Praneeth of Ray of Hope – love and compassion towards our fellow human beings

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Praneeth, the President of the Indian association Ray of Hope which pursues the goal to support the poorest of the poor to raise them to a self sustainable level of life. Would like to thank Praneeth for his detailed answers and photos.


How was your organization Ray of Hope founded and what are your main areas of intervention?
Ray of Hope is not just an organization, it’s a feeling … a feeling of love and compassion towards our fellow human beings and to uplift the community.
It all started a few months after we graduated as engineers back in 2005. My mother MRMV Nurjehan was the Director of women and child welfare in Hyderabad.
She asked me to do something good for a few orphaned girls at a Home called “Shishu Vihar”. Kids there needed blankets, and I decided to first visit the home. My intention was to use my pocket money to purchase a few blankets, but then I saw there were over 300 orphaned girls and the 30 old women at the Home. I felt it was unfair for them to brave the cold and wanted to do something for everyone.
I approached a few close friends who were my school andengineering classmates. We began our attempts by persuading and encouraging people around us to contribute. We contacted many of our old friends and classmates from school and college, including those who moved to the US to pursue their Masters. The response was huge. They were all quite enthusiastic and not only donated but also raised funds from others as well. This was our experience of creating and using social media before it became a global phenomenon.
We also went door-to-door spreading the word. We were quite surprised to see the number of people who were willing to contribute, be it cash or kind. The fact that they were donating showed us that humanity still existed among most of us. There were two unexpected surprises in this process: first of which was from one of our friends Naresh agarwal who was in the US for his M.S, who donated a substantial amount. This was a great contribution as he wasn’t employed and was struggling financially, but still contributed. The second was from a fruit vendor, who whole heartedly donated Rs.500/- of his hard earned money.
This was the turning point for us as this showed the kind of trust that people had in us and also that almost everyone is interested in reaching out to fellow human beings in need. They just needed a medium which they could trust their resources with. 
Our initial plan was only to collect funds that would suffice to buy blankets and mattresses for residents at the Home. But because the amount of publicity it had generated, the contributions were surprising. By the end of the campaign, they were at least 10 times more than what we originally set out for. So we used this opportunity to also purchase new clothes, play equipment, lots of books and book shelves for the children, and a Television Set for the old women there.
After this, we spent the evening at Shishu Vihar and left with loads of exuberance and a sense of increased responsibility. Because we were all heading off to our planned careers, our initial plan was a short term contribution to society. However, our experience changed it all.  
We e-mailed the event photographs to everyone who contributed and even to those who didn’t. We did this as we wanted to reinforce the trust that everyone had in us and contributed so generously, to show them how grateful we are because without them this wouldn’t have been possible. We also wanted them to feel the joy we felt when we visited the home.
Our Friends were mostly either in the US doing their MS or in India working for IT companies. They were so moved by the photographs that they spread the story everywhere, and thus through word-of-mouth, there were more contributions each day. We realized the power of the work we were doing and that our daily lives shouldn’t stop us from helping our fellow human beings, especially when there’s so much support even from people we don’t know. After through research on a few places which needed immediate help, we went on to invest the contributions in The Good Samaritan Home in Pocharam Village, Devnar Blind School (Begumpet, Hyderabad), Ashray Akruti (Little Angels School for the Hearing Impaired, Hyderabad), etc.
Our friends and their social circles were both thankful to us that we shared the photographs with him and also sorry that they didn’t contribute the first time around. This was so unexpected, and we realized how amazing it is that a small thought could lead to such great results.. Few weeks later, we decided to name our organization “Ray of Hope…” Time and again, the trust and faith that everyone had in us was reinforced.
We were in a bit of a dilemma as what should be done as I was leaving to IIT Kanpur for my further studies; when my father Pallepogu Jayanadha Rao, who is a State Project officer with SERP(Society for Eradicaton of Rural Poverty, Ministry of Rural Development) advised us to continue the good work, and so we opened a community for Ray Of Hope in Orkut, which was a popular social networking site, and received an incredible response.
Over the years, there’s been a variety of areas of intervention, such as water supply for a village, educating orphaned children, the physically impaired, improving living standards of anyone in need be it man or woman, young or old, disaster relief funds, to name a few.
To make the organization more sustainable, we’ve now ventured into T-shirts sports uniforms and memorabilia, food stalls at events such as exhibitions and corporate/college events, and conducting marathons, cricket and other sporting/fitness/health/wellness tournaments and  programs.
Which are the most urgent social issues in the region where you operate? How do you promote national integration?
India’s uncontrollably growing huge population is the core of all major problems that exist. Every social issue is but a byproduct of a lack of population control. What’s worse is all major problems are more or less intertwined with one another.
There’s a lack of quality education and healthy homes for majority of orphans in and around the city. Same is the case for the elderly. The homes they live in are highly underfunded and below standards for human beings. They come with poor management from underpaid unskilled people. Literacy in the state of Telangana is a major issue. In fact it is one of the states in India that has the lowest rates of literacy, although Hyderabad is a centre of education. As stated before, we focus a lot on education. Education is one of the main forces to improve national integration. Illiterate and ignorant people cannot be conscious of the values of national integration. Education promotes faith in the integrity and the moral worth of the individual. Educational institutions play a key role as platforms that uplift the spirit of national integration. The study and resolution of various social problems can be assigned to the educational institutions. The problems in the health of citizens mentioned in the next segment are also due to a lack of education. People need to be re-educated on healthy living. Nutrition and fitness should be part of everyday life, just like drinking water and breathing, and shouldn’t be seen as a burden. It must be integrated. A healthier nation is more together.
