A 12-year-old kid in a nomadic community of Tamil Nadu has made India proud, but more importantly, has brought about a radical change: he brought education to 25 children like him.
For his contributions, Sakthi of the Narikuruvar community in Tiruvannamalai district has been nominated for the International Peace Prize for Children 2017.
The once-upon-a-time school dropout has an interesting story to share.
How Sakthi gave up on education and took to work
Being from a nomadic community, Sakthi's family was constantly on the move. Moreover, teachers in government schools often abused students.
When he was eight, he decided to leave school. With six kids in the family, he chose to help his parents earn.
The income mostly came from selling bread and begging.
Sakthi's luck changed when an NGO called Hand-in-Hand approached his community in 2014.
How he regained lost hope
Hand-in-Hand was trying to convince the tribals to send their children to training sessions. An aim of the program was to send dropouts back to mainstream education.
Most families didn't agree, but Sakthi's did.
At a centre near his settlement, students were given academic lessons and trained in daily chores and hygiene.
Later he shifted to a Residential Special Training Centre in Poongavanam.
The change in Sakthi was more than noticeable
Sakthi felt the impact of the training and decided to motivate his friends to join.
Meanwhile, many who saw the new, clean Sakthi would enquire, and he would inform them about the program. "I tell them if we study, then we don't have to slog it out in the fields."
The community, which generally ignores girls' education, was willing to send even their daughters!
Sakthi knows what he wants, and is working towards it
The 'catalyst for change' isn't satisfied. "I want more to come. The children I brought will bring their friends. Twenty-five should become 30, 30 should become 40."
Sakthi is currently out of the program and is studying at a Kanchipuram school. He wants to be a software engineer.
About the award, he isn't bothered. His reward is the satisfaction of bringing happiness to others.
About the International Children's Peace Prize
The International Children's Peace Prize is given out annually to honor a child fighting for children's rights. This time there are 151 nominees, including a total of 10 from India. The winner will be announced on December 4.