THE ART OF GIV­ING BACK

VVS Lax­man and his wife Shailaja have de­cided to make this world a bet­ter place for de­serv­ing chil­dren in more ways than one

Society - - CONTENTS - By Nan­dini R Penna

VVS Lax­man and his wife Shailaja have de­cided to make this world a bet­ter place for de­serv­ing chil­dren in more ways than one.

To call the former crick­eter and cur­rently a cricket com­men­ta­tor, Vangipu­rapu Venkata Sai Lax­man, bet­ter known as VVS Lax­man, one of the great­est bats­man of all time will not be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Though bet­ter known for his prow­ess on the cricket field, af­ter his rather pre­ma­ture re­tire­ment, he is now look­ing be­yond sports. This time, he is in the news for his phil­an­thropic pur­suits. “I am a huge be­liever in giv­ing back and help­ing out the com­mu­nity and the world. Think glob­ally, act lo­cally, I sup­pose,” says the cham­pion, con­tin­u­ing, “I be­lieve that the mea­sure of a per­son’s life is the ef­fect they have on oth­ers. I’m just so very lucky to be able to do what I do for a liv­ing, and giv­ing back is a way for me to ex­press my grat­i­tude. I’m so lucky to be in a po­si­tion to help peo­ple, and that’s ap­peal­ing to me.” The VVS Lax­man Foun­da­tion is his pet project th­ese days. “Since the last two years, my wife Shailaja and I have been try­ing to help un­der­priv­i­leged kids, but we de­cided to make it more or­gan­ised,” says Lax­man. That is when the VVS Lax­man Foun­da­tion came into be­ing. “I feel it’s not just about giv­ing back, or whether you’re suc­cess­ful or a celebrity or even how much money you have, it’s about your re­spon­si­bil­ity as an adult to help oth­ers. It was ac­tu­ally Shailaja’s brain­child,” he adds. The project un­der­went a lot of trial and er­ror, be­fore the cou­ple came up with a very ef­fi­cient sys­tem to sin­gle out the gen­uinely de­serv­ing stu­dents. His wife Shailaja adds, “Giv­ing back

is some­thing that comes from the heart to me. It’s not that I do it be­cause it’s the right thing: I do it be­cause I want to do it.”

Ac­cord­ing to Shailaja, they had al­ready been fund­ing around 100 stu­dents, but with this Foun­da­tion, the whole pro­ce­dure has be­come more con­trolled. The Foun­da­tion grants two schol­ar­ships, the Sat­yaram schol­ar­ship for ed­u­ca­tion named af­ter VVS’s par­ents, and the Baba Kr­ishna Mo­han schol­ar­ship for sports named af­ter VVS’s men­tors, who en­cour­aged and in­spired him to en­ter the world of cricket. So, how do they go about se­lect­ing the right can­di­date, we ask. “We have iden­ti­fied a few schools (not schools for the elite), which we feel are do­ing well in the field of ed­u­ca­tion. We ask the ad­min­is­tra­tion to choose un­der­priv­i­leged stu­dents from the sev­enth stan­dard on­wards, who are do­ing well in stud­ies. There is a team of ex­perts which chooses the can­di­dates, and they are ed­u­ca­tion­ists, who look into every as­pect. It is a very strin­gent method and our fo­cus is not just on eco­nomic strata, but to also see whether the child is up to mark and in­tel­li­gent enough. Last, but not the least, the child should have the de­sire to work hard and do well in life,” they ex­plain pas­sion­ately. Shailaja, who is al­ways present dur­ing th­ese se­lec­tions, ex­plains that the kids cho­sen by the ad­min­is­tra­tion on the ba­sis of their per­for­mance and par­ents’ in­come are once again in­ter­viewed by their team. “Most kids al­ways talk of their am­bi­tions to be­come doc­tors or en­gi­neers, but we test their strengths and weak­nesses and coun­sel them ac­cord­ingly. We be­lieve in all round de­vel­op­ment, so there is stress on ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties too. We also have chil­dren who are in­ter­ested in dance and cricket. We fol­low this up and see that they have the right kind of train­ing and ex­po­sure, like at­tend­ing dance pro­grammes, meet­ing up with their role mod­els, etc.” She adds, “My daugh­ter loves art, so I am able to train her, but not many have the priv­i­lege. There are lots of kids who have the tal­ent but not the fi­nan­cial sup­port. I feel that th­ese chil­dren too should be able to have th­ese fa­cil­i­ties.” The Foun­da­tion does not be­lieve in mere char­ity, but also fol­lows up on the stu­dents. Af­ter they se­lect the stu­dents, they in­ter­act with the par­ents and take care of their fees, books and uni­forms. This is fol­lowed by a reg­u­lar quar­terly au­dit to

