The mission of my trip was to see firsthand the wonderful work that Mr. Prakash of Asha Kiran was doing for the underprivileged. I was so eager to reach my destination that I was standing by the door of the moving train. It was around eight in the morning. The fresh breeze invigorated me. In the distance I could see the verdant farms and enjoyed the singing of the birds. Refreshed by the beauty of nature I was ready to get on with the day.
My destination was Pedana, a village which is 10kms away from Machilipatnam. My train was about 30 minutes late, but that didn’t deter me. Mr. Prakash, the founder himself received me at the station. A five mins drive from the station into the village, I could see babies sleeping outside their huts and old men fashioning fishing rods out of ordinary sticks. Soon, a green one storey building with a small name board welcomed me at the entrance. Proudly announcing itself as Asha Kiran meaning ‘A ray of hope’, it has been serving in Machilipatnam and 37 other villages since 1987.
“I come from a very poor family. A family which lived below the poverty line (BPL),” explained Prakash, the founder. Ancestrally from the Relangi village in West Godavari, Mr Prakash’s grandfather worked as a laborer in a local factory. Despite very low wages, his granddad educated his Mr Prakash’s father. Prakash reminisced, “In those days, in the early 70s, it was rare to find an educated male in the village. My dad was one amongst the first two to get a college degree. My father then moved to Vijayawada for work and finally to Machilipatnam”. It was here that Prakash got his education.
His dad was very particular about his son’s education. When he completed his degree, he got Prakash enrolled into an MBA programme at Vijayawada. One day, while Prakash was standing outside his college, he spotted an NGO named Old Vision – distributing clothes and food to the old people on the road. That sight caught his attention and seemed to move him. Prakash got actively involved in volunteering activities at his college. He became program coordinator for Sewa Bharathi, an active volunteer for Action Aid and more. “Since I was from a BPL family, I could relate to how small acts can make a huge difference in people’s lives. When I was a kid, my brother and I used to celebrate Diwali with only handful of crackers. That used to make our day.” In the year 1987, a cyclone battered Andhra Pradesh. Machilipatnam was one of the towns that was badly affected. Many other surrounding villages were completely submerged resulting in a huge loss of human and animal life. “It was terrible. My family were forced to take shelter in a cyclone relief camp,” adds Prakash.
Prakash explained how a majority of authorities were actually apprehensive about helping the victims due to the difficult conditions. There were 7 volunteers who came forward to help, all of them locals. One of them was Prakash.
The volunteers then started a society with their minimum savings of which Prakash was made a member. After few years Prakash was promoted to the post of chairman and now heads the organization. This society now is called Asha Kiran.