Roopa Nagarajan, wrote to us from our partner project in India. We thought we would share her words here with you. 


My heart and thoughts are in a strange state of peace and I wanted to share the experinece I had today. 

I made a sudden decision to  go with one of our community volunteers to vist some children from the cleft project  in a small village. To go to this village one has to  go to Kancheepuram, and then 30 km to Vandavasi and then 5-6 km to a village on the road to Arni. My student, Saravanan, and I picked up Premalatha, the community volunteer, and travelled to this village. As is always  the case in the communities, the hospitality is generous, and you really are made to feel like a visiting deity. 

While I sat down to talk to a 9 year old beneficiery of our project,  Premalatha and Saravanan went to talk to the village Thalaivar (headman) who knew that we had come. He knew about the work we were doing with this young beautiful girl. In the next few minutes, our other beneficiary, a  handsome  7 year old young boy who lives close came to visit.  Then it was a competition to speak  to prove that each could speak better than the other!

I must say it was wonderful to see this little boy, whose speech was full of glottal stops last year. I could not hear a single one in all the time I was there. Wow… Premalatha and Subramaniyam have done a fantastic job with this kid!

One had just had surgery  a few weeks earlier  and the other was due in the next few weeks. Their mothers were explaining that since they enrolled in the TFW project they have not gone anywhere but SRU for help. I was explaining to one of the mothers that with E-mpower, we will be able to monitor the work better. 

Suddenly, along with Saravanan and Premalatha, about 10  young men  and some  women arrived. As I watched awestruck, each one took out his mobile typed MHRISE P12 and sent it off to 54646.  That is the  code for our project  and phone number to which votes are sent. Saravanan told me the headman had alredy got 15 people to vote from his home. Here I was in the middle of  nowhere and every guy in the village had a phone, most had two sim cards  and each voted with both! Each was excited as he got acknowledgement.

I cautioned them: “Hey this will cost rs 3 for each.”

One guy turned back and told me, ” Amma, you have done so much for these kids and even come here at no cost to us. Can we not do such a small thing? We send sms messages for all kinds of things and this is more important.”

They were standing on the road and before I could blink they stopped anyone going on the road  and picked out their phones and sent votes as messages.  It was amazing to see how quickly they organized a mini campaign. Two even went and got rs 10 charge on their phone so that they could vote before we left.  This was truly a spark rising! It was exhilarating and the gratitude expressed was genuine. 

Premalatha was magnificent such a terrific leader with a smile and enthusiasm that was infectious. When we left she said, “Amma I was thrilled that you came today.  I promise you all this week we will get every person in this community to send a vote.”

I offered to compensate her for the time she had taken out, and she refused saying: “Do not ever think we do this for money. We are all in this together.” 

I had gone to the visit feeling very despondent about the lack of capacity we had in garnering  public votes  for our project. We were feeling fatgue and frustration at watching other projects  drop votes easily. The leader has 15000 to our 1000. We were bothered that students who pay thousands  for  tuition fees and say they have no balance in their phone to send a vote, others cancelled the sms as soon as we turned our back, those who promised and did not deliver.

We were thinking: “Is Rs 3 too much or is our passion not evident?”

Each of those those  50 odd votes given unconditionally, with joy and and an open heart from that little village felt like a 1000 votes each. I  really felt empowered.


The Spark the Rise Grand Finale is occurring today. Follow the progress of this project or click here to see a video where Roopa explains the project.