MYSURU: Little did residents of Kotigudda, a remote village in Devadurga taluk of Raichur district, know that a young boy with no prior formal school education would one day excel in English and soft skills to become a motivational speaker inspiring thousands to not drop out of school. Meet 35-year-old Ramesh Ballid, a farmer and motivational speaker, who over the last several years is on a mission encouraging rural communities to not drop out of school, support their families and pursue the path of education to unleash their true potential.
So far, he has addressed close to 4.85 lakh students, teachers and parents across rural Karnataka and also across the country. His journey from a cowherd to a rural changemaker is so inspiring and intriguing that it has transformed lives of many.With a family of 11 and one among nine children, Ramesh herded buffaloes to support his family right from an early age. When Ramesh was 16, he was enrolled for a pilot batch of ‘Foundation For Life’ training programme run by Head Held High Foundation and NGO Samuha, which made his life take a transformational change.
The Head Held High Foundation, an NGO that empowers rural youth with career guidance, training and resources for financial security, gave Ramesh the required training. He excelled in speaking English fluently and also developed soft skills in just six months.After the training, Ramesh went from herding buffaloes to taking up jobs in data entry and rural BPOs, before landing a job as Operations Manager at KS Hospital in Koppal. He also served as a resource person with NGO Samuha and as a team member and trainer with Head Held High Foundation.
“I feel grateful for my youngest brother Hanumantha Ballad, who was 9-year-old back then, who motivated me to attend the training. Instead of me, he took up buffalo herding to support my family, when I was away to learn English and equip myself with different skill sets,” recalls Ramesh.Seven years later, Ramesh enrolled Hanumantha in the training programme at Head Held High Foundation. But the sudden passing away of Hanumantha in the same year left Ramesh shattered.
“My life turned upside down when he passed away. He was the one who made a lot of sacrifices to send me for the training and took up the responsibility of herding buffaloes in my village. So as a tribute to my brother I moved back to my village and invested time in farming, besides educating, encouraging and empowering the children and youth in my village to pursue formal education,” said Ramesh.
He has not looked back since then. Ramesh is invited as a guest resource person at many educational institutions where he gives motivational speeches, besides sharing his journey from a cowherd to a motivational speaker. He visits every government school in his taluk and also in his district equipping youngsters with the knowledge, including spoken English.
Not only does he address students but speaks to teachers and parents across rural India, who according to them can bring a transformation change in society and put an end to students dropping out of school. Pankaj Singh Thakur, CEO, Head Held High Foundation, says, “Ramesh was in the very first training batch that we ran in Bengaluru in 2007. Since then, our Foundation has had more than 20,000 youth go through the ‘Make India Capable’ programme across rural parts of the country. By enhancing their capabilities and self-confidence, the programme nudges youth to make choices and pursue opportunities that transform their outlook in life.”