“There are so many people out there working with great grassroots and global and national organizations that are unsung heroes to me.” Bonnie Rait
As someone who works in the developmental sector, I dwell on her words often I continue to be inspired by the unsung heroes I meet. They seek no acknowledgement nor public mention. They have a mission in life and they eat, breathe and live to achieve that. This becomes their raison d’etre.
One such person is Senthil Kumar, the founder trustee of CHILD, an NGO that works for the development and welfare of deserving children, in Kolathur, a suburb of Chennai. Senthil started a home in 2005, for young boys who were shunned and stigmatised because their parents were HIV positive, as well as some abandoned street children. Thus was born CHILD, to nurture them with love, dignity and sound values . And this is what reflects in all the boys who call it their home today, confidence that they will achieve their goals in life.
Since he could not house girls in the same home, he started working actively for girls affected by HIV in the same suburbs and instituted a programme ‘I Support A Girlchild’( ISAG) to sponsor the nutrition and education of over a hundred HIV affected girls. Over the recent period of lockdown, he realized that they were affected very badly and facilitated the distribution of nutrition kits and monetary support for over 600 HIV infected and affected families with the help of Bhoomika. Today, he has become the main source of support and welfare for all these girls and is helping them realize their dreams of becoming financially independent and empowered. In his words, “Breaking the deeply embedded stigma attached to HIV affected youngsters and getting them to complete their education is very difficult,” says Senthil who thinks a lot still needs to be done to enhance awareness among people.
But it isn’t for this that I call him a hero. It is because this is not all he does!
Every time he sees someone around him get affected adversely, Senthil goes beyond his call of duty and helps in every possible way. We saw this even recently during the lockdown period of the pandemic. Though the children were all quarantined in Child, Senthil was on the field, volunteering and collaborating with NGOS like Cancer Institute and Bhoomika Trust.
He drove his van over 50 kms everyday to pick-up and drop back the employees of Cancer Institute, for many weeks and ferried their immunity compromised senior citizen patients as well. Senthil also managed the operations at the Bhoomika relief centre in Chennai for over 10 days, taking full charge of logistics, distribution and volunteers. He volunteered his time generously for distributing relief kits himself, too.
Soft spoken and humble, he did all this quietly. His day used to start early in the morning and it used to be late in the night when he used to get back to CHILD. Taking care of the kids never took a back seat as he ensured they were engaged with enough virtual sessions with volunteers and their nutrition was taken care of. I am pretty sure he is thinking of his next project even now, because this man’s need to help never ceases. Just like a hero.