check on the progress of the stu­dents. “Our team, along with Shailaja, vis­its the school, goes through the re­ports and keeps track on whether there is im­prove­ment in the chil­dren’s per­for­mances or whether the kids are tak­ing the schol­ar­ship for granted,” he says. The child be­comes their re­spon­si­bil­ity once cho­sen for the schol­ar­ship. This is not all! They also un­dergo reg­u­lar health check ups, be­sides coun­selling ses­sions for the chil­dren and the par­ents re­gard­ing re­al­is­ing their kids’ dreams and their progress.” Shailaja ex­plains fur­ther, “We se­lect kids who are fo­cused and know what they want in life, and for some, who are re­ally brainy but still not sure, we try to coun­sel them. Some kids are re­ally awe­some. I met a girl from the sev­enth stan­dard who was very sure that she wanted to be­come a District Col­lec­tor and it was not just some­thing fancy or su­per­fi­cial. She had done her home work and had notes about how the district ad­min­is­tra­tion worked. We are look­ing out for such se­ri­ous kids.” VVS as­serts that they had to ac­tu­ally stop work­ing with cer­tain schools be­cause they made the par­ents pay for the uni­form, etc. “We found this very un­scrupu­lous as we had al­ready paid for the stu­dent,” rues VVS, who is not only very pas­sion­ate about the cause, but is also strict about its mode of func­tion­ing.

The Foun­da­tion is how­ever not all about school­ing alone but goes be­yond to the field of higher stud­ies. VVS re­lates, “Re­cently, we came to know of stu­dents who cracked the IIT but could not join be­cause of the high fee struc­ture. We chose four stu­dents and will be tak­ing care of their fees, but took it in writ­ing from them that once they com­pleted their course and got a job, they too would sup­port one eco­nom­i­cally backward IIT stu­dent.” Dur­ing a black tie din­ner event, they man­aged to part­ner with a com­pany from Ahmed­abad that was will­ing to spon­sor 10 more IIT stu­dents, says VVS, and adds, “This kind of re­sponse is very mo­ti­vat­ing. Ac­tu­ally, now we have 100 stu­dents and our aim is to help at least 500 de­serv­ing stu­dents.” The Very Very Spe­cial (VVS) sportsper­son ex­plains that as a crick­eter, his fo­cus is on sports too. “I was lucky enough to have proper guid­ance, but un­for­tu­nately, many tal­ented kids never get a chance to play even a lo­cal match. Re­cently, we had se­lec­tions from districts where 772 stu­dents par­tic­i­pated, out of which 70 were se­lected at the district level, and fi­nally the best seven stu­dents at­tended a free coach­ing camp at my cricket academy and will now play league matches,” says Lax­man, beam­ing with pride. He fur­ther re­veals that it is his ul­ti­mate goal to start a sports academy with world class fa­cil­i­ties. Though the academy would be for ev­ery­one who can af­ford it, 40 per cent of the stu­dents will be from the poor eco­nomic and so­cial strata and will be trained along with other kids with the same fa­cil­i­ties. “At the black tie din­ner, we also had dis­cus­sions about a part­ner­ship in cre­at­ing this world class sports academy.” VVS emo­tion­ally signs off with this heart­warm­ing mes­sage, “I be­lieve we all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to give back. No one can be­come suc­cess­ful with­out lots of hard work, sup­port from oth­ers, and a lit­tle luck. Giv­ing back cre­ates a vir­tu­ous cy­cle that makes ev­ery­one more suc­cess­ful. I feel if we ed­u­cate a child, we will be giv­ing him or her a gift for life.”

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