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Meet Saif Ahmad Khan: ‘Save the Quest’ NGO Founder makes Education more flexible for Specially-Abled and Unprivileged Children in India

The story is about Save the Quest, an NGO that works for the upliftment and sustainability of the specially abled

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-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.

Save the Quest at a feast with orphan children during Ramadan
Save the Quest at a feast with orphan children during Ramadan. Image source: Save the Quest

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.

Meals during studies
Meals during studies. Image source: Save the Quest

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.

One of the awareness campaigns carried out by the NGO
“I PLEDGE”, one of the awareness campaigns carried out by the NGO. Image source: Save the Quest

“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.

'The Band'
‘The Band’. Image source: Save the Quest

“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.

"A walk for the Visually Impaired" held in University of Delhi
“A Walk for the Visually Impaired” held in University of Delhi. Image source: 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:
Phone: 08585907442
E-mail: saif.stq@gmail.com
Website: www.savethequest.org

Chetna is a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    It is really fascinating how young people like Saif are working towards a better nation. Helping the physically abled children is a great effort. Keep up the good work!

    • Saif Ahmad Khan

      Thank you

  • Saif Ahmad Khan

    Thank you newsgram for covering my story.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    When the education system is increasingly becoming commercialized, people like Saif are also there who are striving hard to provide education to underprivileged children. You are doing a wonderful job Saif.

    • Saif Ahmad Khan

      Thank You 🙂

SHARE
  • Vrushali Mahajan

    It is really fascinating how young people like Saif are working towards a better nation. Helping the physically abled children is a great effort. Keep up the good work!

    • Saif Ahmad Khan

      Thank you

  • Saif Ahmad Khan

    Thank you newsgram for covering my story.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    When the education system is increasingly becoming commercialized, people like Saif are also there who are striving hard to provide education to underprivileged children. You are doing a wonderful job Saif.

    • Saif Ahmad Khan

      Thank You 🙂

Next Story

How Auxillary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) in Remote Tribal Belts of Andhra Pradesh in India have brought down Maternal Deaths to Zero

With 4,000 employees in just its health vertical, Piramal Swasthya is prehaps the largest NGO in India, implementing 29 healthcare projects in 16 states.

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Akaru women, MATERNAL DEATHS
Midwifing change: How maternity deaths were reduced to zero in remote tribal hamlets. Flickr

The scenic beauty of Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh is in stark contrast to the lives of indigenous tribespeople inhabiting the region. Living in virtual destitution, these tribals — like their counterparts scattered in remote locations across the rest of India — lack access to basic amenities like safe drinking water, healthcare and education. Till a few years ago, some of these habitations were not even covered in the national census and nobody knew they even existed.

But efforts of a leading NGO over the last seven years have yielded results in 181 habitations around Araku. This is testified by the fact that no maternal deaths have been reported here over the last two years — a giant step forward for a place where maternal mortality was double the national average.

Before emerging as a tourist destination about a decade ago, Araku, 100 km from the port city of Visakhapatnam, was an area that was the redoubt of Maoist extremists. Politicians and officials used to stay away from this forested area in the Eastern Ghats.

The population in scattered and inaccessible hamlets was suffering from malnutrition, leading to high maternal mortality and neonatal mortality rates. Some traditional practices of the tribals and deliveries at home were also contributing to this situation.

Araku, Maternal Deaths
Araku Valley is a hill station and valley region in the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Flickr

When the NGO Piramal Swasthya, the health vertical of Piramal Foundation, launched the Asara Tribal Health Programme in 2011, maternal mortality in this tribal area was over 400 per 100,000 live births as against the then national average of around 200.

No maternal deaths have been reported over the last two years while the percentage of institutional deliveries has risen from 18 per cent to 68 per cent. The neonatal mortality rate too has come down from 37 to 10 per 100,000 live births, say the officials of Piramal Swasthya.

The agents behind this change are Auxillary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) like P. Padma who toil selflessly to help the pregnant women in these remote hamlets. The 27-year-old has been working with the NGO for six years and has attended about 3,000 women. She has seen the transformation.

“The situation in the tribal hamlets was pathetic as women were reluctant to come to hospitals for delivery. A major reason for this was the superstition among tribals. Piramal Swasthya has removed the superstitions and motivated the women,” Padma told IANS.

Padma travels 12-13 km in a four-wheeler and, when the road ends, she goes on a bike driven by a “pilot”, covering another 11 km. When this narrow path also ends, she hikes across mountains and valleys for another 12-13 km to the last habitation of Araku.

Araku, Native Women, India, maternal deaths
A Native Women From Araku. Flickr

This is what she does every day, explains Vishal Phanse, Chief Executive Officer, Piramal Swasthya.

Once in the habitation, the ANM identifies every pregnant woman, conducts basic tests, provides counselling on healthy practices and fixes an appointment for consultation with a specialist at the telemedicine centre. The next day, a four-wheeler is sent to pick up all pregnant women registered and get them to the telemedicine centre, where an expert gynaecologist sitting in Hyderabad provides the consultation through teleconferencing. Free medication, along with nutrition supplements, is also provided to the expectant mother and she is then dropped back to her habitation.

“If a woman can’t walk we arrange ‘palki’ (a kind of palanquin) to bring her till the four-wheeler to take her to the telemedicine centre,” Padma said. Last month, a woman delivered a baby on the palki in Colliguda village. She helped the woman and later safely transported her and the newborn to the hospital.

ANMs support the women and children through their pregnancy, child birth and neonatal period while keeping the government machinery in the loop.

Piramal Swasthya overcame all odds to achieve its goal of ending preventable deaths in 181 habitations, serving 49,000 pregnant women.

Adding some more interventions like training traditional birth attendants and health education of adolescent girls, it is now expanding the programme across 11 “mandals” or blocks comprising 1,179 habitations in the tribal belt of Visakhapatnam district to reach 2.5 lakh population.

It is currently running six telemedicine centres and plans to add five more. The NGO will also be opening two more community nutrition hubs in addition to existing one, where women are educated about a healthy and nutritious diet and trained in the use of traditional and locally available food items.

Araku ,women, maternal deaths
No maternal deaths have been reported over the last two years while the percentage of institutional deliveries has risen from 18 per cent to 68 per cent. Flickr

Based on the learning in Visakhapatnam, the NGO wants to create something which can be replicated in the entire tribal belt of I