Lack of fitness, Overabundance of Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Diseases and it’s effect on the economy: This is a national epidemic, with over 30 million diabetics in India already, and estimated to be the highest globally by 2030. According to the Indian journal of endocrinology, the number of hypertensive is expected to go up from 118 million to 214 million by 2025. There are over 30 million obese people in India. A million people under the age of 30 die every year from cardiac diseases. High cholesterol, high Bloodpressure, disastrous hormonal balance and many other medical problems exist in India. Majority of these problems are in the top tier cities, including Hyderabad, which accounts for about 8% of the aforementioned numbers, which is massive for a city with a 7 million population in a country with 1.25 billion. A family in Hyderabad spends an average of USD 1000 on hospital bills each year and loses about 50 days of work related time due to sick leaves. Each person in the educated middle class which is about half of the city loses a good USD3000 each year (including medical bills) due to lack of productivity as a result of poor health and wellness. That’s aloss of USD 21 billion to the city each year, and is steadily rising. Our initiative to conduct marathons and sports/fitness/health related tournaments is to promote healthy living. We also strongly believe that playing sports not only help us grow physically but also mentally. They teach us to learn how to work with people, lead, follow and focus, at the right time. Nothing can be more uplifting and has the ability to build character more than playing a sport. It makes us learn how to adjust with minds that work differently and use combinations to their best scope. Most importantly, it keeps us fit healthy lively and well. Something this country badly needs.
Drinking water system: Across major cities in India, there’s no suitable Drinking water system. A lot of colonies face the problem of drinking water. 2+ million households in Hyderabad do not have a tap water connection. The city doesn’t have its own reservoirs. Most of the water comes from the Krishna and Godavari rivers through pipelines. It also has the Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar lake-reservoirs which were built in early 1930s connected to the Musi river. Since then, no water reservoirs were built. Hyderabad is blessed to have a wonderful lake called the Hussein Sagar, which is also a source of drinking water for a lot of areas, but it unfortunately is extremely filthy, with tons of garbage and other toxins disposed off in it. And although it’s filtered before it reaches households, it’s still unacceptable the way it’s maintained. The drainage lines need to be diverted. We need to find a way to pump fresh water intothe lake. Most importantly, we should stop abusing it. The Musi river and the surrounding areas have become nothing but a dump for industrial heavy metals and drainage. It used to be a significant source of clean drinking water but has become so toxic that it’s much harder now to even filter it. A major problem is: most of the local vegetable businesses still grow their crops around the river. So most of the vegetables including precious dark green leaves are filled with toxic heavy metals. We must promote and work aggressively on rain-water harvesting and restoration of lakes.
Employment in the state of Telangana: Jobs are also a major area of concern for the new Telangana administration. The region is supposed to have a million new jobs available, but in reality only 30% of these have been provided in the region.
Waste disposal mechanism: In Hyderabad, we can see trash thrown everywhere on roads, and as mentioned above, in our lakes and rivers too! Hyderabad doesn’t have a proper waste management system. The Govt. is overhauling 3500kms of sewage system. It is keen to follow a movement called ‘waste to wealth’.  They want to convert wet waste to manure to wealth, dry waste to energy to wealth. Skilful planning is of utmost importance, and it’s also a great opportunity to improve employment.
Do you address any specific action to women’s rights and empowerment?
We do strongly recognize and support the need for women’s rights and empowerment. Our parents have raised us equally and it needs to be a nation-wide phenomenon although it isn’t yet.
We have ventured into T-shirts manufacturing few months back. In our manufacturing unit which is headed by one of our core team membersPrathiba Marthi, adult women do the tailoring and stitching work. These women produce quality hand worked T-shirts.
Tailoring in India traditionally is a male occupation, so women – especially the poor and underprivileged ones – are usually excluded from this and other professions. Opening up this training and job opportunity does not only provide them with a salary but also helps to raise confidence and to increase the weight of their voice and their share in decision making processes in their families.
In the mid to long term, the goal for this project is to be self-sustained, without having the need for any monetary support from the outside. The project is now set up to start the vocational training for students and to include another woman in the project. However, at the moment there is not enough money to buy enough fabric and there simply isn’t enough space for the vocational training. Therefore, in order to set this up in a sustainable way, we rely on your support to make it happen! We are very confident that this project will be able to stand on its own feet if we support it for another year. 
We’re also exploring opportunities in Australia with a few outlets whose positive response has been overwhelming.
The next steps are the building of a proper classroom for the vocational training, the purchase of materials and tools for the production’s development and the initial salary for two women for 12 months. 
Our actions have always been to support every segment of those in need regardless of race, gender, age or nationality. We think this is a great way to improve national integration.
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Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?


Yes, we do. Many of our family members work for the government, and we get to know a lot of details in regards to what kind of projects are being undertaken, where there’s a need and then determine how we can fulfill the needs to the best of our capacity. Like stated above, our network has grown over the years through word of mouth of our existing volunteers and donors. We’ve collaborated with multiple educational institutions over the years primarily through students and some of the faculty. These can be premier institutes such as the IITs and the IIMs and also local schools and colleges in different cities. We’re also working on hiring interns from across the country who will work on selective projects. One of their main responsibilities would be to contact as many corporate entities and propose collaboration with them as part of their CSR initiatives. We become the medium for them to channel their CSR activities. Again, we stress on health fitness and wellness through various mediums, such as sports to be included in the CSR activities.