When many sympathise with street children, Uma did not stop with just lip service. She started Siragu, a school for street children.
She is a graduate in Maths, but she does not keep count of the number of social projects she handles nor remembers the years she has been involving herself in charity work. At 37, she manages a lot of responsibilities on those fragile shoulders. Be it street children welfare or women upliftment, value education or nature care, Uma accomplishes them with ?lan.
Uma, founder and managing trustee of Suyam Charitable Trust, even after completing doctorate, did not aim for career development, instead worked towards educating street children and rehabilitating their family.
The events that led to the establishment of Siragu Montessori School at Avadi, a school for street children, speaks of her instantaneous decision towards a lifetime commitment in 2003. Uma did a documentary on beggars and platform dwellers while pursuing her MBA. The people told her that many made an attempt to bring out their life style by shooting them on camera and through documentaries, but their life has hardly seen any advancement. Moved by their plight, she promised to transform their life. And she kept her word by starting Siragu.
“The initial efforts of the team were met with antagonism and suspicion but sustained efforts made a few parents to allow their children to attend school. The success of these students at school convinced other parents to send their children,” says Ms. Uma. “I wanted to provide them the best of education. And so chose to develop a curriculum on a par with ICSE. Three of its students have now passed Class X after enrolling into Velammal School,” she adds.
“The curriculum is concept-based and we approach it through ‘known to unknown',” she says. “Ideas are associated with areas such as agriculture, health, weather, hygiene, and kitchen,” says Uma, adding, “The aim is to stimulate responsible creativity.”
There are as many as 400 students studying in the school which has Classes up to VIII. They include street children, orphans and child labours rescued from brick kilns. There are children of scavengers, auto drivers, vendors who sell products at signals, agriculture labourers and maid servants. Children without parents stay in Siragu Home.
Shaped by five trustees and volunteered by more than 50 friends, Siragu was just the beginning of more than 20 projects handled by Suyam Charitable Trust. Bharatha Matha School, a school for slum children, a branch at Thiruvallur for rural children, Kannimary Nursery School at Kanyakumari for children in coastal area are some of the other free and nominal fee schools run by the Trust. Creative Stimulation camp, organic farming, science centre, Suyam in schools (a science programme in Nagapattinam), digital library, Abani Creations, an employment opportunity for downtrodden women, family counselling and medical camps are some of its projects.
Uma is ably supported by her husband Muthuram (a childhood friend) and her family members. “My mother and aunt take care of a school each, while other members of family are also actively involved in the projects,” says Uma adding that they steer things with the help of numerous friends spread across the globe. “I have never been stopped by blocks. Someone or the other comes to our rescue,” adds Ms. Uma.
Suyam Trust has been endorsing Jeevan Vidhya among its teachers, parents and public for harmonious co-existence. Jeevan Vidhya is promoted by IITians which focuses on value education. “I, body, family, society, nature and existence are our focus,” says Ms. Uma.
“The motive is to be a part of the solution,” says Ms. Uma adding, “We act as a facilitator for a better environment and a society.”