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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Quit my job to feed people: Rahul Verma of the Uday Foundation

While grappling with his newborn son’s medical condition, Rahul Verma decided to make a difference to the thousands waiting outside hospitals

delhi Updated: Apr 22, 2019 14:08 IST
Aditya Dogra
Aditya Dogra
Hindustan Times
Rahul Verma aims to tackle mental health and the well-being of the old after the #Udayfightshunger campaign.
Rahul Verma aims to tackle mental health and the well-being of the old after the #Udayfightshunger campaign.
         

The hardest choices require the strongest wills; and often it is that single choice that leads one to a path which could alter the lives of thousands for the better. Years ago, Rahul Verma made one such choice, and he has been able to add quality to thousands of lives. He quit his job and his regular life, just to put food on the plates of the hundreds who wait outside government hospitals.

Verma, who forged the path to change through his Uday Foundation, is the man behind the viral #UdayFightsHunger campaign— feeding thousands every day outside hospitals such as AIIMS, Safdarjung and Lok Nayak in the city.

Ask him how it all began and Verma chokes narrating his story. “In 2006, my son, Uday, was born with multiple congenital anomalies. His food pipe was not developed, his anus was perforated, he had colorectal scars on his kidneys, and his heartbeat was not normal. The survival rate at the time was 2%,” he says. But he decided to fight. His son was operated on more than eight times and had a 12-month hospital stay and Verma spent lakhs of rupees. “I had to sell my house, my car and soon, everything was gone. We shifted my child to AIIMS. They took the best care of my child, but I saw the real India. We stayed on the footpath and people who came from other cities did not have food, even sanitation was a problem.”

After the experience, he couldn’t return to his old life. “Memories of my parents dying when I was young came back, too. I quit my job and decided to help people whenever I went to the hospital with my son. It started with getting someone home cooked food, but I wanted to do more,” he says.

In 2007, he started the Uday Foundation and started promoting it with text messages since the Internet was still somewhat a luxury. “The first few years were tough. But, in 2009, help started pouring in. Our warehouse has over 50,000 pairs of shoes, more than 50-60,000 clothes, close to five tonnes of medicines and supplies. We donate these at hospitals, to people mostly from outside Delhi who ended up staying for months. We try our best to provide for and feed them — the patients and attendants both,” he says.

The foundation provides meals to patients’ relatives outside hospitals and also helps needy kids get an education
The foundation provides meals to patients’ relatives outside hospitals and also helps needy kids get an education

Verma kept funding simple, through donations starting as low as ₹11. He also joined hands with e-wallet Paytm to make it easier for those strapped for time, to donate. Many celebs too offer support, but Verma believes any person who does their bit for society is the celeb. “We have a lot of celeb donors like Manoj Bajpayee, Randeep Hooda and Vijender Singh, but to me, everyone donating is a celeb. Endorsements help, but I never wanted the focus to be anything other than our mission,” he says.

“We are teaching kids who can’t get proper education. Down the road, I want to tackle mental health as well. The elderly are a focus for me too.”

Meanwhile, Uday and his parents won the battle, and he is now a bright 13-year-old who lives with a few medical restrictions.

Interact with the author on Twitter @Darkequinox24