Seven children, a widowed mother and no form of financial support. This was the beginning of Achyuta Samanta’s story.
His father died in a train accident when he was a mere toddler. After his demise, the family struggled to make it through each day in a remote village in Orissa called Kalarabanka.
“The kind of poverty I grew up in is unthinkable,” says Samanta. “My mother did not have a second saree for her to wash the one she wore all day. There were many times when we went on for over two days without a single meal.”
Every step forward was an arduous process. Samanta had to find ways to earn from the time he was five years old. But each of the siblings went on to complete their education and establish their careers.
Samanta completed his post graduation in chemistry, taking private tuitions for other students to afford his own fees. He then got a job as a professor at a local college. He began to support his less fortunate friends and give back to his family in any way he could.
Creating the powerful sister duo
His income was minimal but his compassion, boundless. He wanted to do something for the society so that no child would have to grow up how he did. With this fire ignited in him, he began Kalinga Institute of Information Technology and Kalinga Institue of Social Sciences, or the sister duo of KIIT and KISS as they are well known today.
KIIT and KISS were founded with just Rs. 5000 in a rented two-room house. Samanta gave everything he could from his meagre income, pawned his belongings, and took massive loans to keep the institutes running. His dream was to eventually turn KIIT into a renown professional institution and to use its benefits to provide free education to as many poor, tribal children as possible.
It took Achyuta debts of over Rs. 400 crores to set up KIIT. But once the institute was established, it bloomed. KIIT grew into a massive hub of learning that today brings in 27,000 students from over 40 countries across the world. Not only does it sustain itself, but it also covers a large portion of the costs of running what Acharya calls “the beauty of the world”– KISS.
Within six years of its inception, KISS grew to educate 250 tribal children and by the end of the decade, it provided free education, food and shelter for over 1000 children. Today, it is a model educational system that carries forward over 27,000 kids from the poorest parts of Orissa right from kindergarten to post graduation.
KISS is the largest free, exclusively tribal institute in the world. Not only do they raise some of the brightest minds in the country, but they also nurture their children’s natural affinity for athletics and sports. KISS students have represented the country in several Olympic events and their rugby team has gone on to play internationally. KISS and KIIT have made it multiple times in both the Guinness and Limca books of world records.
The ecosystem between the two sister institutes is almost a township in itself. The interaction between the tribal students of KISS and those from more fortunate communities who attend KIIT, creates a strong cultural sensitivity. This also gives the kids of KISS opportunities for growth on par with the rest of the world. The entire gamut provides some form of employment, directly or indirectly, to lakhs of people.
A life of service
But Samanta was still not done. One of his greatest wishes was to make Kalarabanka a model Panchayat village. He worked tirelessly until this was fulfilled.
The village now has fully-residential vernacular and English medium schools, 25 dispensaries, a bank, a post office, temples, roads and streetlights. He made sure that everyone in the Panchayat was covered in the National Health Insurance Scheme.
“If I get another life, I would wish to serve the poor in the same way,” says Samanta. “The only difference would be that I wish to be born richer so that the struggle for funds would not have to be so painful.”
Despite his globally acknowledged success, Samanta leads a simple life. He believes that a two-bedroom rented apartment where his family and friends can seek shelter and comfort is all he’s needed and ever will.
You can support the incredible work done by Achyuta and his passionate team for tribal children in Orissa.