You meet this pretty, petite girl in her mid twenties, who has completed her education and embarked on her ‘professional life’.
You imagine her life will revolve round work deadlines through the week and chilling out with friends and family at weekends. Going for a movie, dinner dates and long drives!! Right?
Wrong! For 26 years old Gargi Vairagare, the deadlines she worries about is have we received the 50 Kgs tur dal, the Glucose biscuits and the dates for this month that we have to hand over to orphanage? Have we got enough notebooks to distribute among all institutes( for child care) we are committed to? Who is going to counsel that troubled child who has been through a traumatic past before coming to that ‘Home’?
And mind you, Gargi has been doing this since 2008, when she was just 18! That was when she founded RISE – (Rising Infinitely For Social Empowerment).
“In a world full of busy bodies that don’t have the time to look back twice, RISE is a close knit group of people who strive to spread some good in the world.
The main aim of this organization is to help the needy and work with those who want to help. To spread a little more happiness and love in the world, we do our bit and encourage you to do yours.”
So what propelled this teenager from a privileged upper middle class background to devote her life for the needy?
As Gargi recounts :it was a normal evening when she was out with friends enjoying pav bhaji at a restaurant in Bajaj Nagar. Suddenly a very frightened looking girl came running to their table and began pleading that someone should take her home. She said she was ready to do any menial job, but she did not want to go back to the Orphanage where she had just ‘escaped’ from. “They beat me up badly, because I asked for more food” the girl said plaintively, showing Gargi her injuries. She had really been thrashed quite ruthlessly.
“There was nothing much we could do then except feed the girl properly and take her to the nearest police station and report the matter. They took over from there and we had to leave the helpless girl in their custody. After a few days we went to the orphanage to inquire about her – she was not there!”
This incident shook Gargi and her friends to their core. “What is the use of our education, our very existence if we cannot help another soul in misery?”
The idea for RISE was born then. And what’s more important, it was implemented too. They began their journey by taking small baby steps – helping out at Bal Sadan; volunteering at an Old age home. The little deeds made them feel so good about themselves that they decided to form an NGO and make these activities permanant. RISE was registered with Prateik Chamat as Secretary and Saurabh Thakre as treasurer.
Today, they have a force of 200+ volunteers helping out in any way they can: some with their time, some with money, some with new ideas.
Soon after registering RISE Gargi had to leave for Pune to join Symbiosis. But her team not only kept it running in Nagpur , she started a ‘branch’ in Pune also! And later more in other places in Maharashtra and outside too.
Apart from the work they do in orphanages, old age homes etc. RISE has encompassed a new mission – educating girls about sanitation during their periods and providing dispensable sanitary napkins and even incinerators to burn used ones in schools. Specially schools where the underprivileged go! Other NGOs, one consisting of retired Bank officers, are helping out is some schools. They have already covered New English High School and Tilak Vidyalaya through this project called ‘My Health’.
Speaking about the tremendous help even outpouring of generosity she often experiences Gargi says -“there is so much empathy in people for others less fortunate. You just have to light the spark and show the way. There is no looking back then!” This girl seems wise beyond her years.
When she came back with a degree from Pune, her father,Harshvardhan, an industrialist having a plastics unit in MIDC, wanted her to work with him. (Her elder brother Shaunaq was already in USA following his dream there – her parents hoped that Gargi would show interest in running her dad’s company at least.)
“I did work with my dad for a while but then decided a Corporate life was not for me. I had already done a stint with Tata telecom in Pune, helping get funding for their franchises and allied marketing activities. It was a good experience while it lasted and it gave me funds to put into RISE! I had decided by then that I had to return to Nagpur and follow my goals from this city.”
She broke the news gently to her dad too. She told him that figure crunching, accounts, finance etc. was not her cup of tea. She wanted to work with people, for people and without a profit motive.
“We are pushing our parents” – Dhanashree and Harshvardhan Vairagare – “to sell their business and enjoy retired life now!” She says affectionately, making clear her resolve to not deviate from her chosen path.
But she knows money is important too. So she is a working partner in GEORATI a software Company her brother has established in USA and devotes a fixed time to working on it. She also still free lances for Tata projects, travelling to Delhi and Mumbai for it if required.
This bold girl can drive alone to Pune if need be, with just her dog Coco for company!
“I take him with me to any city which is dog-friendly” she says candidly, adding “Nagpur definitely is NOT. There aren’t many outdoor cafes/ restaurants who will allow your dog with you!”
As we are winding down our chat with her, she is inundated with calls. “Do we have to be present? Won’t a Skype chat do?”; “Have you spoken to the CA about this?”; “OK, hold on, I will be there in 15 minutes!”
This small looking person is a beehive of activity! We leave her to her ‘missions’ but with this message from her as a parting shot to everyone:
“There is a weird sense of happiness when one helps someone in need. And that is the motto of RISE, spreading happiness makes one happier.”
On the other hand, “when the empathy in us dies, Humanity dies elsewhere.”
So be human – help!!!
(If you want to contribute to any project of RISE, just call +95 95109394 or send a mail to – email@example.com; you can see their roster of activities at – www.rise-ngo.org/ )