- 19 Dec 2022
“Those only live, who live for others.” — Swami Vivekananda
I live by this quote. It has inspired me to do welfare work and has made me what I am today. I am Kalpesh Ahuja from Adipur (Kachchh dist.), Gujarat, where I run Seva Sarvopari, an NGO for children living in underserved communities. I grew up in a nuclear family, and before turning into a social worker and starting my own business, I worked as a lecturer in a college.
The first time I felt drawn towards social work was when I was in college. I worked as a student member in the Swami Vivekananda youth study circle. One day, my friends and I decided to deliver groceries to people living in marginalized communities. We would deliver groceries once a month, but as time passed, I realised that there shouldn’t be a designated day for helping others and that we should practice it daily. At that point, I had not thought of running an NGO. It was only later in 2017 that I started Seva Sarvopari.
When I worked as a lecturer, there was a railway track in front of my college. On the other side of the track, lived some children who had little to no access to good food. On one side, there was good education and hope for a better future, and on the other side, there were children who weren’t even sure of what their tomorrow would look like. The thought was upsetting, and I knew that I had to do something for them. It was my social calling.
I formed a WhatsApp group with some of my friends and colleagues. On one Sunday, we distributed chocolates among those kids, and so began our journey! The next Sunday, we decided to take a few other essentials. What inspired me further was everyone’s willingness to help and contribute. When we started posting pictures on Facebook, more and more people came forward and became a part of our group. To me, this was a sign from God. Perhaps, it was His way of telling me that I should continue with this work. While I was already a part of other NGOs, this was the moment when I felt that it was time to take the next step.
Although I am the founder of Seva Sarvopari, when I started it with my friends and colleagues, we decided early on that there wouldn’t be hierarchy, such as of a president or a secretary and that there wouldn’t be any board meetings. Our aim was (and is) to serve people. To us, seva is above everyone and everything. Later, we also started Chotu Padhega to provide education to those children. On Sundays, we provide them with meals, and on Mondays and Tuesdays, we educate them.
For a long time, our WhatsApp group didn’t have a name, but later we named it ‘Zero Hunger Movement.’ One of the members, however, pointed out that we were only serving children. There were many old people in the community who couldn’t earn their daily bread and needed proper meals. Shravan Tiffin Seva was born to serve them. Today, Shravan Tiffin Seva serves 150 people twice a day. We have also launched Swabhimaan Stall to encourage people to be independent and stand on their feet. With Swabhimaan Seva, one can buy lunch for ₹ 10.
As I have worked with NGOs in the past, I understand the importance of raising funds, but it’s easier said than done. Many people don’t have faith in NGOs and believe that money is utilized the wrong way, and I understand their fears and suspicions.
It’s also perhaps the reason why we don’t ask for funds at Seva Sarvopari. All things are sponsored by the members of our team and we believe if the intentions are right it gets managed by the divine power.
When we started teaching children from marginalized communities, I knew that it won’t be enough. We needed to prepare them for the future…we wanted them to be independent. That’s when we started a library in our Seva Ghar. Seva Ghar is the place where we cook food and take care of the distribution work. Here, in the library, children prepare for competitive exams.
When I started Seva Sarvopari, I struggled to have a work-life balance and delegated a lot of tasks to my friends and colleagues. Somewhere along the journey, I felt I was not meant for a job and decided to start my own business. That’s when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I started setting up my business in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak in our country. Today I run a business of PVC pipes – I have a factory unit in my town. While I also run a business, people know me more as a social worker and that keeps me going.