We need your help to provide free Education, Coaching and meal to poor children

It was July 14, 2014, Ten-year-old Rahul’s birthday. His parents, Amit and Payal, had splurged on a party for him. In the end, there were masses of leftover food that even the catering men were unable to take home. Much of it was trashed.

Later that night, Er Siraj witnessed a scene that changed his life: two children rummaging for food in a garbage dump. One stood guard with a stick to fend off stray dogs; the other foraged the heap. On closer look, he realized they were having biriyani—polishing off the rice and storing bits of meat in a plastic bag, to savour later. "Pained by the sight, I brought them to my home and provided them with whatever we could arrange. I felt extremely guilty for throwing away the excess dishes minutes ago and wondered why I never gave it much of a thought before. I could not sleep that night," he reminisced.

Siraj's life changed forever on that night. The next day, Siraj, an engineer, started doing research on the internet about the statistics about hunger in India. One-third of the world’s hungry and malnourished live in India, yet India wastes 40 per cent food produced.  Er. Siraj bought a tiffin carrier and started taking excess food from the home to children living near the railway station.

Er. Siraj started a program of FEED (Food Education and Economic Development) in 2014, later he set up a nonprofit YGS Charitable Foundation along with colleagues to address the issue of malnourished childrens. Members of FEED felt they did not want to engage with restaurants and hotels for food. “They store food for very long,” adds Siraj. “We don’t serve stale food to children.”

Initially, FEED volunteers used to collect food—themselves or via intermediaries—from office canteens, hostels, medical and police establishments. However, Siraj realized that if he wanted to reach out to the nearby village children then transporting excess food left in the night is not possible because the village children would have already slept off with a hungry stomach before he reached them. Also, he didn’t want to serve stale food to the children the next day. The hunger he noticed in these village children was acute and they lived their lives only with the hope of filling their stomach by the end of the day. "It is difficult to collect food at night as it might be too late for the children. It would be unhygienic to serve them food from the afternoon," he said. He felt that he should somehow provide them fresh meals at night.

 

Siraj went and had a meeting with the village people and figured out a solution. Siraj and his associates cook fresh food every day in at least ten villages near Aurangabad feeding more than 1500 village children every day. Only the children are provided food because he feels that providing a free meal to the adults will give the village people a reason to not work. While the day's meals are collected and supplied to the poor in the city, the volunteers of the organization cook fresh food for the poor village children.

After feeding the village children for 6 months, Siraj saw that most of them didn’t attend any school. He realized that these children cannot compete with the more privileged children as their parents cannot teach them or guide them. The government school which they went to provided them free education and mid day meal but they felt humiliated and embarrassed as they couldn’t compete with the more privileged children and then just gave up education. He started after-school tuitions at the 10 villages where he provided the free food. He employed the educated from nearby villages to teach at the after-school tuition every day. After 2 years, these children have now got the confidence to excel and compete with the other children and have the hope to do something in life. “Education and nutrition should go hand in hand. Just by feeding the children, their future is not guaranteed. If we just educate the children and not feed them then with an empty stomach, these children cannot excel in education.” says Siraj.

There are many other nearby villages of Aurangabad where Siraj has met the villagers, done a survey of the children and tried to set up a similar model of feeding and education. However, he doesn’t have the funds to take it further. “These children are the future of our nation and if we want to build a better future for our nation then these children need to be looked after. It takes Rs. 3000 per month to cover the expenses of the food and education for one child. With just Rs. 3000 every month, the future of one child can be secured. I request everybody to donate, so that me and my team can reach out to many more children in the surrounding villages.I feel we can prevent many from spending another night on an empty stomach," says Siraj.


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YGS CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
Aurangabad Maharashtra

Co-Campaigner: YGS CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
Beneficiary: YGS CHARITABLE FOUNDATION

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