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    Helping Slum Kids More Satisfying Than National Award – Indian Awardee

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    Devarapalli Prakash Rao was conferred the fourth highest national award for civilians, “Padma Shri”, by the Indian government for his social contribution, despite being from a poor background. He provides for slum children to be educated using earnings he makes as a tea vendor through his school “Asha”, which translated to English, means “hope”.

    An avid blood donor, Prakash Rao had been selling tea for 54 years in Cuttack in the state of Odisha. Sputnik talked to the man about his life, mission and his dream to provide education to underprivileged children. He will be receiving the award from the president of India at a ceremonial function later this year.

    Sputnik: First of all, congratulations from Sputnik on the Padma Shri award. How do you feel, now that you are in the limelight and have people feeling proud of you?

    Prakash Rao: It's really a big thing for me that Indians are feeling proud of my work. I have been selling tea for the last 54 years and got this award towards the far end of my life. It's due to the love and affection from the people of Cuttack.

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    In fact, it is recognition given to a common man who is striving to change the lives of underprivileged children even though he has meagre means. My award will definitely encourage those who are working at the grass root level and seeking to make a difference in the lives of the underprivileged.

    Sputnik: You have transformed your tea stall into a social work platform. How are you transforming their lives?

    Prakash Rao: There is a slum colony near my tea shop at the Buxi Bazar area in Cuttack. It has lots of rickshaw pullers who go from their house early in the morning to earn livelihood, leaving behind their children. These children roam around without food and education throughout the day. No one cares for them. Deeply moved by their plight, I planned to provide them with education.

    As a child I could not get good food and education even though I had aspired for a good education. I am realising my dream through these children. I am trying to bring about a small change in their lives through education.

    Sputnik: "Asha" is your dream, but how did you manage to start despite your meagre income?

    Prakash Rao: I was interested in studies, but my father wanted me to lend a helping hand at our family tea shop. Therefore I had to leave my study midway in Class 10. I understand the importance of education and decided to set up a school in 2000 to educate slum children. I opened "Asha", the primary school for underprivileged children.

    Initially, parents were reluctant, but I convinced them to send their children to my school. Today, many of my children are attending college.

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    Sputnik: You are an active blood donor. What prompted you to begin donating blood?

    Prakash Rao: Blood donation is at the core of my heart. I suffered paralysis once in my life and was saved by one unit of blood donated by an unknown person. In his memory, I donate blood regularly and have saved more than 100 lives. I have been donating blood for the last 44 years.

    Sputnik: What are your plans now that you have won the fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri?

    Prakash Rao: I have dedicated my life to social service and will now spend more time making people aware of the importance of nutrition and education for children.

    My service to underprivileged slum children is more satisfying than any award I have received. I want to serve and help these needy children. It is this that gives me satisfaction.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.

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