“Act on the educated young men, bring them together and organise them. Great things can be done by great sacrifices only. No selfishness, no name, no fame, yours or mine, nor my Master’s even! Work, work the idea, the plan, my boys, my brave, noble, good souls — to the wheel, to the wheel put your shoulders!”
These words of Swami Vivekananda kindled in two engineering students — Mayur Patnala and Rakesh Anukula — the desire to serve the humanity.
Motivated by Swami Vivekananda and APJ Abdul Kalam, they set up Nirmaan Organisation, a constructive citizen movement for an empowered India.
Founded on February 12, 2005, by Mayur and Rakesh, along with a group of 10 students of BITS, Pilani, Nirmaan Organisation has touched the lives more than 2.75 lakh individuals in six states of India — Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Goa, and Rajasthan.
The early days
It all started with a desire to make a difference in the world.
Rakesh, who comes Warangal district of Telangana, had participated in volunteering activities since his childhood days. He says,
“I am from a rural area and have seen how difficult life is for the poor.”
Mayur, who is from Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, was inspired by the NSS activities led by his father, a lecturer of Zoology at a Government College. He says that his motivation comes from ground realities —
“My father used to take me to a 10-day service camp in a remote village every year along with NSS students”.
Rakesh and Mayur were joined by 10 other students of their college, who were also inspired by Abdul Kalam’s vision for a developed India and by Swami Vivekananda’s emphasis on the role of youth towards developing India.
The stepping stone
The group of BITS, Pilani, started teaching 25 adults and children of rickshawalas and mess workers in and around the campus.
In those days, the group also used to visit the village of Pilani and interact with the villagers to understand the conditions in which they lived. Recalling the day things changed, Mayur says,
“One of the rickshawalas in the village, Kashiram Ka, did not turn up for the daily learning classes. When we visited his home, we got to know he had met with an accident. That left him bedridden, making his wife the sole the breadwinner of the family. Their daughter had to drop out of school to take care of her father. They did not have enough to eat.”
This unfortunate turn of events shattered the volunteers. Mayur says, “We as a team realised that what was being done was not enough. On one hand, there was a lot of food being wasted in our campus canteen, and here, Kashiram Ka’s family couldn’t afford a daily meal. We felt a need to do more — a team of 10 would not be enough to solve the problem of illiteracy and poverty.”
The team went back to the campus and called for a meeting, invited those who wanted to #GiveBack to the nation and booked a lecture room to accommodate 30-40 students. The plan was to trigger a brainstorming session and set a roadmap for future actions.
Rakesh says,More than 120 students and faculty turned up. We had to immediately book another huge hall to accommodate the group. That made us feel that everyone possibly has that will to give back, they only look forward to an opportunity to do so
Thus, started the movement My India, fuelled by “Save One Rupee Per Day for the Nation” campaign.
“With 200 students and faculty joining the campaign, we ran our activities such as teaching in the villages with Rs 6,000 every month,” Rakesh adds.
In July 2007, the ‘My India’ movement took the shape of an NGO and got registered under the Societies Act as Nirmaan.
Eventually, these students graduated and left the campus, they got placed in different jobs, and moved on to various metropolitan cities across India. They started picking up issues related to education in their surroundings, shared their mission with their colleagues. Very soon, their colleagues joined, brainstormed on resolving the social problems around, raised funds through ‘Save 1% of your income for the nation”.
Thus began the regional chapters of Nirmaan that were formed in Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
After a good number of years of working together, one of the founders, Rakesh, has moved on to serve the society through active politics. Mayur continues to lead the organisation with other senior volunteer leaders.
In 2010, corporate companies entered philanthropy through corporate social responsibility (CSR). Some of the corporates like Flagstone, Wells Fargo, Tech Mahindra, etc., started to support Nirmaan in various activities such as government school adoption programmes.
From 2005 to 2010, Nirmaan operated on a volunteering model and was funded by ‘Save One Rupee A Day’, and its volunteers contributed to it one to 10 percent of their salaries. From 2010 to 2015, Nirmaan started building itself as an organisation by rigorously forming systems and procedures to enhance transparency, accountability, and efficiency.
Today, Nirmaan operates on a hybrid model wherein it receives 10-20 percent of funds from individuals that include more than 500 networks of students and groups of professionals. Through ‘Save One Rupee A Day’ campaign, Nirmaan gets up to 1-10 percent of its fund and the rest of the support comes from CSR.
With more than 150 full-time employees and more than 500 volunteers,
Nirmaan today is not just volunteering at schools but has various flagship programmes that were developed by its volunteers, mentors and beneficiaries to assist children, women, and youth.
Under the ambit of Nirmaan, there are several programmes such as the School Adoption Programme; Vidya Help Line, a career counselling (toll free) helpline for High School children; Scholarship and Mentorship Programme; Yuva Disha, an employment helpline for unemployed youth; Youth Employment Programme, a placement cell linked skill development initiative for youth; Avanti a business linked skill development initiative for women.
One of Nirmaan’s programmes has successfully enhanced food security for the families of farmers in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh. During the last financial year 2016-17, donors have contributed Rs 5.7 crore to the farmers’ community through Nirmaan.
Lastly, Mayur says, “If 10 young people can impact lives of 2.75 lakh in a span of 12 years, what if one percent of the entire youth of the country takes up the mission to develop India.