How a 19-Year-Old Is Improving the Lives of People Who Live on the Streets!
People who live in India or have ever visited the country will nod their heads in agreement when we say that the streets are packed with more than just culture, lip-smacking snacks, and local vendors. Some people live on the streets and beg for money for food. They are homeless, work no jobs, roam around cities during the day and sleep on footpaths every night.
Indians who commute regularly come across beggars each day, and different things run through each person’s mind when faced with a situation like this. While one paces to escape a conversation with a beggar, another feels sorry and offers money or food. Some people scream in disgust, and there are few who call the act of begging a hoax – why can’t he/she earn a living?
Take a minute to process the last suggestion. If you’re the manager at a construction site, own a fast-food restaurant, or are involved with an agency that outsources labor, how likely are you to hire a beggar who walks in asking for a job? Exactly! For more than most, begging is their only option, although there is no denying that there are people with healthy bodies who would rather beg than work.
And then there is Raghvendra Pratap Singh, a 19-year-old who is pumped with ideas for #socialgood and driven to work towards #beggarfreeindia! Raghvendra, a student at the University of Delhi, is the heart and mind behind the Helping Hut, an NGO that aspires to provide beggars with opportunities to earn an honest living. Along with its primary vision, the organization tries to help the poor in any way possible.
Raghvendra wishes for all humans to live a dignified life, and so he launched ‘Beggar Transformation’, an initiative that helps beggars learn skills that help them earn money and live fulfilling lives. An excellent example is that of a homeless man from Dwarka (India), who, under this initiative, learned how to use a sewing machine and monetize his skill. “I have this vision of making India a beggar-free country where every single person has a job or is employed to earn their bread and butter instead of begging, and begging should never be an option to earn a livelihood,” shared Raghvendra in an interview with Giving for Good Foundation.
Through crowdfunding and donations in kind, Helping Hut helps improve the lives of beggars in India. He further adds, “We request people not to lend money to beggars when they ask because it is not a long-term solution but rather an easy way. Give them food to eat instead.” Aside from helping beggars, Helping Hut also emphasizes the power of learning and education. Raghvendra lives by Nelson Mandela’s powerful quote - Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. His initiatives in rural education range from educating the disadvantaged to informing people how they can help.
“I believe education is that powerful weapon by which we can make a person self-sufficient and end beggary. More than that, education is a necessity. However, it has become a luxury nowadays, which should not be the case. I launched ‘Udaan - Street School’ to help educate students who live on the streets and teach them about moral values through fun activities like drawing competitions and various games,” said the 19-year-old.
Raghvendra’s goal is to improve the lives of the disadvantaged, and his efforts in the area go beyond education. From study kits to clothes and blankets to sanitary napkins, he has launched countless drives that distributed over 5000 supplies, impacting the lives of 20,000 people! At present, Raghvendra’s team is spread across 15 cities with over 750 registered volunteers.
Raghvendra is fueled with ideas to help those living in rural areas. “I believe that happiness shared is happiness doubled! At Helping Hut, we celebrate birthdays with the students who study with us to make them feel loved and motivated. I came up with another campaign called ‘Utthan Abhiyan’ under which we educate the people primarily in rural areas about the policies and agendas initiated by the government and the benefits a particular scheme can bring to them,” says Raghvendra.
The Covid-19 Pandemic
Be it a campaign or life in general, challenges are inevitable. Although most teams at NGOs in India are heartbroken when people doubt their intentions, Raghvendra found inspiration in his work. During the pandemic, Helping Hut formed a team of volunteers in nearly 20 cities where they issued a helpline number to help people in need of oxygen cylinders and other medical facilities. Their volunteers worked extra hours to double-check all requirements and arrange for the same asap. Raghvendra fondly remembers a call that almost had him in tears, “I received a message from a stranger thanking my team and me. They said that a family member of theirs was breathing and alive because of our efforts and that left a big smile on my face!”
There's a fine line between being aware of one’s blessings and being grateful for them. Since his childhood, Raghvendra counted his blessings each time he saw a homeless person. “When I was a child, I used to see people begging on the streets, children without access to education. On the other side, I was receiving the best facilities in terms of education, healthcare, and food. This made me value the things I have even more and made me empathetic towards the people who are devoid of such necessities,” said Raghvendra.
Here's a piece of advice for the youth from Raghvendra, “I genuinely feel that I and many others like me are quite lucky. Most of us have everything that we need. But there are people out there who don't have anything to eat, not knowing what they have done to receive the kind of life they're living. Being compassionate and empathetic is the least we, the youth, can do to make the most of the advantages we have due to destiny.” Raghvendra's empathetic, and compassionate nature is exemplary. His eyes hold dreams of educating and providing for our country, and at 19, he’s already shining!
Written for Giving for Good Foundation by Puja Das