“If you want to change the world, you need to first change yourself, and in order to do that, it is important to know if you are able to feel the change happening around you or not.”
My name is Abhay Kumar Ojha, I was born and raised in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. I completed my early education from a rural school and graduated in the city of Gorakhpur. Right from my childhood up till now, I have been carrying a zest in my heart to serve society especially that section which is deprived of their basic rights and facilities.
The early incidents of me taking steps against some wrong happening date back to my school time. I went to a school situated in a rural village that lacked proper amenities and infrastructure such as desks, chairs, a library, and even blackboards. Teachers imparting education in the school were reluctant to do their job. To date, I recall the day when I felt the need to raise my voice against the absence of teachers during school time. I encouraged students to join me in staging a protest. We all sat outside the class and did not move till our class resumed.
As a consequence, our school principal assured us that all the teachers would conduct classes regularly. This was the first incident in my life where I demonstrated my leadership ability to fight for something as basic as education. From there on, I made sure I stood up against unjust or wrongdoings around me.
Apart from standing against the wrong, I have stood with those in need too. During my time at college, while pursuing my degree, I came across a few underprivileged children who were begging for money. My heart sank at the sight. At an age where these hands should be busy practicing writing alphabets, were instead begging. Out of concern-borne curiosity, I followed these children to find out how the money received from begging was put to use, only to find a man grabbing it from their hands.
To justify the above statement, let me share a simple anecdote. I was in the 12th grade when a dog was drowning in a manhole by the roadside during rainy days. No one was paying attention to it. I alighted in the manhole. I was scared, but instead of being nervous, I caught hold of it and pulled it out. That day, I felt a sense of compassion that we all must have to benefit each other and grow the society.
It pained me to see this harsh reality. Unable to turn a blind eye to this plight, I chose to associate myself with an NGO named Smile Roti Bank to help these and many such deprived children. Under this NGO, I began working for child rights. I started educating children in an empty space opposite the railway stations.
Few days into teaching, I discovered that these children were addicted to smoking and consumption of drugs as well. To rectify this, I began to counsel them and helped them give up the addiction. I inculcated the habit of practicing yoga and meditation among the children. The positive results of these began to show up. To expand this campaign further and help rescue more children, we set out on a 300-km child begging-free India journey from Gorakhpur to Lucknow with the Smile Roti Bank team. On this journey, we had 18 other people including 2 IAS officers and an army officer. En route the journey, we spread awareness through street plays and provided a memorandum to the former Hon. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. He appreciated our efforts and affirmed that he will take the necessary steps to tackle this issue.
After having helped children to get on the right track, I then chose to help mentally challenged individuals. In my third year of graduation, I associated with Smile Home and worked as a counselor. I began by identifying the mentally challenged people from the roadside intersections and brought them to the correctional homes. We rescued around 30 such individuals from various places such as Nepal, Mizoram, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal and other states.
Under this campaign, I was trusted with the responsibility to improve their health, correct their daily activities, ensuring they receive the right medicines, converse with them and get to know their concerns, and counsel them on the same. Working closely with these individuals helped me develop empathy, compassion, and patience.
The biggest goal which eventually turned into an achievement was to send all of them back home fit and fine. From here on, I knew it in my heart that I was born to serve humankind. After giving this a serious thought, I took my next step. I joined Gandhi Fellowship which acted as a game-changer in my life.
During the course of my Gandhi Fellowship which began in 2019, I had the opportunity to learn the Influence without Authority program and Non-Violence Communication. Further, for 1.5 years, I worked on the 21st-century skills and entrepreneurship skills of students of 9th to 12th class in the government schools of Jhunjhunu district. Here I took the initiative to create a variety of projects, a key one being the Pragati Yatra Self-discovery. Others include an IPS session, Career Guidance and Entrepreneurs’ sessions, Five Senses & Motor skills. Currently, I am working in the PISA Program on International Students Assessment where we are working on an online home-based project with children to make them PISA ready.
I started with Gandhi Fellowship in July 2019, where I started learning things like IWA and. After a 10-day orientation, I became part of the team. For 1.5 years, in the government schools of Jhunjhunu district, working on the 21st-century skills and entrepreneurship skills of students of 9th to 12th class. Where I took the initiative to create a variety of projects. My major projects were Pragati Yatra Self-discovery, an IPS session, Career Guidance and Entrepreneurs’ sessions, Five Senses & Motor skills. Currently, I am working in PISA Program on International Students Assessment, where we are working on an online home-based project with children so that children of India can be made PISA ready.
Further in life, I see myself as a social entrepreneur. I also intend on starting a new venture of counseling in the mental health domain as well, so that those who are in need of therapy can recover and return to their normal life.