Do you want to make a positive impact in your community? Would you like to motivate others to change the world, for good? There are multitude of problems around us from education to healthcare, children to old age, poverty to disability, and the list goes on. Are you ready to lead the change to bring harmony, a sense of real accomplishment by making a difference in someone’s life?
In year 2003, Mrs. and Mr. Dewedy founded Gyan Prasar Sansthan, a free private non-affiliated school helping elevate the life of economically disadvantaged children in Lucknow, India. School had a humble beginning with 15 kids which now supports more than 100 students with free education, provisions of food, basic clothing and free medical checkup/referral. Most children appear in government exams/schools to obtain the degree/ certificate. By now, some of them have completed Engineering courses while some are preparing for Indian administrative and Provincial Civil Services exams. Their selfless work has transformed the lives of many students and their families feel connected, educated and empowered.
I had a pleasure to interview a very special couple, Mrs. and Mr. Dewedy, who are leading this change by example and are inspiration to many.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Mrs. Neerja Dewedy (Chairperson, Gyan Prasar Sansthan)
I am a housewife and a writer. After passing M.A. I got married to Mr. Mahesh Chandra Dewedy, an Indian Police Service officer who rose to head the provincial police of Uttar Pradesh which was about 200,000 strong force. I became the President of Police Welfare Association. In that capacity, I used to look after the well-being of policemen’s families including health, housing, education of children, counseling in distress, etc.
Your husband was a high-profile executive with Government of India. How did you come up with this inspiration and meaningful venture of Gyan Prasar Sansthan?
The opportunity of working as President, Police Welfare Association gave me first-hand knowledge of poor families’ problems and a sense of fulfillment in solving those problems. After the retirement of my husband, we moved to Lucknow. I observed that a large number of children of poor laborers, rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors, etc. used to loiter aimlessly in the streets. So on 15th Aug. (Indian Independence Day), 2003 I invited them to my house and organized a lecture on the importance of Independence Day. I inspired and allured them (by distributing sweets, copy, pencil, etc) to come daily, where my husband and I started teaching them. Slowly but steadily the number grew. We appealed to neighbors, friends, relatives to donate clothes of their children who had grown up, and to contribute financially or join as voluntary teachers and to doctors to visit the school and donate spare medicines. And we got a fruitful response from some members of the community.
What do you think is the problem with the school or societal system?
In my opinion, in government schools, there is little interest in teachers to teach or to enforce discipline. In private schools, the motive is to make as much money as possible. Some schools also get directly involved in money making through cheating in exams and the society does not condemn or shun them. The affluent in the society take little initiative to donate unnecessary household goods among the needy and to sacrifice their spare time and money to impart the knowledge to the poor. Very great change can be brought if the affluent start donating their surplus goods, funds, and knowledge.
How do you believe the educational system could be developed in the future?
In India, generally speaking, enforced discipline works better. A well-meaning and tough government is a must for enforcing discipline, stopping cheating and controlling teachers. Retired individuals, who have time or money, should be motivated to help educate the ne
How do you keep inspired and motivated, and what message do you have for others who want to do something for the society?
My source of inspiration and motivation are innate empathy with the downtrodden. Yet, although the initiative is mine, my husband’s constant encouragement and practical support by way of teaching, funding, etc have helped me keep my spirits high. My message to those, who want to do something, is that ‘Don’t think too much, just make a beginning and give your heart to it.’ Once your sincerity and good intentions are recognized by the society, assistance will be forthcoming automatically.
You are making a huge impact by elevating the lives of these individuals and families, How could readers of this channel help you?
By their good wishes, funding and voluntarily teaching vocationally useful subjects (if they live nearby). Some funds are needed for all ventures, but there are innumerable people in all societies who are in a position to repay their debt to the society from which they have earned whatever they possess. It is just a question of motivating them.
We wish good luck to Gyan Prasar Sansthan, and hoping that this could ignite the zeal among others to open more institutions like this! Lead the way, YOU must be the change you wish to see in the world.
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