Motivational Video
Vol 7 Issue 26, Jun 24 - 30, 2016
    Citizen Reporters      |   | Submit Story
Green WarriorsSocial EntrepreneursUnsung Heroes

“I have to speak about my work today; hopefully a time will come when my work will speak”

   By  Kavita Kanan Chandra
  
27 Jun 2016
Posted 04-Jan-2013
Vol 4 Issue 1

Any given day the Goregaon station is abuzz with commuters. Lost in this crowd is a 52-year-old man waiting for the slow local heading towards Churchgate, the last station on the western line. With a backpack slung on his sturdy shoulders and a purposeful stride, he is about to start his day’s work.

Meet Sandeep Manohar Desai, a former marine engineer, who later taught at the reputed SP Jain Institute of Management, before finding his calling as a social worker.

Desai raised Rs 27 lakhs through donations for education of poor children in 2011 (Photo: Kavita Kanan Chandra)

Desai is a familiar figure to commuters in Mumbai’s suburban trains, where he is seen 3-4 days in a week with a donation box seeking funds to educate the poor. Though people viewed him with suspicion initially, many donate generously now.

The Shloka Missionaries (Public Charitable Trust) that he started in 2001 along with his mother Sudha and a friend, Noorul Islam, runs four schools - including one in Mumbai – where free education is provided for the poor.

Inside the train, Desai addresses the commuters in chaste Marathi on the virtue of donating for educating poor kids. Later, he switches to Hindi and English. “I collect Rs 3000-Rs7000 a day,” says Desai.

He used to collect a few hundred rupees when he started this initiative about two years ago but now people know him and donate more. “Last year (2011) I was able to collect Rs 27 lakhs. It includes funds that I received through donations, cheques and also from Mumbai locals,” he says.

In Mumbai, the school they run is housed in a slum rehabilitation building in Goregaon, and caters to children who come to the city from rural areas. Started in 2005, the English medium school provides free education, free books, and free uniforms to the children.

After providing them basic education Desai tries to accommodate them in regular schools that abide by provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and admit children belonging to weaker and disadvantaged groups.

The other schools run by the trust are in Omerkhed (Yavatmal dist.), Kankavli (Sindhudurg dist.), and Sipur and Naijahr (Udaipur district in Rajasthan). In June, another school, to be named after his mother will be opened in Ratnagiri.

A marine engineer by profession and an MBA from a leading management institute, he has sailed the world with leading shipping companies and has had extensive experience in Marketing in MNCs. He later switched to teaching at the prestigious S P Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai.

At the institute, students were sent to rural areas for their projects. Desai was impressed with the project reports of students relating to sectors ranging from health, hygiene, irrigation, agriculture and education. He felt that it would be of better use if he provided quality education to poor rural and slum children instead of teaching postgraduate students at a renowned institution.

He set up the Shloka Missionaries in 1997 with a motto ‘Vidya daan shreshtha daan’ (donating for education is the best donation), with his savings, and donations from well-wishers. He also generated funds from the numerous workshops he conducted on advertising, management and business communication.

“As we set up more schools I realized that our trust would require more funds and we had to establish a sustainable model for a steady flow of funds,” says Desai, while recalling how he hit upon the donation box idea.

His friend Noorul was skeptical in the beginning till Desai convinced him to look at begging in train from a different perspective. “We are asking the general public to support us in a noble cause of education. If it benefits society then asking for money from commuters in local trains is not wrong,” reasoned Desai.

He remembers the day when he first boarded the train from Goregaon one day in April 2010 with Noorul with the intention of asking the commuters to donate. “I didn’t have the courage to take out the donation box from the bag till Santa Cruz station, but then I reasoned that it is now or never,” says Desai.

A mission had begun and there has been no looking back since. In the earlier days, Desai would commute from Goregaon to Churchgate every day up and down for six hours in the humid second class compartments and people would open their hearts and purse for him. Money started trickling in and the size of his collections grew as days went by.

The experience is not without its downside though. Desai has to bear with ridicules and the occasional snide remark of a commuter. Once a lawyer challenged his modus operandi of collecting money, held him by collars, and took him to police.

