“I was very disturbed by the inequality in education, ” said Mr. Raju, Founder of Society for Poor People Development (SPPD).
Raju belongs to Kulithalai village which is 40 kms away from Trichy. “I used to study in a government school. I come from a lower middle class family. We never had electricity at home when I was a child. During my school days, I used to be the class topper. But, whenever someone spoke to me in English, I couldn’t reply and the conversation would come to an end. This used to bother me a lot.”
He joined Trichy St. Josephs College for his higher education. “I was lucky to be sponsored by an American. I used to volunteer with the nuns and sisters and tag along with them as they went on their charity work. Somewhere inside me was a need to help people in need,” explains Raju.
It was also during his college days that Raju, along with his friends,started helping children with their homework. “It began in 1994, when my friends and I went to the village school headmaster and offered to help the children with their homework and to teach them English. It was quite tough to convince him as he was skeptical on why we wanted to offer our services for free. He consented after much discussion.”
Raju used the verandah of his house to teach these kids. Slowly he found the need to expand as the kids began referring their friends. The need to expand required space and money. With the help of his friends and other contacts, Raju collected some funds and started to help more children. When one of his contacts suggested that he think about having a formal set up, he decided to register a Society. Which is when, after tedious paperwork, in the year 1995, he registered SPPD.
He was juggling his time between his studies and teaching the kids. He used to go to college and come back by afternoon to teach the kids.
He noticed that the kids were borrowing study material from each other. The Government gave them only 40 page notebooks but no school supplies, which is when the need for supplying school necessities such as pencils, bags, note books, cleanliness kits etc. began.
During his surveys, he also observed that there were many issues relating to HIV/ AIDS. Parents were infected leading to children becoming HIV+. There was also child trafficking due to abject poverty. Raju decided to step in and provide some help. So he began distributing nutrition kits consisting of cereals and Horlicks and money for milk and eggs to these families. Slowly, their health started to improve and some of them could resume work.
Bit by bit, the organisation’s work grew and now touches the lives of people in over 100 villages in Trichy district. SPPD’s interventions with children has given birth to many engineers, nurses, doctors etc.