Anish Patel on making people ‘good’ again
During one of his regular trips to his hometown in Gujarat (India), Anish came across a remand home. “It is a place to house ‘bad’ children,” they had told him. For young Anish, the counter to this statement was as clear as day: “How do you make them ‘good’ again?” He had asked a question, the answer to which had failed to convince him, the solution to which was born once he was back home in the US.
Anish realised that it is peer pressure, lack of self esteem, a misunderstood value system and societal pressures that result in crimes being committed by children. The way to address their psychological construct would be to make ‘education’ relevant for them. Instead of teaching them English and Science through textbooks, it made sense to impart vocational training, thus helping them develop an evolved perspective. “Life skills are underrated,” Anish explains. “It is crucial to teach these children of the world that exists, what it means to be a good citizen, ways to nurture their dreams and work towards their goals.”
Uplift Humanity India was founded on a basic concept of bringing students in the US on a 3 week trip to specific remand homes in India, where they have an opportunity to have guided conversations with inmates. It was difficult getting parents to trust the initiative and send their kids abroad, since the founder of this ambitious project was only a 16 year old then. Today, in its seventh year, through sincere and focused efforts, the organization brings in dozens of Non Resident Indians for 18-day sessions across 6 Indian cities.
It has been a steep learning curve, and Anish recollects how the first ever session failed to break the ice. The inmates had mocked these ‘outsiders’, and the team had almost lost heart. However, after consistent efforts for the following days, the team’s honest desire to communicate shone through, and Anish saw his efforts bear fruit. Every year has seen steady growth in the project, with a multitude of children now stepping out of the vicious cycle of recidivism.
It is admirable how passion has kept Anish and his team going strong all this while. “Every visit to India reactivates this drive,” he shares, while mentioning plans to expand this network across the country. Fast growing into a leadership role at this rapidly growing social enterprise, Anish goes through a conscientious struggle to focus on the big picture, and not let localised issues overwhelm his better judgement. The organisation has been quick to adapt to changes and keeps an eye out for the oncoming curve.
One may presume that the key challenge is to keep the flock together, since the work is people-focused, but Anish is blessed with a team as motivated as him, if not more. Every other month, they come together at a handpicked location for intense brainstorming sessions where they debate all existing problems and devise possible solutions. This gathering consists of full time team members as well as volunteers across many departments.
Anish has brought together a team across geographies and cultures, and in this diversity, he has found the right mix of enthusiasm and an empathic desire to do good. All of 23 years old as we write this, he has faced the slight disadvantage of age-biases as he tries to gather resources for a major leap. Through unparalleled efforts and a vision that has braved many a storm, Anish has time and again proved all detractors wrong, at home and abroad.
He underlines how everyone is born good, and it is the circumstances that lead to a person behaving otherwise. While volunteering and donations would be the best way to contribute to Uplift Humanity’s efforts, we may also choose to look around us and be a good citizen. A kind word, a gentle smile and a helping hand go a long way in making the world go round.
Written by Sushrut Munje
Photographed by Uplift Humanity