ABOUT OUR FOUNDER RAMBABU SHARMA
He is one of those rare individuals who has devoted his life for the upliftment of our society. He has been working in the NGO sector since 2015 and has faced a lot of challenges to make his initiatives survive. Now his sole purpose is to guide other NGOs and social workers with his experience & learnings. Many times he failed but never gave up, today his NGO Youth Empowerment Foundation is bringing revolution in many sectors like Education, Skill Development, Women Empowerment that is featured by many news portals including Times of India. He often says that growing alone is selfishness, helping others grow is generosity.
With this mission 100+ NGOs are running and his guidance & bringing sustainable change in the society.
Rambabu Sharma vividly recalls holding a sickle larger than his two little palms put together when he was just seven years old. He had been employed to clear a vast field of weeds. It’s an image he doesn’t want to forget, as painful as it is. For not only does it keep him grounded, it also reminds him of the thousands of children who, by force of circumstance, have to forego their childhood just to keep themselves alive.
“I hold no grudge for what my life was, but I am grateful for all that I have been through. And I want to give back so that no one suffers because someone refused to give,” he says
Now a Senior Engineer with Siemens Limited and founder of an NGO, Youth Empowerment Foundation. His journey is the story of a little boy’s single-minded determination to claw his way out of poverty. It is the story of a boy, who, despite government and societal apathy, met a few kind-hearted people along the way who gave him the leg-up he needed right at that time. It is the story of a boy from Samastipur, Bihar, who never once found the time to bemoan his fate. He just never gave up.
Now, aged 30, Ram says he is committed to helping those in dire need. “I’ve seen what a little help can do; how much hope it can give to people.”
So last year, as Covid19 wreaked havoc across the country, he didn’t think twice before setting up a helpline to assist “anyone in need of anything”. He circulated the helpline number on social media and through various NGOs. The first caller was a daily wager from a slum in South Delhi’s Zamrudpur who had lost her job and had a sick husband to support. Their landlord was threatening to throw them out of their rented one-room accommodation. Ram guided the distraught woman to approach the local Pradhan as landlords were not supposed to throw out tenants during the pandemic. When that didn’t work, he sent a volunteer to pay the house rent.
Another caller said she had no food for her family. He asked her to go to a store nearby and take whatever she needed, and he transferred the payment to the shop owner. From then on, his phone did not stop ringing. He has formed a team with few volunteers to deliver rapid or immediate support.
He was able to help more than 1500 jobless daily wagers across the country. People from the organised sector who lost their jobs also approached him through the helpline. He ensured that every caller received support with the available resources he had with his outfit.
Initially, with just two to three ground volunteers in Delhi, they went door-to-door to deliver grocery and relief materials. His phone never stopped ringing and he did not have the heart to refuse anyone in need of help. As strict lockdown was imposed, fear gripped people and soon news of people dying became a daily affair. It became more challenging as people started refuging to go out to help others. “Every passing moment became horrible for jobless daily wagers. Due to lack of resources and fear of the virus, ground volunteers refused to budge out,” he says. That left him alone to work for 18-20 hours a day to ensure that no one was left waiting for help.
Very strategically, he formed a four-step process and assigned four different team to handle the helpline. That simplified the work he was able to do across the country. Beneficiaries were also free to take groceries as per their need within the prescribed amount. His team would then transfer the amount to grocery stores. Soon, another problem surfaced. There was scarcity of resources. He also saw a phase when he was left with no more money to help others. That’s when he collaborated with few college students and did an online fundraiser and got immense support from socially responsible citizens. That added strength to his helpline which is open 24X7.
Seeing his work, volunteers sprang up across the city offering to help in any way they could. “These are people who, inspired by my journey, came to help others,” he says. Now volunteers would deliver groceries, go out and pay rent, receive calls, listen to problems of the people who are in need and help find solutions. “I believe there is no greater joy and purpose than giving and helping others. When we take on the responsibility for others’ welfare, we are filled with ultimate energy and strength to turn difficulties into opportunities,” he says
When in April this year Delhi was crying out for hospital beds, oxygen and ventilators, Ram took out an IVR helpline number and with over 100 volunteers and 20 teammates, set up what he describes as a Covid War Room to help the desperately sick get what they needed the most. Starting from the Second week of April, he helped over 400 families with groceries and arranged oxygen, beds, plasma, medicines and money to over 50 patients.
“I know what it’s like to feel completely alone and abandoned,” he says. “I also know what the kindness of strangers can do to lift the spirit of the wretched”. Ram knows because that’s a chapter in the story of his life that he does not want to forget.
