From child labourer to change maker
About 25 years ago, when he was a boy, Makeshwar served food at a roadside hotel in the Jamui District of Bihar, India. He was a child labourer, and so was his friend Rajesh, who worked as a kitchen helper. One day, two staff members from ChildFund`s local partner Parivar Sevar walked in, and Makeshwar and Rajesh’s lives changed forever. Once connected with ChildFund, the boys became sponsored, enrolled in school and eventually obtained good jobs. Nonetheless, Makeshwar and Rajesh never forgot where they came from.
Constantly reminded of their past, the young men showed a keen interest in the poverty stricken areas of their district. With continuous visits and research, they concluded that lack of education and an absence of community engagement were the major contributing factors to the conditions of the underdevelopment. Together with two other friends – who were also sponsored by ChildFund as children, they began to organise community meetings and left their own jobs in order to pursue their passion of making a change.
In 1999, the four friends opened a not-for-profit called Samagra Seva, loosely translating to ‘complete service’. Dedicated to helping children and families in their local district, the organisation has since focused on health and education to make a change to the lives of thousands of children. Samagra Seva has developed alliances with several NGOs such as the National Foundation for India and UNICEF, and had their work promoting children`s rights recognised nationally and internationally.
Last month, Makeshwar and his organisation collaborated with ChildFund for the launch of their second phase of the Books, My Friends program €“ to improve the literacy rates of children throughout India. In the first phase, ChildFund donated books and tote bags to thousands of children to encourage them to practice reading for pleasure; the second phase is focused on removing existing barriers to education, commencing with the distribution of solar lanterns to children and families in rural areas without electricity.
Makeshwar and his organisation have already donated 30 solar lanterns to adolescent girls from the Dalit and tribal communities of Juami. They have also made a commitment to provide solar lanterns to 50 more girls in the area.
“Without help, we all would have ended up as daily wage labourers. We will always remain indebted to ChildFund and our sponsors. We have taken a vow, and we will continue to serve underprivileged children and help them live with dignity,” Makeshwar says.