When I was growing up, I took many things for granted. I had wonderful parents, a safe home, good education and holidays. Like most children, I sometimes felt unhappy and cried when I was not able to get the things I thought I wanted. I received the best education my family could afford. When I decided to move to Australia, they also supported me, and I now call Australia my second home. It wasn’t easy for my family financially to support my education in Australia, but they went beyond what was expected and paid for my tuition fees. I was lucky to have such a great parents who supported me, and were always there for me. Sometimes I realized, I had complained about the small things, and took things for granted.
During one of my visits to my hometown Koppal, my perception towards life changed. I started spending time with one of my good friends, Sanjay Kotbal. He is not just a childhood friend, but a mentor and a role model. I am very fortunate to have good friends in my life who have helped me along the way and have always there for me when I needed them most. Since I was a child, my mother had always said to make and maintain friends for life. Sanjay is a benefactor and plays an active role in the community in Koppal. His schedule is busy, but he always makes sure that he gives time to the local community and also helps with the local trust, the Sri Gavimath Trust which is run by the main temple of Koppal Sri. Gavisiddeshwar Temple. The temple is headed by Pontiff His Holiness Swamiji Sri Abhinava Gavisiddeshwar. The Trust manages many educational institutions including hostel for the girls and boys and an old age home for the needy in Koppal.
The boys and the girls hostel (opened in 2016) are separately managed and run by the Trust. There is no fee to stay in these hostels and all the essentials including food are provided by the Trust. There are more than 1,000 boys and girls who stay in these hostels. Most of the kids who stay here are orphans or their parents can’t afford to send them to school and provide basic needs, which I and you take these things for granted. The Trust looks after them and also provides free education and basic amenities to all the kids who stay in these hostels.
These children are fortunate that they can depend on these facilities provided by the Trust and call the hostel their home and the Pontiff their God-parent. Every Sunday evening Sanjay spends time at the hostel with these kids socializing and getting to know them, and seeing if they have any issues that need to be addressed. Many of us spend Sunday evening either relaxing at home, or taking our family for an outing to a restaurant, Sanjay however, makes sure that he is there every Sunday evening spending time with the children and guiding them.
I was fortunate to accompany Sanjay one Sunday when I was in Koppal and spent the evening at the boys hostel. The kids gathered around Sanjay and I could see that they respected him and thought highly of him. Everyone at the hostel calls him Sir, and they see Sanjay as their mentor. These kids have great ambitions, and they make sure that they work very hard to achieve their goals. I asked the kids what they would like to do when they finished their education and some mentioned that they would like to serve their country by joining the Indian Arm Forces, some teachers, scientists and engineers. Every child has a dream and they would like to achieve these dreams so that they can pay it forward. I was blessed to spend the evening with these kids, talking to them and listening to their stories. They had no desires of materialistic life, but rather it is a basic and simple life they are longing for, to be part of a community. They don’t take these desires for granted. They feel that they are very fortunate to be at the hostel and, that there is someone to help and look after them.
Sanjay spends a few hours at the hostel and listening to everyone’s concerns. It was the final term of the school and soon these kids were going to sit for their final exams. Sanjay spends the next 30 minutes counseling them on preparing and writing at the exams and to be calm on the examination day. He also suggests that they read the questions over and over again so that they understand the question and write the correct answers. These kids patiently listened to Sanjay’s advice and jotted down in their books so they didn’t forget.
It was almost dinner time and the kids invited us to join them for dinner. It was one of the greatest evenings I had in a long time, and it made me appreciate the things I taken for granted. These kids valued and appreciated the kindness showered on them by the Pontiff and the Trust. The Pontiff also spends time with the kids making sure that the hostel is taking care of the kids and they are well looked after.
If you are ever in Koppal next time, take some time to visit the hostel, so you will see first hand of the facilities and get to know the kids and the struggles they have gone through to reach this place, and to be in a safe and secured environment.
If you would like to assist the hostel in the care of these children, please let me know so I can get the details. A small donation will definitely change the lives of these children, and help them achieve their future dreams.