Stopping in Wayanad on their way to start their new positions, Baburaj and Rajeevan found their true purpose. They engaged in conversation with Adivasi tribal residents who were visiting Wayanad for groceries and first became aware of the plight of these tribal communities. As philanthropists passionate about social justice, they wanted to know more. They trekked deep into the forest to reach the tribal communities and spent weeks living within their villages, determined to understand everything about their lives. They were taken aback to learn of the Adivasis struggle for survival.Baburaj wrote “The tribes’ penury, lack of awareness about the outside world, illiteracy, lack of social security and of all their struggle to survive this world from day to day was shocking and beyond words.”
The two gentlemen were overwhelmed by the intensity of need within the villages and in particular, the despair, substance abuse, exploitation by others and lost educational opportunities for most children who were forced to drop out of school. They were desperate for the children to have opportunities beyond having to take sole responsibility for the family income. They were determined to influence change and improve the lives of as many people as possible, starting with the children. They submitted their resignations to their employers and invited Mr Raman Master, a retired teacher, to help them set up a residential school.
With minimal resources and big dreams, the Wayanad Girijana Seva Trust was formed in 2002 and a school was opened for 42 students. With support from the NGO arena including Paadhai and private beneficiaries over the following years, the Trust’s growth and reach has been steady with around 250 children currently attending the school each year.
The Wayanad facility is also ideally located to provide support to the tribal communities – both men and women - through skill based training to improve their living conditions, activities to build capacity for income generation, counselling support and relief during times of crisis.“It is beyond words to explain the uninterrupted financial and moral support we have received from Paadhai over the last 15 years” (Baburaj)
In 2007, Paadhai and the Wayanad Trust, with a mutually aligned vision for the future, forged a strong relationship. When specific support needs were identified, whether it be financial, physical infrastructure, resource materials and educational supplies or disaster relief efforts, Paadhai used its vast network to assist the School wherever possible.
Paadhai’s eclectic brief has contributed exponentially to the Wayanad Girijana Seva Trust mission. Support for the construction of classrooms, amenity and office blocks, solar fencing, safe access points, furniture and water tanks has significantly expanded the facility’s infrastructure.
Study materials, payment of exam fees, study tour funds, along with equipment and volunteer trainers for adult skill development sessions have had a significant impact on educational outcomes for children and adults alike. These and many continued adhoc support initiatives, sponsored by Paadhai have added value to what continues to be the inspirational journey of three wonderful advocates for kindness, social justice and an open door to countless possibilities.