“I think it is in my blood to teach.” This epitomizes the life mission of Mr. Joseph, a civil engineer by profession whose work took him to several countries around the world.
Mr. Joseph hails from a family of teachers and educationists and it was during one of his visits to India he happened to pass through Pudukkottai district where he witnessed dismal remote conditions and the poverty of the people first hand. Kids were roaming aimlessly and unsupervised. “It was complete lack of awareness those days”, lamented Joseph.
Joseph at once decided to act on his Christian belief of giving is serving. Because he was in India infrequently, Joseph relied on his wife Mrs. Amala Tyagi, who shared his vision to provide free education to the poor.
“Surrounding villages have schools and access to other facilities. This village had only a Tamil medium school. We wanted to start an English medium school because we believed it would help the children flourish,” explains Joseph.
Amala added, “I earned my Masters degree in Psychology. I had no intention of getting married as I had planned to join the convent to become a nun. Soon I realized I didn’t fit in there due to lack of individual freedom, hence, I moved out and started to teach in a convent school. I liked teaching. More than anything it gave me happiness that I could spread my knowledge. I knew Joseph well as he was a distant relative and that’s how we got married. Joseph and I shared a dream – that of education. I shared my vision with Joseph and he immediately consented. My family had been keen that I teach in a government school and earn a steady income, but I was reluctant. The only person who supported me was my husband.”
Unfortunately, their journey was beset with struggles. Their families were not supportive; hence they decided to move out of the family home, with very little earnings that they ploughed back into the school. Sadly, this left them with very little money to run their home. Joseph continued to supplement the funds required for the school by sending money from abroad. Amala also used to also put her salary towards the same cause.
“It was in the year 2002, we got the Trust registered. I named it Joseph because in our faith, Joseph imparts knowledge to Jesus and also my husband’s name is Joseph. Annai was given because it is a secular school and people of any faith and back ground can join.”
In 2004 however, the school was forced to take a break due to lack of funds. It was quite a stressful year for them as they felt quite helpless and couldn’t quite decipher what to do.
“I started a few more classes at home such as abacus, entrance coaching etc. which used to fetch some money. I used to work at a school in the morning and then teach students in the evening. Joseph meanwhile continued to work in Dubai.”
In the year 2005, with the help of their savings and hard work, they resumed the school and started regular lessons. “We personally went from door to door, yet the villagers resisted sending their kids to our school. They were afraid that we may convert them to Christianity. They would not even give us the time of day. After much persuasion, we got a few parents to agree and kids started to trickle in. I was the van driver and used to pick and drop the kids myself. Slowly the word of our good work spread and then kids started to come in. With ten kids and three teachers from the community, we could start operations,” added Joseph.
Initially, no one would agree to give them the premises to teach these kids. Their native place was Rajapalayam, so they approached one of the villagers, an Iyer, in the same village, who immediately consented and gave two rooms for teaching these kids.
Irrespective of all the odds, they never wanted to give up. “It was just a matter of faith and we kept going. We drew on our strength from the holy word and that’s enough,” added Amala. It was inspiring to see these couple bubbling over with energy and passion to just serve the kids and take them to a higher level.