Fifteen years ago, Ashish Kalawar, a young electronics engineer posted in Bokaro, was waiting at the station for a train to his hometown of Pune. A little boy approached him and offered to polish his shoes. Ashish immediately told the kid that at his age he should be going to school and not working. The boy replied that he was working to support his education and used the money he earned from polishing shoes to pay for school. Impressed with his spirit and determination, Ashish let him do his work and paid him double the price for the shoeshine. The boy was delighted and could not stop himself from jumping with joy.
Ashish’s career was growing fast. He now felt it was time for him to get married and settle down. When he met Ruta, another electronics engineer, his happiness was complete.
“We had everything— a nice car, a beautiful house in the UK and a great future to look forward to. But, somehow, we were not at peace,” says Ashish.
Soon, the couple started visiting the Skanda Vale temple located in South Wales frequently. They would volunteer their time at the temple on weekends and find solace in meditation and helping others. They also participated in a 7km charity walk to raise funds for the Skanda Vale hospice.
“While volunteering at this temple I kept remembering the little boy back in Bokaro who had polished my shoes. I wanted to do something for him and other people in my motherland too,” he adds.
Ashish and Ruta finally found their mission in life when they visited India for a short period in 2012. One of their relatives, Amol Sainwar, had started an NGO called Shivprabha Charitable Trust and was planning to adopt a remote village in Maharashtra.
The village, Lonwadi in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, was located on a hill. It had no electricity, no water system and no roads. Ashish and Ruta visited this village along with other team members of the Shivprabha Charitable Trust.
The villagers had to go down the hill every day to fetch water and so, the first thing they needed was a solar-operated water pump to draw water to the top of the hill. Another thing that Ashish and Ruta noticed was that many villagers in Lonwadi were victims of addiction to alcohol or tobacco. They wanted to do something about both these issues but it was time for them to return to England.
They did the best they could under the circumstances by donating some money for the water system and left the country again. Meanwhile, Shivprabha Charitable Trust continued to work for the betterment of the village.