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10k km, 18 states, for cause of refugees

Kiran Chukkapalli, who runs the Hyderabad-based Think Peace, on why he travelled across India on his motorcycle for the Refugee Aid Project

Published: 11th February 2021 01:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2021 07:58 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD :  I have met thousands of refugees, heard their stories, and understood their problems. This has been a real test of my physical and mental strength, endurance, and balance”, says Kiran Chukkapalli who successfully completed the first phase of the Refugee Aid Project (RAP), a 10,000 km motorcycle ride across 18 states to visit refugee settlements in India. “I am overwhelmed by the support of my friends, family and well-wishers, and have renewed sense of hope and confidence to make a difference for the refugees in subcontinent,” he says.

The biggest takeaway, he adds, is that these refugees who have been forced into poverty and have to eke out a living in another country still have their core values intact. That is so inspiring.” Kiran’s NGO Think Peace is based in Hyderabad and he is best known for ‘lighting up lives’ in 50 non-electrified tribal villages in India.  After running a successful comprehensive development model in tribal India, Kiran started working with the refugee populations who had to flee their homes due to religious and ethnic persecutions of minority communities in the South Asian regions.

To draw attention to these refugees, who have rarely made it to the international headline, Kiran took up a solo three-month motorcycle ride spanning 10,000 km from Kanyakumari through Gujarat, Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh and back to Kanyakumari. RAP, a brainchild of Kiran Chukkapalli, works towards ensuring that no one – individual, no group, no government, can take away the basic human right to live with dignity, freedom, equality, and peace. Refugee Aid Project is a humanitarian effort to bring dignity, safety, justice and uphold the universal human rights of these individuals who have been displaced due to war, conflict or religious persecution. 

An avid social activist, former entrepreneur, a brilliant athlete, international speaker and an accomplished Himalayan yoga practitioner and instructor, Kiran believes that awareness is the first step towards change and that is what his motorcycle expeditions are about.  “I dont think anyone has taken much effort to find out the problems of refugees. While the underprivileged in India also need help,  at least they are eligible for government ration, healthcare and education. The refugees have none of it and that’s the reason I am taking up their cause,” he explains. The idea is to come up with a socio-economic plan, a workable model and create a case study and submit to the government based on my visits to 90-plus camps in India. We are going to work in four camps,” he adds. 

Not many know that Sindhanoor, a six-hour drive en route to Hampi from Hyderabad,  houses a colony of 7,000 Bangladeshi Hindu families. They have no access to water, power or education. As human beings, it is our responsibility to stand by such people.” he says. It all started when Kiran visited a refugee camp in Delhi three years ago and was startled to see the traumatic conditions they were living in. He was appalled at the abject poverty some of them have been facing. “I had started working on this project three years and the idea is to enable the government with a social-economic development model. The case studies will help the state replicate and scale the project to any extent.” 

Kiran holds a Post graduate degree in Public Relations & Advertising from NIEM, Mumbai. He has trained extensively in Yoga under the guidance of several renowned Himalayan Masters, and Kalaripayattu in Kerala. He is a recipient of the Young Social Entrepreneurship award, has been conferred the title of a “Yogi” by the Himalayan guru mandala, and has successfully completed the IronMan Championship. Kiran continues to speak in several forums and in his spare time enjoys travel, sports and movies.

— Manju Latha Kalanidhi  kalanidhi@newindianexpress.com  @mkalanidhi



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