Downtown

Lifeboats to the rescue

In addition to contributing to education, Lifeboat Foundation takes up other social welfare projects.   | Photo Credit: mail pics

Sumesh (name changed), a cook at AMET University, was devastated when doctors told him that his daughter needs surgery for her ventricular septal defect — which in plain terms is ‘a hole in the heart’.

Just when he lost all hope of saving his daughter, Kannan Kanamarlapudi, an alumnus of the University and a marine engineer, and his army of mariner friends, decided to fund the surgery.

Though each pooled in and collected Rs.1 lakh, the girl managed to receive free surgery at a government hospital. But little did the mariners know that the amount was about to change the lives of several children across Tamil Nadu. Instead of redirecting the respective amount to the funders, Sumesh, the cook, suggested the group put it to better use. Thus was born the idea of a foundation — Lifeboat Foundation Trust — to educate underprivileged children.

“We ourselves were sponsored by a company when we were students, and so we understand the joy of receiving aid to offset the financial load on our parents,” says Kannan, who founded LBF in January 2011, along with five other batchmates (and registered trustees) — Parthiban Sundaramurthi, Sabarish Gangadharan, Sripad Sudarshan, Karthick John Varkie and Balaji Maikandasivam.

With a registered office in Sowcarpet, a few other friends volunteered to handle the financial part of the Foundation; the legal aspects such documents for registration and sponsorship; and the website designing and updating.

Economically disadvantaged students have access to free education through government schools, but sadly, not at a university level, points out Kannan. “Even the morning sessions at a university come with a fee that many cannot afford. Also, today, it is hard to find a job even with an undergraduate degree under your belt,” he adds.

Lifeboat Foundation Trust, which is the first trust in the seafarers’ fraternity in India, received the first application from a college student, who lost her father and had no means to resume her college education. Ever since, there has been a steady flow of applications for the scholarship.

“We got in touch with several colleges across the State, including those in Madurantakam and Chengalpattu district, where the parents earn an annual income of Rs. 50,000 or less. I need hardly say that today, it is difficult to get a respectable education and have a reasonable livelihood with such a paltry amount,” he says.

They posted the applications on their Facebook page for donations and received quick and positive responses from their friends. “Currently, there are 38 students studying under this initiative,” informs Kannan.

Students whose parents have passed away and are under the care of the grandparents; students with a single parent; and students who have been abandoned by their parents are eligible for the scholarship.

Kannan, however, adds that every student is given only half the earmarked fee each semester — the prime criterion they put forth while awarding the scholarship.

“We give the rest of the amount only when he/she clears a particular semester. This is to help them understand the value of education and money,” he explains.

LBF made a special arrangement with the principals of the institutions regarding the penalty charges.

“Since we are donating the tuition fees to the student, they don’t charge any late payment penalties.”

The team emails the marksheet of the student to the sponsor, to let him/her monitor the student’s progress. The Foundation’s website (www.lifeboatfoundationtrust.org) will go live soon, and then the students will update the score of each semester on the site, which the sponsors can access anytime. The sponsor can also interact with the student through the college, email or LBF.

“This ensures a transparent process,” adds Kannan. In addition to contributing to education, LBF also takes up other social welfare projects. “During the Chennai floods, we started a campaign and raised Rs. 5 to Rs. 6 lakh in a week to restore Little Flower Convent School for the Blind and Deaf, and its classrooms. We offered manual labour as well.”  

They also constructed toilets and donated beds to a 35-student orphanage in Gurukulam Orphanage, Madurantakam. “We are in the process of identifying and building more toilets, funding education and providing help in whatever way possible for more such poorly-funded orphanages,” he says. 

As their next project, the mariners will take turns to train these children in English, basic social skills and management skills, during the period they are off from their sailing.

Donations from friends apart, Kannan and his team are looking to the corporate sector for funding.

“Following suggestions from our friends abroad, we have applied for FCRA (Foreign Registered Account). Once approved, it will make the flow of funds easier and let us help these children,” he signs off. 


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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 1:36:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/Lifeboats-to-the-rescue/article14401288.ece

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