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Responding to poignant call for help – they come Personality of the week

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And make the evenings of their life more meaningful

Coimbatore: ‘Roshni’ in Hindi means ‘light.’

“We are trying to provide light at the end of the tunnel for the suffering and have found the light for many of us who have retired and do not know how to spend our time constructively,” explains R.S.Raman, the secretary and the brain behind Roshni, a non-Governmental organisation in Coimbatore that works for the deprived sections of society, to G. Satyamurty.

“We have lived our life to the brim. All our limbs are intact. There is enough to take care of us. Our children are very well placed. But how many of us have ever even thought of the myriad mouths of hunger and those suffering innumerable infirmities? Have we ever bothered to respond to their poignant call for help?” asks Mr.Raman.

Mr. Raman, who retired from a high position in a major company in the country in 1994, believes “service to humanity is service to God.” With this goal in mind, with some retired and working executives and well-wishers he formed a group that started functioning from the next year.

“Originally we didn’t even have a name for our Movement. But it had the backing of philanthropic and service-minded people. We started visiting orphanages, understanding their problems, providing them clothes collected from almost 1,000 houses and extending whatever help possible. We made it a point to take at least a few donors to these homes so that they could have some interaction with the recipients and this slowly sprouted as an NGO.”

It was in 1998, Roshni was born. Then followed the project for providing education for those from the lowest strata of society.

“Initially, we selected 50 children from the economically weaker sections, studying in Government elementary schools, and started providing them uniform, books and stationery for the whole year. This number has now grown into 250 and this has become our permanent project. Now we are in a position to extend assistance to those who have joined the IITs and colleges. But we maintain 250 as the maximum number of beneficiaries and also monitor their progress. They have to show their mark sheets to us.”

M.P. Dhanaraj, a former superintending engineer, TNEB, provides free coaching to these children. P. Govindaraj, V. Gurumurhty and K.P. Kumaran, who retired from various major organisations, and Suresh Kumar, A.S. Natarajan, M.P. Ramachandran and P. Srinivasan, who are still in service, are all very active members.

Mrs. Sugantha Raman coordinates with women volunteers. Apart from monetary contributions, good old clothes are accepted at various points of the city. Mr.Raman is happy that the response from the donors has been very good.

Every year, the collection starts well in advance for the projects to be accomplished between November and January. “We have no backing of major industries or the Government. All that we do is to appeal to a list of 600 people by January and the collection goes on till August-September. As our credibility is high, 300 have become regular contributors and they include those from abroad. For instance, in Dubai, one of our donors keeps a box superscribed as ‘Roshni’ and anyone can drop his contribution on auspicious days and birth days. Thus children abroad are encouraged to think of the suffering brethren.”

Several projects have been conceived gradually depending upon the need and request. For instance, they started visiting the homes for the leprosy-affected, near Maruthamalai, and provide them blankets. “When Mr. G.K. Sundaram, doyen of industrial community here, saw our service, he contributed Rs. 1 lakh immediately. It is the chairman of Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Coimbatore Kendra, B.K. Krishnaraj Vanavarayar, former CBI chief D.R.Karthikeyan, and the managing director of Krishna Sweets, M.Krishnan, who have been encouraging our activities. R. Srinivasan, former secretary to two former Presidents, Shankar Dayal Sharma and R.Venkatraman, is the guiding spirit.”

Roshni then embarked on constructing an annexe for Neyam, a senior citizens home. Basic necessities for the United Physically Handicapped School were also provided. “We have 16 homes – be it for orphans, senior citizens, handicapped, leprosy affected or HIV affected – on our radar. Besides, we assist various charitable activities like that of the Vasantha Memorial Trust for the cancer-afflicted.”

On every Gandhi Jayanthi, it announces a major donation for some home. An important feature of Roshni’s activities is that it has a very tight schedule for about three months, from November up to Pongal, which is carried out with clock-like precision. Its members personally visit such homes and render whatever service required.

“But, before rendering any assistance, we ensure the genuineness of the organisations.” In addition, it extends a helping hand or organises various awareness programmes regarding health and distribute pamphlets including on the usage of LPG.

“We do not keep any money at all except for the education project. Members themselves foot the bill of even the transport and telephone,” concludes Mr.Raman.

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