Raised in abject poverty, 11-year-old Bharati Pawar used to sell flowers or beg at junctions to be able to afford one square meal a day. But today, her life has changed completely for the better - she gets fed three healthy meals, has access to education and plays with other children. Today, she has a childhood - something many children her age do not have the fortune of enjoying - all thanks to Snehgram.
Snehgram, as the name suggests, is a ‘village of love’ for children from backward communities, that has been built with kindness and affection by Mahesh and Vinaya Nimbalkar. “We are involved in rebuilding the lives of children who have been orphaned, abandoned or both. We want to give them a safe, secure and positive upbringing. Every child deserves that,” says Mahesh.
Mahesh, who used to be a government school teacher, had always been involved in social work. “We had observed many children belonging to the nomadic tribes from Marathwada and Rajasthan in and around the Barshi in Solapur, Maharashtra. They were seen begging, stealing, and collecting garbage. Many of them have been abused and come from problematic family set-ups where parents are prisoners, prostitutes, etc. That is when I thought of resigning from my decent job to dedicate my life to giving these children a shot at a better life,” he adds.
Since 2007, this couple has successfully helped over 6000 children in re-starting their lives from scratch. Both Mahesh and Vinaya are directly involved in the care of these children - right from cooking and feeding them meals to giving them a bath and even keeping them company while they nap. They even built a school, initially operating out of a tin shed - especially tending to the needs of these children who have lived a deprived life thus far.
Founded in 2015, The Snehgram Democratic School is the first residential school in Maharashtra, which is not run on government funds. provides a unique alternative to traditional models of education by offering children a self-directed approach to their learning. Presently, there are 145 students, out of which 45 students stay in a make-shift hostel. “Students at our school, many of whom have slipped through the cracks of today’s regimented test-driven school system, flourish in a nurturing environment that allows them the freedom to chart their own course of learning while fostering emotional growth and interpersonal skills,” explains Vinaya.
At The Snehgram Democratic School, which does not have long-term teachers or volunteers, students not only learn traditional academic subjects, but also valuable lessons about responsibility, problem solving, social justice and most importantly, how to relate to each other. “We have always placed great emphasis on a student’s emotional well-being, fostering loving, caring relationships and developing a community of engaged learners. It is our focus on community building that encourages students to follow their dreams, contribute positively to society, and become voices for change,” Vinaya adds further.
When they started out, Mahesh did not have a lot of funds at his disposal to buy land on which they could build the school and affiliated shelters/hostels. When she came to know about this, Vinaya sold her wedding jewelry without a moment’s hesitation. Today, Snehgram has expanded and the couple is taking care of over 45 children - including arranging their food, medical care, shelter and education. There has been an increase in the number of children joining them over the years - and therefore expenses are increasing exponentially.
“We were able to do so much with the help of kind strangers who believed wholeheartedly in our cause. But ever since the pandemic, sourcing funds has become very difficult. At present, Snehgram's hostel is under construction. With your contribution, we can source construction materials and speed up the process. Your support can ensure that all these children live wholesome lives with better futures,” says Mahesh.
The Snehgram Democratic School is in need of your urgent support. Click here to contribute.