Born to a father who was mentally ill and financially disadvantaged, his mother spent her waking hours working as a farm labourer earning 20-Rupees daily and, in addition, taking care of her husband. Rambabu and his two brothers were left to fend for themselves. At seven, he was already weeding grass from a vast field in his village even as he continued to attend school. When he was ten years old, he had to leave school to become a full-time domestic help because his father needed medical treatment. They were left to fend for themselves. Part of his work was to look after cattle. He carried his books with him and whenever he had time, he would read. Books gave him a window into the world – it was a world he was so desperate to experience. One day, his employer saw him with his books and enrolled him in school. He completed the seventh standard but had to leave again for his father’s treatment.
In 2004, aged 14, he took a train to Delhi where he had relatives. They put him to work as a helper with a carpenter. But he didn’t give up his books.
“Getting a chance to study was rare and even if I got 20 minutes or an hour I would study. I was dying to study,” he says.
Even as he worked at construction sites between 2004 and 2010, where he made doors and windows, he continued to read. Along the way, he learnt to make furniture. Word soon spread about his skills as a carpenter. His daily earnings went up from Rs 20 per day to Rs 30 and then Rs 100 per day.
One day he chanced upon a pamphlet stuck on a wall – it was for a computer training course. He decided to enrol for the three-month course, before long he had himself a data entry job that sustained him and his family for quite some time. He’d already come a long way from holding that sickle in his hand.
But Ram didn’t give up his yearning for a formal education. In 2010, at the age of 20, he cleared his tenth standard exam from the Open School in Bihar. That led to a diploma in mechanical engineering at a polytechnic in Delhi. During the three-year course, he studied during the day, attending classes from 9 am to 5 pm, after which he would work on his carpentry assignments late into the night.
In 2013, he set his heart on a B-Tech course. And though he secured the 1st position at the entrance examination at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, although it was Govt. Engineering college but fee of only Rs 35,000 became a hurdle. “I was a small carpenter helping to sustain my family. I was penniless,” he remembers.
His appeal to many NGOs to pay his admission fee fell on deaf ears. “Not a single organisation entertained me,” he says. And just as he was beginning to feel hopeless, someone gave him Rs 20,000 for his admission fee. He recalls that was a tearful night. “I have never held such a lot of money in my hand,” he says.
With that and contributions of many kind people, he secured an admission in a reputed engineering, National Power Training Institute, New Delhi. From the next year, he was given a full scholarship.
He was 26 when he completed his bachelors in engineering. His classmates were all in their early 20s – many of them were just 20.
“Soon after my admission in engineering college I came to know that no company will offer me a job from campus placement as my age will exceed 24. I was hoping that my struggle will end after my education, but I was wrong,” he says. He questions the government’s adult literacy programme and how companies are not even willing to bet on a qualified candidate who struggled for 15 years to complete his graduation.
Soon after getting admission, he entered what he calls he “darkest phase of his life.” He lost his mother due to some medical negligence. “I couldn’t afford to arrange an ICU bed in a private hospital when government hospital didn’t admit her due to non-availability of an ICU bed,” he says. Perhaps, his regret is that, his mother did not see him complete his course and reap the harvest of whatever sacrifices she has made. “I was about to complete my education in two years then. I could have given some joy to my mother; I couldn’t save her. I was deprived of money, education, guidance, medical facilities…” he rues. Understandably, today when he says his sincere effort is to help others who could have been in his place, it comes from a genuine place of conviction.
So, finally when he graduated in 2016, no company offered him a job. He felt somewhat hopeless again having nothing in hand despite a degree from a reputed engineering college. He was back to where he once started – picked up a full-time data entry job.
In 2017, a lead he got from a contact landed Rambabu a job in Gurgaon at the leading German industrial manufacturing company, Siemens. And from then on, there was no looking back. They have offer him a job. He sent for training to Germany and then travelled far and wide – to many for countries and involved in installation of various thermal power projects. He started giving back with whatever he has earned in the first year of his job and continues to this day.
If you read his LinkedIn profile you wouldn’t get even a hint of the immense struggle and determination that have shaped Ram into the truly impressive and inspiring individual that he is. “Working as a field service engineer in the Power Generation Services department at Siemens Limited. Experienced in commissioning, overhauling, troubleshooting and performance testing of utility steam turbines” is all that it says.
Relaxing now at his rented home in Rani Bagh, in Northwest Delhi, the next chapter of Ram’s life is only just beginning. Five months ago, he and his assistant professor wife were blessed with a child. He sounds excited. Fatherhood, he says, will open up a whole new world for him.
But of one thing, Ram says, he is certain. Just as he wants his child to have every opportunity available to him, he wants to make sure he can help other, less fortunate children as well. That’s why the not-for-profit Youth Empowerment Foundation, which he founded in 2017, is committed to educate more than 10,000 children.
“Nothing will stop me from giving back,” he says.