Yasaswy Mulpuri – “Any small change is still a positive change”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”. This is a famous saying that Yasaswy Mulpuri often came back to as he worked to create a change in his city, a change that will transform the lives of many kids, forever. 

After joining Infosys in 2010, Yasaswy found a group of like-minded co-workers with similar interests and passions for helping those who need it. While driving past a railway station in Lingampally, Telangana, he and his co-workers found a group of about 200 kids who were living on the streets. After inquiring a bit more, they found that the school that was less than a mile away refused to take the kids as they lacked the knowledge to be able to keep up with the class. They also found that the kids begging on the streets was a source of income for the family, sending these kids to school would rid their family of this little income they have. After further research with the school, they found that the schools did not have the right funding and staffing to support a bridge school program to provide specialized education for these kids. As education is a fundamental right in India, they filed a complaint with the government expressing their concerns for these kids and pushing them to start a special program for these kids in public schools. After multiple attempts, they got to speak to the Director of Education who told them that this would take many years to fix and that they could start a school on their own if they were really interested. 

After hearing this, they knew that they wanted to make a change. They also knew that fighting the system wouldn’t get them anywhere, just like the last few times. The quickest and most efficient solution was to start the school on their own. They started by searching for a location to set up their school. After trying to rent out small homes to transform into a school, they were rejected multiple times as the owners couldn’t trust that they will get rent on time. After about 6 months of searching, they found an abandoned place that stopped construction midway. It was a small building with a foundation and pillars. They soon were approved to get a roof built so they could turn the building into a school. With the location decided and construction underway, they went on to survey the students and their families to better understand their living situation, their concerns about sending their kids to school, their day-to-day struggles, etc. Once everything was done and established, they went back to the Director of Education and told them that everything is ready to start the school, all that was needed was a bridge school curriculum, operating procedures, and other small things to actually start the school. Shocked that someone took matters into their own hands and worked to start this school, the Director offered to provide them with all the materials and funding they needed to start and run the school, free of cost. He also offered to make this school a non-residential special training center: the Rajiv Vidya Mission Non-Residential Special Training Center under Kadam Public Charitable Trust.

Once everything was set and the school was ready to start, Yasaswy and his team set out to enroll the kids in the school and start teaching. However, they ran into another problem. Most of these kids either did not want to go to school, or their families did not want to send them. This surprised Yasaswy because he thought that these kids would be eager to get a proper education, especially at a school that is also feeding them breakfast and lunch free of cost. After inquiring further, he found that the families did not want to lose a source of income, as mentioned before. Additionally, these kids were not used to being in a classroom environment. They were used to wandering the streets and living their days the way they wished. Being in a school with a curriculum, schedule, and rules was something that they were not used to and were scared of. Additionally, when these kids wandered the streets, they would go in large groups and were not subject to human traffickers. However, when going and coming from school this would not be the case and the families were concerned that they would get kidnapped.

Knowing these concerns of the families and the kids, Yasaswy felt that it would be best to get to know the kids first. Rather than teaching them the curriculum in school, he told the teachers to just talk to the kids and get to know them better. For many weeks, students would go to school to create a bond with their teachers and peers. This allowed them to feel more comfortable and safe in a school environment and they started looking forward to coming to school. Next, to address the concern of safety, Yasaswy and his team would go to each of the kids every morning, pick them up in the car, take them to school, and bring them back at the end of the day. Additionally, a security system was set up around the school to ensure that if something happened, they would be able to help the situation better. 

So far, the Rajiv Vidya Mission Training Center has had over 300 kids pass through and move on to higher education. Currently, there are about 55 students in the school and each student is getting the education and skills they need to succeed in a regular school environment. 

Throughout this process, there were many times when Yasaswy had to compromise either his personal life, job life, or managing the school to make everything work. There were times when he wasn’t as present in his personal life as he would have liked to be because of work and managing the school. Other times, he had to give up time on managing the school for his family. During these times, he relied heavily on the rest of the team to make sure that the school is still running smoothly. 

Yasaswy knows that he can’t change the world with this school. And it’s definitely not something that can be done overnight. However, the fact that he and his team are able to positively impact the lives of these students, one student at a time, gives him the trust that they are moving in the right direction to transform lives for the better.

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