The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination. – Baba Amte
Most of us, common men, talk about the change we want in the society. We listen, we read, we discuss and in the end, give ourselves an excuse to defend our apathy and laziness.
This is a story of one such common man, Mr. Sujith Kumar, an HR professional from Chennai, who, unlike the most of us, took action and made a difference in the lives of many. Sujith, along with his team, founded the Maatram Foundation in 2012, which provides free higher education to deserving students from economically deprived backgrounds. Various educational institutions partnered with the Foundation give free admissions which includes not just the tuition fees but also the transportation charges, hostel fees (wherever applicable), food expenses, books & stationery expenses. Students who score more than 85% but cannot afford to buy even an engineering application form are identified and given quality education. Maatram has helped 327 students get admissions in different colleges in engineering, arts and science streams. This year we helped with about 125 admissions,” says Sujith.
Once, during one of the 10-day long counselling sessions Sujith conducts in April every year for students in rural Tamil Nadu to make them aware of their career options, a student came up to him with a question.
Can you recommend a course after which I will get a job for sure?
This student, a young girl, asked him, “Can you recommend a course after which I will get a job for sure?”. Any course would be fine, she added. She was the primary breadwinner of the household as her father was an alcoholic and she had lost her mother when she was in Class 7. To support her education and the education of two siblings, she was working as a domestic help in several households. After hearing her story, Sujith realised that giving money to this kid was not going to help her. He then called the chairman of a college who he knew personally, to help her get a free engineering seat, in return for which he would provide free placement training to final year students of that college. Inspired by Sujith and his concern for her education, the chairman agreed to give 20 free seats to such underpriviledged students.
And that’s the ethos that has lasted beyond this incident and through to the formation of Maatram foundation. Sujith along with Balaji Patturaj, a radio jockey, comedian, and actor who is also known as RJ Balaji, started a radio show inviting students from weaker economic backgrounds looking for college admissions to get in touch with them.
Several colleges approach Maatram Foundation every year to offer seats to the underpriviledged students.
The Foundation also works on Santa Kids in which students from different schools in Chennai fulfil wishes of underprivileged children by becoming their Santas. It is also working on setting up libraries in low-income schools in the city with the help of funds and books received from donors.
Including Sujith, the Maatram team has 11 members and all of them have full time day jobs. These individuals spend most of their free time in helping the helpless, thereby creating a better world and a brighter future.
In his famous International Day speech, Nelson Madela said, “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dream of“. So, if we admire the work that people like Sujith are doing for the society, then why can’t we do the same? Why can’t we be selfless just for a day every once in a while? Even though it’ll not satisfy our greed, it’ll give us something much more important, closure.