Published: 29th March 2018
This Bengalurean will take your old cycle and ensure a govt school kid gets to ride it
Sampath was hurt when he saw a girl struggling to ride a cycle with no seat. So, he decided to distribute cycles in government schools near Bengaluru
hirty seven-year-old Sampath Ramanujam still gets nostalgic about his first cycle. Like most of us, that is the most vivid memory he has of his childhood. And this memory is exactly why he was touched by the sight of a schoolgirl who was barely able to ride her cycle with no brake and no seat. "The cycle was rusted, there was no seat and the girl was sitting on the carrier while riding," recalls Sampath, as we picture the scene. The true cycling enthusiast that he is, he promised the girl, Shaila, a cycle once he returned home.
This incident happened in 2015 when Sampath, along with his family, visited the Kaiwara temple in Chikkaballapur district. But the after-effects of this meeting led him to head a group — Anvaya Foundation — that provides students of government schools near Bengaluru with their own bicycles. He named this initiative Freedom Pedals. Through his FB page and other social media platforms, Sampath tried to build a network of people who would be willing to donate used or new cycles. "I am trying to keep the promise that I made to that little girl by helping as many kids as I can," he says humbly.
Changing lives: Having a cycle gives the girls a sense of security and independence
The thought of helping one girl multiplied into four cycles in the first year, 38 in 2016 and a whopping 220 till Febraury 2018. The numbers are beyond expectation even for Sampath. "I am a cyclist and I know the feeling of owning your first cycle. Nobody can forget that feeling. I'm happy that I'm connected with this cause because of my passion," he says.
Thanks to his passion, 220 cycles have been distributed between the students of Seegehalli Govt School and Dommasandra Govt School. "First, we cover students who have to travel long distances to reach schools. We covered 120 students in Seegehalli School from 4th to 6th grade. Thankfully, all the students in Dommasandra Govt School have a cycle," informs Sampath.
Good deeds: Freedom Pedals is a part of Anvaya Foundation that has been helping the govt school kids in Bengaluru
But it is not just about distributing some cycles, the task is to deliver ones in good condition. And Sampath is very particular about that. That's the reason the distribution process takes place only once a year. "Once 30 to 40 cycles are collected in the godown, I personally check and fix the cycles," he proudly tells us. "It is only after the checking that we release the cycles in parts. The transportation cost is usually covered by donations or in exchange of old newspapers. In case, that's not enough, we shell out from our pockets," he adds.
But each penny spent seems worth it when Sampath gets to see the beaming faces of the kids. "The bright faces of the students who immediately get engrossed in riding is the best appreciation that we can get. We aren't asking for anything more," Sampath explains. While his journey to distribute cycles has been quite exciting, Sampath hasn't forgotten Shaila, who he fondly calls the brand ambassador of his initiative. "The project started because of her and that's why we sent her the best cycle of the lot this year," he smiles.