He says there is a thin line between begging and soliciting contributions from total strangers for a noble cause. (Begging is prohibited on trains and the crime is punishable under section 144 of the Railways Act.)

He says that he explains his charitable work to the commuters and gives them his card and then seeks donations. As the good word about his work started spreading, the railway staff and even the police don’t harass him now.

A carefree bachelor married to his social causes, Desai says he had decided early in life that he would not marry. He took care of his father who was afflicted with Alzheimer disease for ten years. He later lost his mother to cancer.

He philosophizes that the lord inspires him to do social work and those who contribute to his work have a reason to do that. “I have to speak about my work today; hopefully a time will come when my work will speak for itself,” says Desai.
 



Print  |  Email  | 
 Share   

You might also like:

Heavenly school

Six years before the government made Right to Education a law, Uttam Teron implemented it in his Pamohi village in Assam by providing quality education to the Karbi tribe children. Kavita Kanan Chandra traces the growth of Parijat Academy

Read More

Knockout love

Boxing champion Akhil Kumar even makes bed coffee for his wife and that is the moment she cherishes most in the relationship. Ajay Rana meets Poonam to get a ringside view of a boxer’s wife

Read More

Stories on Innovations & Innovators
The Lead Star Digital Issue
adyar bakery
 
Mentoring Tamil Nadu



Popular Stories

Cool relief

Overhearing a home tutor’s physics lecture to his son, Ashis Paul of Grey Dhaka designed a cooling devise, bringing relief to poor Bangladeshis reeling under heat without power, says G Singh

Read More

Sworn benefactor

At the funeral of his brother in 1963, Deo Kumar Saraf swore not to let poverty-struck people die due to lack of medical care. Today, his Anandalok group of hospitals challenge corporate hospitals with their affordable charges, says G Singh

Read More

Nostalgic ride

A last vestige of colonial era, an antique train with wooden coaches still chugs on India’s only private railway line in Maharashtra. Narendra Kaushik traces the journey of Shakuntala Express

Read More

Flattening a myth

Dispelling the long held belief that flat-footed persons cannot excel in sports, Dipa Karmakar has become the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. Partho Burman tracks the bumpy road the Tripura athlete had travelled so far

Read More

River revival

Noyyal, the river that fed the fertile western Tamil Nadu, is today polluted and dry most of the time. To rejuvenate the dead Noyyal, Vanitha Mohan is on an eco-mission. P C Vinoj Kumar profiles her on the occasion of World Environment Day

Read More

Wigs of compassion

A cancer patient’s elation over the wig he had made for her changed Marishetty Kumar’s life.  The wigmaker who made wigs for actors now sells his creations for a discounted price to those who lose hair due to chemotherapy, says Usha Prasad

Read More

Water winner

The ups and downs of B M Balakrishna’s life are linked to water. Starting as a car washer, he went to sell water pumps and then founded a RO plant. S Sainath meets the owner of Rs 20 crore Aquapot that is set to double its turnover this year

Read More

Poor’s banker

The son of a poor sweet shop owner, Chandra Shekhar Ghosh today sweetens the lives of women in poverty stricken homes with loans. G Singh traces the incredibly phenomenal rise of the founder of Bandhan Bank that has Rs.12,500 crore deposit now

Read More

Chef Robot

A love for dosas led to two friends in college fabricate an automatic dosa maker that is making waves by enabling chefs roast the crispy dosas that they were earlier not able to make outside Tamil Nadu. Usha Prasad has the interesting story

Read More

Nursing small towns

After experiencing the trials and tribulations of people from small towns and villages in seeking medical facilities, Dinesh Batra vowed to take specialised health care to smaller places. Today he is living his dreams, says Narendra Kaushik

Read More
 
Kudos image

"The Weekend Leader not only gives a glimpse of the better things happening around us but also tells stories of people who made it possible.”

Ajay Chaturvedi, Entrepreneur More Kudos
 
Archives  |   Columns  |   About Us  |   Contact Us  |   Feedback  |   Response  |     |   Cheers!  |   Support Us  |   Friends of Positive Journalism
© Copyright The Weekend Leader.com, 2010. All rights reserved.