Where there is a will, there is a way. 24-year-old Rajesh Kumar Moharana would vouch for sure. At an age when youngsters are busy focusing on lucrative career opportunities, Rajesh takes time out to work for the physically challenged as well as the deprived children across slums of the city. He has been consistently making efforts to rehabilitate these children without support from any quarters. For his good work, he has already bagged quite a few awards including CII award for his contribution to social service. But for Rajesh, what matters most is bringing about a difference in the lives of these children.
Excerpts from an interview.
You are young and still studying. What drew you to social work?
I live close to Salia Sahi slum. And since my childhood, I had noticed the helplessness in slum children even though most of them are extremely talented. So, I was more than willing to help them out. To begin with, I started working with an organisation called Aaina that helps polio affected children. That was the time I realised that though there are many schemes and provisions available for these children, the facilities aren’t reaching them. I also realised that since many of these children are blessed with special talents despite the disability, exclusive training programmes can help them a lot. That’s when I decided that I want to work in this sector.
So, how did it all begin?
Although I was planning to do something for handicapped children since long, I was not getting an opportunity. One day while I was coming back from college, I came across this physically challenged boy who met with an accident while begging on road. No one was helping him during that time so I took him to the hospital.
Later, he told me that since he was physically challenged, he could not get admission in school and since his parents were daily labourers and illiterate, they had no idea about government schemes and facilities. I found out that minus his leg, all his other body parts were functioning properly. He requested me to find a job for him so that he could pursue his education. And that motivated me to work for him.
How were your Initial days in this field?
I started by visiting the slums across the city and I was surprised to see that in most households, these children were left alone at home by the parents. In some cases, a kid brother or sister was their caretaker! That was quite a painful sight. So, I started addressing their basic issues and helping them accordingly.
You aren’t part of any organisation nor are you getting any government help. So how are you managing all alone?
I belong to a poor family, so sometimes it becomes tough to manage. Yet, I am doing my level best. For financial help, I go to people and request them to contribute. My friends and relatives also chip in.
Every month, we try to collect a specific amount for these children and use it for their basic needs and education. If we manage any surplus money, we generally use it for their training or any other welfare programme.
What do you think are the basic issues that these children face?
There are many; these children are even deprived of facilities like food and education. Although government has made lots of schemes for them, the benefits do not reach them. If given adequate technical training, these children can do wonders. They can get employed too.
Till today, how many children have you rehabilitated?
So far, I have selected around 80 children from different slums of the city and taken up the responsibility to educate them and meet their basic requirements. In addition to that, I and my sister teach them personally at our home. We also provide them technical training with the help of visiting faculty members. Till now, we have helped about 36 children become self sufficient.
So what is your future plan?
After completing my education, I want be a lawyer. However, I want to work for these children for the rest of my life.