Dream honestly, start small?
He’s got 70 children. They love him for his heart of gold and caring ways. It’s another matter, he never married. But, nevertheless, Singaporean Ravi Rai knows well how to look after his ‘family’.
A civil engineer by profession Rai gave up his high-profile job in a private firm and returned to his native village of Pharsar in Gorakhpur to make a difference to the lives of children of prostitutes, AIDS victims, destitutes and orphans. Most of these children were living on the streets and at railway stations. He game them a home of their own—Gayadham in Pharsar and ‘Apna Ghar’ at the Gorakhpur Railway Station. Rai has even recruited volunteers to teach these children how to read, write, sew and repair electrical goods. His mission: To give his children a good life!
“My ambition is to create a civic society in Backward areas by establishing a social network providing education and community healthcare services,” he says.
Soon, Rai will set up another ‘Apna Ghar’ at the Charbagh Railway Station. He has already set up a hostel in a rented house on Faizabad Road. The boarders are meritorious street children who desire quality education and have qualified the entrance test conducted at various city schools.
A citizen of Singapore, Ravi Rai has his roots in Gorakhpur. It was from here that his father Ram Awadh Rai migrated to Singapore. Later, the senior Rai joined the Indian National Army of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. After the war, the Rai family settled down in Singapore.
Ravi used to visit his ancestral village along with his parents. The abject poverty and the miserable conditions there moved him. Finally, he decided to return and make a positive diffrence.
Ravi has founded the Children of Mother Earth (COME). Along with providing shelter to street-children, COME has initiated several programmes including educating villagers, students and sex workers on issues like AIDS and its prevention, importance of family planning, blood, eye and kidney donations.
He has already opened an eye bank in Gorakhpur. “India has three million blind people who need cornea transplant among which, 1.8 million are children,” says Ravi. Recently, the bank brought light into the life of a three-year-old blind girl through cornea transplantation.
COME is not limited to Uttar Pradesh. It has helped out during the earthquake that ravaged the Kutch area of Gujarat. Ravi went in Mayur Nagar, a village located in Surendra Nagar district with relief material. When the tsunami struck Tamil Nadu, COME established a relief centre near Kovalam.
Ravi Rai was awarded the awarded Singapore International Foundation Award by Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Dr Tony Tan in 2002. In January, last year, Singapore High Commissioner to India See Chak Mun visited Gorakhpur to inspect the ‘Apna Ghar’ run by COME. An impressed Mun announced all assistance and is now a patron of COME.
Ravi says he does not believe in big dreams. “Dream honestly of what you are capable of doing. Start small and gradually you will be able to do big things. Just remember each of us is blessed with some talent. Try to identify that special work which you enjoy doing. Helping the needy in a third world country is not the only way to serve humanity. I think Edison served humanity in a big way by inventing electricity… there are many ways, find what suits you,” he says, matter-of-factly.