The Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was an epitome of non-violence and selfless service to humanity. His ideologies have been paving the way for young and old alike, across the globe. Following his footsteps is Mr. Senthil Nathan of Tamil Nadu.
Hailing from the small district of Thennur, Senthil Nathan was aptly given the title of ‘Young Gandhi’ because of his contribution to serving the poor and the needy. Senthil was living the life a handful can ever dream of. After having completed graduation and a few years in the corporate world, he flew to US in 1999, earning over INR 2 lakhs every month.
Wealth is what he fancied, but not for himself. And when he accumulated enough to utilize it for the benefit of the poor and the downtrodden, he gave up his lavish life in the US and returned to India in 2004.
In 2005, Senthil started an NGO- Payir, with the aim of bringing holistic development to the village of Thennur.
Senthil’s first initiative was community health work in villages that come under the Thennur panchayat. With the aim of eradicating childhood malnourishment, he engaged the local people and started a network of health workers who gradually built trust within the community.
Childhood malnourishment stands at a staggering 42%, with 75 percent of government school children being underweight, despite the noon meal scheme. The main reason being lack of awareness among parents about nutrition and the scheme mostly being budget-driven.
By collaborating with the state government, Senthil started a supplementary nutrition program for adolescent girls in government schools, distributing nutritious laddoos and milk to girls aged 11 to 17. Each laddoo adds about 450 calories to a child’s daily intake. Payir currently reaches out to over 3,300 girls from 18 schools in the Thennur area. The team makes 120 kgs of laddoos every day and makes sure the girls receive them on time.
After healthcare, another field that needed attention was education. For school dropouts, he started a nursery and primary school which has around 50 students and 5 teachers. It uses unique techniques to educate children and help them learn difficult concepts. The Payir team uses the school compound to help older children from surrounding schools, conducting workshops on health, career, life skills, gender sensitivity, and other topics.
To bridge the staffing and skill gaps and minimize the number of children left behind, he collaborated with the government schools too. Senthil started a residential program for dropouts of government schools, which has earned the support of the District Collector.
To improve livelihood of villagers, he helps farmers adopt sustainable agricultural practices in the drought-prone area. NGO Payir has also engaged local villagers and created non-agricultural employment opportunities in fields like food processing, sewing, and even IT and BPO.
Senthil’s IT company with four employees, is in the middle of a coconut farm within a village. They have a US-based client and are currently working on a $2500 project.
Having extended to 39 panchayats from just 10 and exhausting most of his savings, Senthil now relies on support from other like-minded individuals. He prefers small donations from many people rather than big corporate donations so that more people can take part of the cause.
Started with a staff of just eight people, Payir now has over 100 people working for this noble cause. The team has reached out to over 4,500 kids and over 8,000 adults through its work.
His true commitment towards serving the needy, and abiding by Gandhi’s philosophy of ‘simple living and high thinking’ has earned him the title ‘Young Gandhi’ in his village. ScripBros salutes Senthil Nathan who is constantly striving to be the change he wants to see in the world.