Published: 01st July 2020
This techie quit his job to educate the children of Marathwada farmers who died of suicide
Ashok Deshmane, along with his wife Archana runs Snehwan, an NGO on the outskirts of Pune. They currently take care of 80 children
The first thing that Ashok Deshmane told his wife Archana, when he met her for the first time in 2015, was "I have 18 children." Surprisingly, Archana did not raise her eyebrows. Instead, she lent her ears to listen to Ashok's story. A former techie, Ashok had then just quit his job to run Snehwan, an NGO in Pune, that he had founded to educate and take care of children of farmers who have died of suicide.
Now, the story did intrigue Archana. In a few months, the duo got married and started running the NGO together. Soon, they were kaka and kaki to these children. Currently, Ashok takes care of around 80 children. Of them, 50 live in Snehwan and the rest 30 in a slum nearby. "Farmer suicide is a huge concern in Marathwada and areas nearby. A lot of them are uneducated and so are their children. They resort to cutting sugarcane for a living and crop loss leaves them with no option, other than taking their lives. So, I thought I must do my bit by educating their children and making sure that they live a good life," says Ashok, who hails from Marathwada himself.
Ashok and Archana
Ashok started his stint in social work by sponsoring the education of a few children and teaching kids voluntarily during his free time. "That was when I came across a child named Ram Lakhan. His father had lost all his crops and had decided to pull him out of school. It was devastating. I told them that I can take care of the child. More children joined us on the go," he says. "That was when I realised that raising these children makes me happy. So, I chose happiness over money. I quit my job and became a full-time social worker," he says.
Snehwan today is situated on a two-acre campus, which Ashok says was donated by a doctor couple, who once treated Archana. "The building is self-sufficient. We grow our own food and electricity is solar-powered. We also have cows and produce biogas out of cow dung," he says. "We also teach them life skills here. All of them know how to milk a cow. They also plant trees. Also, we encourage them to read. We even have a library," he says.
Ashok is currently raising funds to support the children's education through a crowdfunding campaign. Check it out here: https://milaap.org/