Gurugram Man Quits Corporate Job To Empower 1200 Underprivileged Children
We’ve all probably heard the quote “One moment can change everything”. Meet Kushal Chakravorty, the founder of Gurugram-based Lotus Petal Foundation who experienced this.
10 years ago, while working with a corporate company, Kushal often traveled across the country. However, whenever he was at home, he never missed the chance to walk his children to the bus stop when they left for school.
On one cold morning in November, Kushal noticed a group of young children walk past him at the bus stop. They were clad in a basic uniform with a shirt and shorts, did not have any extra clothing to feel warm, and walked barefoot in the biting cold.
“Immediately I looked down at my children, the warm clothes they were wearing, and wondered how lucky they were. This moment changed my life because I wanted those kids to have the same. I visited a temple nearby to enquire about them. I learned that they were part of a school being run inside the same temple. There were over 200 children, but none of them had access to warm clothes, shoes, socks, or stationery,” says Kushal, in an interview with CSRBOX.
The following day, he provided 250 students with the necessities. This was his first step towards a journey that has impacted over 1000 underprivileged children.
A bright future
In the following years, Kushal continued to provide funds for various NGOs to support their mission. Apart from that, he also helped organisations by providing power backup systems, carrying out building repairs, and more.
“Once I revisited the school in the temple to see if they needed any help. At that time, I noticed that some of them I met earlier were now adults but continued to study in lower grades. They were 12 or 13 years old but learning grade four syllabuses,” says Kushal, adding that there were two major reasons for this.
One, the school could not afford to hire teachers for higher classes. Two, parents want their children to attend school only until they reach an employable age. After that, the students drop out of classes and work as manual labourers.
“I did not want to give them a temporary fix with clothes and books. I wanted to change their lives, prepare them for white-collar jobs, and provide them with equal opportunities,” says Kushal.
In 2013, he decided to help these children complete their education and simultaneously prepare them for mainstream life. He started by launching the Lotus Petal Foundation, the NGO and Vidyananda School - a space for teaching.
“I rented a small space, hired teachers, and got the school accredited by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). The curriculum and training are given in such a way that students above a certain age can complete their Grade 10 exams within three or four years. Further, they are also given vocational training in a field of their choice,” says Kushal, adding that he funded the project using his savings and by taking a loan from the bank.
To spread awareness about the school, Kushal visited various slums around Gurgaon and spoke to both children and their parents. After a few weeks, with a capacity of six students, the classes began. As the word spread, more and more students joined.
In 2016, Kushal decided to focus on social work full-time and quit his cushy corporate job. Today, the school has worked with 1200 underprivileged children.
“We also started a healthcare program and a nutrition program for the children. Under healthcare, every few months students undergo medical checkups and are provided with necessary medicines if they have any ailments. Under the nutrition program, they are provided with regular healthy meals,” explains Kushal.
Sahil Kumar (14), a resident of Gurugram is a student at the Vidyananda school. He joined class three in 2015 and is currently in class eight. Since his family’s financial background was not too strong, Sahil was enrolled at a government school. Neither did he learn anything nor did he show interest in school.
“Once I joined Lotus Petal Foundation, I started enjoying school. We have regular classes, play games, and even have yearly annual days which are my favourite. My family has also benefited from this initiative because my mother was able to get a job as a cook at the same school. In the future, I hope to become a dancer and make my parents proud,” says Sahil.
Today, 55 students are alumni of the Lotus Petal Foundation. While some are pursuing higher studies like medicine, others are working as engineers, accountants, and more. In 2020, the school switched to a virtual learning model and ensured that all students attended classes.
“They were provided with internet facilities, phones, or tablets. On seeing our success, 15 government schools in the city approached me and requested us to help their students too,” says Kushal.
He adds that the funds to provide the materials came from corporate companies and individual donors. Now, the team is working on expanding its mission to impact a larger number of students.