-by Chetna Karnani
The modern metropolitan Indian is a frequent visitor to restaurants and multiplexes. But how many of us have given a thought to it whether such places are friendly to specially-abled people?
In an exclusive interview with Reporter Chetna Karnani of NewsGram Team, Saif Ahmad Khan, founder of ‘Save the Quest’ NGO, discusses his ideas and shares his thoughts on how Education can change the fate of the specially-abled and unprivileged children in India.
It was not long ago when ‘Save the Quest‘, an independent NGO in New Delhi came into being in order to make this world a better place for the specially abled. Established by Saif Ahmad Khan during his graduation days, ‘Save the Quest’ works towards the quality education and upliftment of specially-abled and underprivileged children in Delhi and Bihar. A success story like none other, Save the Quest shatters the preconceived notions of the society that NGOs these days are mere glamorous means to acquire financial gains in the name of social work.
Before its inception in 2013, Saif has worked with various NGOs like ‘Save the Children’ and has also carried out social work since his childhood. “The only driving force for me to start this organisation was to turn my passion into profession. When Swine Flu was a serious problem in India, I used to make posters and stick them around the school to raise awareness among students and make them conscious about this issue. This is how it all began.”
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Everyone comes across children begging at street lights but anyone hardly pays any heed to their condition. It is usually not out of choice that these children take up begging instead of spending their childhood amidst books and carefree play. Saif, back in his hometown Patna, once approached these children and began his pursuit to impart them quality education. “Bringing children to a school is not a problem. The real challenge is to sustain their interest.
As a result, I started with showing them cartoon films and giving away sweets at the end of the class. And slowly I shifted to educational videos so that they got basic knowledge like alphabets while enjoying these videos”, says Khan, whose aim was to bring schools to children who could not go to a school.
Beginning with only six children at first, this mobile school now reaches remote rural parts of Bihar where there are either no schools or where female literacy is almost zero.
Most underprivileged children have mid-day meals as the only motivation to go to schools, and this directly hampers the quality of education. Students who wish to study sincerely are not provided with adequate facilities to study, or are simply victims of poverty and submit to their condition. Therefore, in an attempt to change the face of the Indian education system, Saif’s team initially builds strong relationships with these children so that learning also contributes to their growth and helps them groom.
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Apart from that, the NGO is also associated with a Delhi based orphanage (name withheld) that requires the sponsorship for these children’s education. There are challenges like fundraising and seeking guardianship that every NGO faces.
“Problems began with the mere thought of starting an NGO. My family and friends were earlier hesitant to support since the students’ stationery and other expenses were met from my savings. Today we need sponsors for around 500 children, and if each person contributes a small amount of 400 per month, their overall development expenses can be met,” said Saif.
The children are also introduced with sports, and are also taught chess. For his personal contribution towards eradicating disability as an outlawed issue which only attracts sympathy but no substantial help, Saif has sponsored the development of a girl child who is on wheelchair. A very active 8 year old child, says Khan, who is now determined to prepare her for Paralympics to be held in 2026 and is currently trying to find a coach for her.
Saif has also published a book within a team of 12 students named ‘Opportunities and Barriers for Students with Disabilities’ under the research of University of Delhi.
Besides children, the NGO also runs employability training for the blind and differently abled, for they believe that the most important means to their stability is their financial independence. Ishant Rajput, 24, is associated with the NGO since its beginning and was trained regarding basic computer qualifications. Ishant is now a successful graduate and is preparing for competitive exams.
“It is students like Ishant who make me realise that the words disability and difficulty are not related at all. Disability is just a social contruct and it is our duty to create a barrier-free existence for these children”, claims the founder chairperson of Save the Quest.
Save the Quest has helped more than five thousand visually impaired children in the past three years and has organised sensitisation and fund raising campaigns.
For any information on volunteering or to donate, you may contact Saif through:
Chetna is a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna