Published: 26th April 2019
Founder of shelter raises funds to renovate the building that houses its boys
135 boys now live in an outdated building after UP govt asks shelter to separate boys and girls
Hukumsingh Uniyal, founder and Principal of Rajkiya Purva Madhyamik Vidyalaya (RPMV), a shelter for underprivileged children in Dehradun is currently in the middle of an important crowdfunding campaign. He is hoping to raise at least Rs 15 lakh to renovate an old school in order to provide housing for the boys of the school.
In the wake of numerous cases of sexual assault on children, the state government of Uttarakhand issued an order asking the shelter to house the boys and girls separately, allocating an old school for these boys to move into. However, this building is severely underdeveloped and since the government was unable to allocate funds for renovations, volunteers from around the country are currently helping the Principal raise necessary funds.
On December 4, 2018, Uniyal, with the help of alumni of the NGO Make A Difference (MAD), started a crowdfunding campaign which has raised nearly Rs 10 lakh out of the Rs 15 lakh goal. “We formed a WhatsApp group where we shared ideas and steps we could take to raise the funds, and through that group, we launched the campaign on Ketto, a crowdfunding platform and shared it among our contacts,” says Reshu Agarwal, who was one of the initial volunteers for the campaign. “Approximately 50 per cent of the funds are donations from countries like the USA, UK and Australia. Most of the funding has been through first-hand contacts and former volunteers of MAD.”
RPMV currently houses a total of 270 underprivileged boys and girls, with the aim of giving them a fresh start and access to primary education. MAD has been associated with the shelter for years and volunteers regularly take classes for the children. According to Uniyal, when the government decided that girls and boys shouldn’t be housed in the same campus, the District Magistrate of Uttarakhand issued an order asking him to shift the boys to an old school building.
The infrastructure of the school was initially deemed unsuitable for these children to live in. “We’ve contacted the Education Department that has promised to look into it after the elections. No funding can be processed until May 23 (election results). We’ve also approached the Chief Minister and he has promised to help us as well,” explained Surbhi Agarwal, who is the project manager in this crowdfunding campaign. “There was no room in the government budget, and I couldn’t refuse to separate the boys and girls either. So I started working on getting the repairs done myself,” says Uniyal, a former NAT (National Award for Teachers) awardee who then donated the Rs 50,000 prize money towards the school. Uniyal also took loans from personal contacts and suppliers to begin renovations as soon as possible, before reaching out to MAD.
The renovation of the building has already begun. “We have renovated the classrooms, the dormitories and the wardens’ rooms. We’ve constructed tin sheds because we did not have enough funding to construct a ceiling. And we’ve had to cement the flooring to prevent flooding, as monsoons in Dehradun can be pretty bad. We also constructed toilets and bathrooms,” adds Surbhi.
After the renovations in February, the District Magistrate inspected the area and decreed it safe for the boys to move into. However, the building still functions with a ‘make-shift kitchen’, and most of the surrounding property stands to be demolished by June as the area has been divided among various trusts and organisations.
Despite these improvements, Uniyal and the volunteers are still concerned that this simply isn’t enough, and hope to reach the 15-lakh-goal to make the school hospitable for these young boys. “We’re planning to relaunch our campaign by using social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook more effectively to reach out to people and further raise funds for these children,” says Reshu Agarwal.