Two years ago, Nilay Agarwal was just another employee living in the corporate jungle of Gurugram.
But today, he is the face of an organisation that is leading over 3,000 youngsters to feed 5 lakh destitute across 10 cities. He has built five tin shed schools in slums, which are educating 500 children and counting.
Taking the First Step
The 28-year-old says that he had always dreamed of doing his bit towards eradicating the bane of hunger but it was only after a life-altering incident that he dared to step out of his comfort zone to do something about it.
“In 2018, I lost a friend, Vishalakshi, to a car accident. She was young and full of potential, until her life ended in a single moment. It was then that I realised how privileged I was to be here with all the dreams that I had. So I decided to not waste a single moment and start contributing my time to a noble cause,” he relates.
With zero knowledge about setting up a social organisation, he simply made a few cookies and distributed them in a nearby NGO at first. Employing social media, he uploaded a video of the interaction online.
“At first, people laughed at me. They didn’t believe I was serious or had any long term plans. But I knew I was going to go on until my actions made a difference,” he says.
When one after the other similar initiatives by this lone warrior were noticed, netizens started coming forward to join him.
That’s how the NGO Vishalakshi Foundation was set up in memory of his friend. With it sprouted its first programme — Project Hunger.
While working a job from 7.30 am to 4.30 pm on weekdays, he started spending all his remaining hours in the NGO. Whatever salary he would receive was spent on feeding the poor.
Getting candid, Nilay reveals that walking this path has its ups and downs. Not all his fears at the beginning of the journey were unfounded, he says, for juggling between a job and social work does get tough.
“I’m working from home currently, but I haven’t gone back to my hometown because of the NGO. I choose to devote my weekends and free time to the underprivileged. It is hard work, but when you see the lives you are touching, it all becomes worth it,” he shares.
While he was driven, some families often refused to cooperate and allow their children to study. On-ground experiences made him realise that most of these people were migrant workers struggling to make ends meet. They felt the need to have all hands on deck and this included their younger ones.
With the team continually networking across miles, operations have expanded from Delhi NCR to reach 10 cities, including Lucknow, Mumbai, Ranchi and Jaipur.
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