Aimed at moulding underserved slum kids of today into well-rounded versatile individuals of tomorrow, the Reach Out and Pass It On (ROPIO) Foundation tends to every skill that at times go unnoticed.
What marginalised groups miss out on most is an opportunity; a life changing possibility that can go from being a major confidence booster to the sole reason for looking forward to another day.
ROPIO not only provides this juncture to children coming from the appalling slums of Delhi, but also understands that support and encouragement for helping them express their hidden talent goes a long way in shaping their future.
Murphy Raphael John (30), Founder of ROPIO, believes that everyone placed on this planet has a purpose to fulfil. ROPIO’s foundation was laid in 2010 and Murphy has been running it as a registered NGO since 2008.
Murphy comes from a family that has added many dimensions to his personality and ideologies. This directed his search for his true calling in his formative years.
“I was never drawn towards the corporate world, never the ‘engineer, lawyer, doctor’ sorts. But, one thing for certain was that it had to be something creatively stimulating and exciting.”
English Literature appealed most to Murphy in college. Realising his love for the subject he decided to teach. “In my final year in 2008, I thought of doing something for the underprivileged. I wanted to do something worthwhile with my time before my career took me completely away from it,” he recalls. This was when the seeds for ROPIO were sown. Along with a few friends, Murphy gathered a bunch of kids every Sunday around the Gol Dak Khana area, gave them food, milk and conducted fun activities like memory games or art workshops.
As film-like as it may sound, Murphy says his turning point was a dream he had about impacting the lives of these underprivileged kids and just being there for them. With this dream, he knew what he was meant to do and has never looked back since then. “The journey from then on was nothing short of an adventure. As time passed, the mode of functioning became clearer.”
A core team of four likeminded people sharing the same passion and dedication structured themselves to work on the overall development and grooming of children and youth in the slums of Delhi. They provide as many opportunities to them so that they reach their highest potential. Murphy is the only full-time worker at ROPIO; while the rest have their own careers and jobs, they still take out time to help ROPIO grow.
“In this journey, my family and friends have been my greatest support. I have learnt that the road to success is not just dependent on your individual capacity but also on the strength of teamwork and the support one gets from their dear ones. Every time I hit a low period in my life, it's solely their faith in me and my work that has brought me back to my feet,” says Murphy.
Murphy says that knowing one's purpose is the first step; the tough part is taking it forward. Initially, the challenges were many—from managing things alone, people coming and going, to the demolition of the slums ROPIO worked for. The demolition broke a community of over 550 families, but giving up was never an option. “At that time, we were catering to over 150 children and it was them who really inspired me. For when they were not willing to give up on us, despite their situation, then how could we? So, we took up a place on rent and continued our effort with 25 of those children who were old enough to be with us.”
Besides such hurdles, insufficient funding and lack of adequate human resource have been the major roadblocks. But, with a focus on quality over quantity, and having already impacted over 250 children, ROPIO currently works with 70 kids. They take on the responsibility of a child when he/she is 10-12 years old, raise and groom them till they are about 21 years old.
During this time, everything from their health, academic support, skill and talent development, personality development, proficiency in language and computers to working with their individual identities, experiential learning, exposure, and sculpting them into people who are capable of achieving their dreams is taken care of.
Murphy also expresses that being a volunteer-driven NGO, volunteerism for ROPIO has been seasonal and unpredictable. “Sometimes we have more than we require and sometimes we are in desperate need of help.” This said, he admits that in the past seven years over 200 volunteers have helped bring ROPIO to the stage it is at today.
Of all programmes ROPIO organises, the most sought after is The Platform. A stage for kids to showcase their God-given talents in front a 500-people audience, this year-old event is a culmination of an entire year’s hard work aimed at nurturing the talents of children and presenting them through well-orchestrated stage performances. The stage is shared by a few professional artists along with the kids so that together they create two hours of magic. “The Platform sees the children put up spectacular dance, music, and theatrical performances. It channels our vision to provide learning opportunities for children in performing arts and create quality performance spaces for them to exhibit and share their skills,” says Murphy.
For many of the students, it's their first time on a stage, but this empowers them to feel like the masters of their own destiny. This year, the second edition of The Platform is steering dreams and ambitions to pursue arts through crowdfunding. The money raised will help surge the confidence and communication skills of these children.
With continued determination, the success graph of ROPIO has only grown. Left with only 25 children after the demolition of slums in 2010, in seven years, the number has increased to 70 and is steadily growing. Many children have successfully passed examinations and there are 12 of them studying in regular colleges. One of them is pursuing masters while another is growing as a professional choreographer. “Seven years of effort bore fruit in the form of these children hailing from slums, who have already achieved so much in life. Being the most educated in their families, they’re an inspiration to the younger children.” says a proud Murphy.
Financially supported by Murphy’s family in the early stages, ROPIO presently organises social theme based events such as Udaan 2010, Joy of Giving 2010, Artees, Children's Parliament, The Platform, and The Woolly Mammoth Project. All of them are aimed at raising funds by creating awareness among the public about ROPIO building a support system for the kids.
Besides all successes, ROPIO stands by the fact that everyone has potential and that they just need the opportunities to grow. These opportunities are continually provided when each of ROPIO’s children take responsibilities of the NGO as part of their Pass It On mission. “We believe nothing grows if it is kept to oneself. Only when shared does it truly grow, like a flame.”
Presently, ROPIO is working towards the dream that one day it will be a huge school-cum-home with the best of facilities for honing skills based on the aptitude of the children who are completely marginalised.