what was in store for them was far from easy. It was something incredible that would put an entire village on the map.

Simple Beginnings

Source: purkal.org

Swami soon realized that as a retired city dweller, his bliss was still in a hectic schedule. He began looking for some form of employment if only to keep himself occupied.

Despite its breathtaking views, Purkal was locked in a painful cycle of poverty. With a lack of education and employment, there was not much that the people there could do. Swami saw that the children had no facilities for a good education or the motivation to learn.

So when a few parents approached him to tutor their children, he agreed. Four children began to visit home every day. Swami taught them and Chinni cooked for them. This became their first batch.

“These few children grew into many because people around began to think that these children were being well taught and wanted their children to have the same,” says Swami. “When people asked me to teach, I agreed without thinking of the added costs. By the second batch, there were 10 students and Chinni began teaching as well.”

In 2003, they registered themselves as Purkal Youth Development Society (PYDS) and continued to function out of Mr. Swamy’s house. The Society, with the help of sponsors, took care of the afterschool education of poor students and secured their admission into two reputed schools in the neighboring city, Dehradun.

From a shed to a building

Source: purkal.org

As the strength of students increased, Swami’s little rented home no longer sufficed. So they used cattle sheds with moveable blackboards to educate more curious young minds. Over time, they added to the space with a rented garage.

As the numbers kept increasing, Swami realized that his dream village was hungry for knowledge. Both he and Chinni decided to dedicate their lives to serving the community around them.

While their hearts were filled with a powerful desire to educate, an unplastered, partially constructed building was unfortunately all they could afford. They needed more space and money to expand. They needed to own land to erect a real school for these children.

In 2006, the UK based band, UB 40 decided to donate to them. This gave them enough money to buy a suitable piece of land. Another individual who visited the same year also made a handsome donation. With this amount, the first building of PYDS was constructed.

A full-fledged school

Source: purkal.org

In 2010, PYDS had 206 students. They started transforming from an after-school help to a complete school. They equipped their laboratories well and even began a one-of-its kind experiment of setting up an e-learning laboratory that encouraged self-learning through the net.

The first batch of students from PYDS Learning Academy graduated in 2014. Along with these children, PYDS also spread its wings and became a  full-fledged CBSE-associated school.

A little act of service that was started by the couple now educates over 400 poor children, 90 of whom live on campus.

“Now they all have hope, they are dreaming big and I know that it is these dreams that will take them forward,” says Swami. “Because more than skill, more than knowledge it is the hope of a great future [that makes a difference].”

You can support the incredible work Swami and his team do at Purkal.

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