Thursday, 8 June 2017

Grey Scale #2: Uma's charity literally began at her home

Its over two weeks since I started this series Grey-Scale, and barred myself posting the second article of it. To be frank, I was a little hesitant on writing about a person who is in the grey scale of this society. I came to know about her just a month back through one of my colleagues. I wished to write about her once I got to know what she was doing to her community for over two years. But, there were/are some restraints for her, due to which she was stopping me to write about her. Anyways, I convinced her at last, and here is the piece.



Charity begins from home is the one phrase that suits Uma Maheshwari whose only aim in life is to raise her entire community to lead a standard life with all literacy and hygiene. Overcoming a lot of threats and pressures from political parties, she has been serving with an open heart to her community for the past couple of years. Uma Maheshwari, a resident of Kannagi Nagar near Thuraipakkam in Chennai, is showing the way with her actions. She runs a free study center for about 300 children from disadvantaged minority sections of the society, and wants everyone in her area have access to education and hygienic lifestyle.

During our interaction, she elaborated about her journey and the struggles she underwent to make education a reality for children from poor economic background in the neighbourhood. "It all started when I used to teach my children after their school hours in my home. As I have completed only middle school, I could teach them only up to a level. Seeing my children study everyday at home, our neighbours started sending their kids to study. Eventually about 10 used to come to my house," says Uma.


As the area comprises of children from economically weaker background, there were a lot of external factors that stopped them from learning. "Earlier, some politicos would take youngsters from here as their musclemen. They pay around Rs 3,000 per month. So, the entire area was like a slave to them until three years back," recalls Uma and adds that the politicians were ready to pay for this rather than education or any other sort of civic development. Following this, Uma planned to build a structure to help these children.

She says, "I asked for volunteers who were willing to teach school children. These volunteers would be mostly the educated youth from our own area or their friends from neighbouring localities." Uma’s husband, who is an auto driver, was a great help to her. He used to provide nutritious snacks to these children, when they came to the center to study.

"Education was not the only need for my community. Many were living in improper health conditions. So, my husband stepped in and served healthy snacks for these children. Only after having the food they would start studying on any day," Uma boasts.


This nutritious meal scheme of Uma’s started to attract parents who began sending their wards to study at her home. Soon her small shelter in the housing board was insufficient to occupy so many children.

"It was then, we planned to move into a bigger space. I found a land in our area and planned to buy it for constructing a large study hall. A few politicos interfered and stopped us from buying it. After lot of struggle we bought the land and raised an asbestos roofed building comprising of three sections. There are around 400 children in the locality of which around 300 study here now," Uma adds.

After raising the building, the couple called it Ambedkar Evening Study Center. This was built through funds raised from sponsors who were roped in by volunteers and the couple themselves. Along with that, Uma also has enhanced the infrastructure of he study center with computers too, citing to provide children with an introduction to technology. Everything was through sponsors, she says.


"With the help of these sponsors, we managed to provide nutritious snack along with a complete dinner every night to all 300 children. These kids come here by 6 pm and start studying after a snack and would leave the center after having dinner that is provided at 8.30 pm,” Uma concludes.

The main reason for me writing this blog is to spread a word about this woman of action. As she is looking for more sponsors to continue her duty, I am requesting the readers of this blog, if you guys can help her with any financial assistance. Uma Maheshwari can be reached out through phone at 7299095646. You can even share this article in social media too, to let more people know about this woman in grey scale so that she gets more sponsors to extend her service without any obstacles. Thanks in advance!

-Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, June 8, 2017.

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