CHENNAI: The young, bubbly Gabriel was the first from her tiny hamlet of Kumuthi in Ramanathapuram to step out for higher education. Her dream of pursuing higher education in Tiruchy had come crashing down due to extreme poverty. Gabriel’s father had died when she was three-months-old. Her mother worked as a contract labourer for a monthly salary of Rs 6,000, but later lost her job. She would go without food on the day before Gabriel’s exams so that the child gets to eat something. Gabriel scored 470 out of 500 in her Class 12 board exams.
When her dream of higher education hit a wall, Gabriel was eagerly looking for some financial aid, but couldn’t get one. Though there are many who need such help, there are only a few like S Sujitha who take the effort to connect the two dots. When the voice of the needy gets drowned in the routine rut, Sujitha steps in with a warm hand.
She was the one who found sponsors for Gabriel and her friend. The sponsors bore their transportation cost, college and hostel charges and convinced the family to send their daughters for education. Encouraged by it, many girls are willing to step out now.
Sujitha’s focus is on education. The 33-year-old has so far helped over 300 students — mostly girls from economically backward families, to continue their studies. “Most parents, who are troubled economically, opt for their girl child to get out of education. We have been finding such students and connecting them with potential donors,” says Sujitha.
She recollects her days as a post-grad student, when she used to frequently visit interior villages of TN. “The more I observed lives, the more I got to know about the problems they faced. I was added to a lot of social media groups where requests for help are frequently shared. I randomly took up one such case where a person required Rs 10,000 for treatment, and began mobilising funds through WhatsApp. I was totally surprised as many people came forward,” she says.
For someone like Sujitha, ensuring a safe and sound environment for the deal becomes a priority, since the nature of the work itself calls for it. Before initiating the process, she runs a background check of both the beneficiary and the donor.
Education is where everything begins, she maintains, and that is why during the lockdown, for instance, when lots of children dropped out due to inaccessibility of internet or smartphones, Sujitha independently helped as much as 80 students in getting back to classes. The process, which wheels on the basis of trust, she says, is rather simple.
“During the pandemic, I mobilised Rs 7 lakh as funds for education. I have a directory of NGOs and independent volunteers willing to help. I connect them, collect funds and transfer it. It is done online to ensure transparency,” she narrates.
Recalling one such incident where a lot of people virtually connected and went out of their way to help a child, she says, “I came across a post about an abandoned female orphan from Shillong who was slowly losing her vision due to retinopathy of prematurity. I wanted to help her, but was clueless about how to move forward. I contacted numerous doctors who said it was impossible to restore her vision.
Finally, a doctor from Radhatri Netralaya agreed for a surgery, and that too for free of cost. Volunteers came forward to transport the child to hospital. Her vision was partly restored. None of us involved knew one another before. There are numerous such incidents.”