Recognising that even beggars need to be given an opportunity to live a dignified life, Naveen Kumar, a full-time professor at the JKKN College of Engineering and Technology, Tamil Nadu founded Atchayam Trust in 2014. Through this organisation, Naveen rescues and rehabilitates people, and also helps provide job opportunities to those who are physically able to work. He provides skill-training to help them receive better jobs, to be able to stand on their own feet, and start a new life. He has the support of many volunteers and help him with rescue and rehabilitation efforts. They undertake field work for identification, counselling, cleansing and provide food, clothes, and medical assistance. They are very passionate and determined to bring social change in the society through the Atchayam Beggars Rehabilitation and Skill Development Center located at Soolai, Erode with a capacity of 30 beds currently. Constructed with the support of local donors, it offers those rescued an opportunity to take up gardening and enrol in many skill development programmes too.
"I come from a very poor background. I only had Rs. 10 or Rs. 20 to buy dinner every day. And this I would give to the beggars I met. Many days, I couldn't sleep because of hunger, but it did not matter. Whenever I saw old people begging, I would think – ‘If they were my family, would I allow them to beg?’, says Naveen, who was all of 19 years when he started out on his mission.
Though what he is doing is considered praise-worthy by many, many others have expressed their displeasure at his initiative too. It was not at all easy for Naveen when he started out. "My colleagues, students would act indifferently towards me. They told me to focus on my studies, and that it was impossible to rebuild a beggar’s life. I wanted to prove them all wrong. If youngsters don't take up this initiative, who will?" he asks.
Atchayam Trust’s motto is to create a beggar-free India. During the last 8 years, they have reached out to 10,400 beggars, homeless and destitute people across 18 districts in Tamil Nadu. Out of 10,400 beggars, they have effectively rehabilitated 1054 beggars to live a better life with dignity in society. They have also been constantly involved in creating awareness among the youth about dealing with beggars, and related issues with the support of 80,000 student volunteers and 70,000 volunteers from the general public. For many of these beggars, Naveen not only provides a chance at a better life but also an opportunity for a dignified death.
"We rescue those who need medical treatment, and for those who are too old and have no family of their own. We give them a haircut, and also fresh change of clothes. We support them so that even in the last days of their life, they are healthy and have someone to care for them," Naveen adds.
The pandemic-related lockdown impacted the poor and the destitute the most. With no jobs and increased pay cuts, many were unable to pay their house rent leading to them residing on roads without proper shelter and food to eat. In this situation, Atchayam Trust helped more people than they usually would, but it came with bearing additional costs and resources - which was way beyond Naveen's financial capabilities.
Currently, Naveen is facing an additional problem. The land on which the Beggars Rehabilitation Center is now going to be confiscated by a bank due as the landowner had mortgaged it and failed to repay money. In this situation, Naveen has to relocate the Center to a new place for which he requires a lot of funds.
These hapless people deserve a chance at life, and Naveen needs your support to be able to continue to help them. Your contribution will ensure that every rescued person gets a fresh start in life through Atchayam's initiatives.