Dr Suwas is helping tribal kids in India cycle their way to a brighter future.
She quit school, because she had to take care of her paralysed father. But the gift of a humble bicycle gave her a chance to return to her studies, and renew her dream of becoming a doctor.
“When I got my new bicycle, it felt really good. I was really happy. Earlier, it took a long time to reach school, because I had to walk. The bicycle saves me a lot of time,” says Sumitra, a tenth grade student living in Bordi, a coastal village in western India.
Her benefactor Dr Suwas Darvekar understands only too well what it felt like not having the means to attend school. Brought up in a slum, Suwas says he missed a lot of classes, because he could not afford the bus fare.
“The biggest issue was going from the house to the school,” says Suwas. “A lot of people in the slum helped me with the bus fee to reach school. And that is how I could complete my studies.”
The Mumbai dentist and avid cyclist wants to repay the kindness he received as a boy. He is on a mission to help as many children finish school.
And one way to achieve this is by removing their biggest obstacle - physical distances. Many children drop out of school, because they have to walk as far as 10 km a day, often barefoot, to attend class.
Suwas says, “One of the biggest transforming factors in a kid’s life is education... but how to get the students to school was a challenge. People are hard-pressed for even a few rupees. They cannot afford the bus or the rickshaw fee.”
He did not have to look further than his own home for the solution - a low-cost, environmentally-friendly bicycle.
Through the Sangeeta Darvekar Charitable Trust and donations from family, friends and supporters, Suwas has empowered hundreds of tribal children in Palghar district with their own two-wheelers.
Says Asha Vartak, the principal of SPH School, “Dr Suwas told the children to come to school... Their attendance is 100 per cent.” She adds, “Even a humble cycle can teach us a lot. And we learned this through him.”
Donor and volunteer Dr Dharmaji Shinde says, “If I can take one student, who was going to drop out from school, to college level, not only one child, one family is uplifted.”
For Sumitra, her bicycle has brought her closer to building a better life for her family and herself.
“No one in my family has even been to school. That’s why I want to study. So we don’t have to live in poverty anymore,” she says. “With my education, I could achieve something in life.”
“Come what may, I won’t leave school.”
Director & Producer & Editor : Anshul Tiwari
Cinematographer : Dhiraj Sharma
Location Sound Recording : Rohan Saxena
Text : Tsen-Waye Tay
Disclaimer: This article was first published in Our Better World, Singapore International Foundation. The views expressed by the author are his/her own and do not necessarily reflect that of YourStory.