Published: 02nd December 2019
This IRS officer from Kurnool is giving back to his village by educating its youngsters. Here's how
Students are encouraged by Aakanksha VFABS to clean the surrounding areas and they even collected funds for the victims of the 2018 Kerala Floods
It was a miracle V Sai Vamsi Vardhan was even able to complete his education. Wrought with financial woes, when his parents couldn't afford to educate him, his relatives did. It was just like Vamsi's father said, "If you have a good heart, people will come forward to help." So Vamsi, who hails from Thimmanayunipeta village of Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, with his good heart full of gratitude and a will to pay it forward, decided to start Aakanksha Vision For A Better Society (VFABS) in 2011 to sponsor the education of those who don't have the financial means to. His aakanksha (will) to tread on this path of social service was thwarted at several points, but he did not deter from his goal. Today, through Aakanksha VFABS, they have sponsored the education of more than 75 children across Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand.
Children filled with gratitude | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
Change is the only constant
Vamsi's story would be incomplete if we didn't mention two incidents which surely bent but did not break his indomitable spirit. After pursuing his engineering from Sree Vidyanikethan Engineering College in Tirupati, Vamsi became infamous with MLAs and the Panchayat in October 2010 for filing RTIs, as many as 40, to inquire about the work being done in Thimmanayunipeta. The MLA's men even attacked him, tore his clothes and humiliated him. Following this, he bagged a lucrative job with TCS Hyderabad, but that too couldn't hold his heart for long. "It is here that I started Aakanksha VFABS and the first kid to be sponsored was from Kothur in Warangal who we had read about in the papers," says Vamsi.
They have distributed more than 4,000 books till date
After he was disillusioned from his job, he applied for the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) and was posted in Jharkhand’s Giridih district to work with their District Magistrate Diprava Lakra for two years. While working with Panchayat-level workers, they and Vamsi were abducted by Maoists. What followed was the most traumatic experience of his life, though we are told that he emerged much stronger after the Maoists decided to release them. "I just kept thinking that I need to set an example, people should not look at me as a failure," says Vamsi. After the fellowship, he prepared for the Civil Services and bagged the 20th rank in 2016. He is now an Internal Revenue Service officer and is undergoing training in Nagpur.
Vamsi distributing school bags | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
All this while, Aakanksha VFABS has always been on the minds of Vamsi and Rajesh Battula, Founder-Secretary of the NGO which was registered in April 2015. While up to class XII, the education of all children is sponsored, for the rest of their academic pursuits, interest-free loans are offered, "so that students feel responsible," he tells us. These students are either referred to by friends or donors or hand-picked by the team after learning about them from newspapers or social media.
They have initiated computer labs in three schools in Kurnool and started a library in one
Education is the focus
Speaking about all that they do for the education of underprivileged children, Vamsi says, "We don't want to just educate students and send them to school, we want them to be socially responsible too. Exposure to arts and crafts is also essential. This is where our Project V25 comes in place," he informs. Their after-hours learning centre in Thimmanayunipeta offers academic support under this project. While all are welcome, 15 students get free tuition and training in sports. Now, sports happens to be another focus area for them, so they organise mandal-level events, including art and drawing competitions, and those children who excel are referred to the District Sports Authority in Kurnool. Then there is the distribution of free bags and books, employing local youngsters and training them so that they, in turn, can train students in the computer labs they have set up, planting saplings — there is a lot Aakanksha VFABS is doing to not only provide education but to make them all-round citizens as well. And the support comes from crowdfunding campaigns and donors who contribute regularly.
Students indulging in art | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
Because children are sponsored in 18 districts across three states, Vamsi wishes to bring them all to the same place and educate them better, both academically and socially. "To this effect, I want to build an ashram offering residential facilities and education in my village by June 2020," says Vamsi and adds, "Every child should be provided access to different opportunities and encouraged to think out of the four walls of their classrooms." And what lies ahead for Vamsi? "Well, I don't know where I will be posted so I want to institutionalise the process at Aakanksha VFABS so that it is not dependent on anyone. Our work must never stop," he says and signs off.
They have planted 1,500 saplings along with children
Two years is a long time. Here is all that he accomplished alongside District Magistrate Diprava Lakra and Jechonia, another PMRD Fellow from Bodoland, Assam:
- They were able to provide 200+ hand pumps in around 70 of the most interior villages of the district
- They connected more than 15 interior villages of Pirtand block of Giridih district with all-weather cement roads
- They made the transition from post office manual accounts to Aadhaar-based bank accounts
- They provided irrigation facilities to the farms of hundreds of tribal families by digging wells and ponds
- They converged multiple government schemes to give the beneficiaries the best results
- They helped establish around 30 poultry farms by training 30 women
Smiling students | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
Making of Vamsi
- As a student, Vamsi was daring and would rebel against college authorities when students faced issues with the quality of food. This continued through his engineering days as well
- He complained to the District Collector and wrote a letter to the High Court of Andhra Pradesh when students were forced to pay a fee for which receipts were not being provided by the administration. He was warned that he’ll be detained but instead, they waived off that particular fee for him and his friend
- After filing several RTIs and reading his own success stories in the media, “I somehow got interested in becoming an activist,” he says
Man of the moment, V Sai Vamsi Vardhan | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
In an attempt to make the students environmentally conscious, children don't just plant saplings but take care of them too. "Every Sunday, they visit the plant and ensure that it is growing properly. We call them Green Corps," says Vamsi who intends to plant 5,000 saplings in the next two to three years
More scenes from Aakanksha VFABS
Vamsi interacting with villagers | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
Students cleaning up | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
Trip time | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
In the classroom | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
Explanation in progress | (Pic: Aakanksha VFABS)
For more about them, click on aakankshavfabs.com