The Art of Giving

The Art of Giving

7 7aBy Molina Swarup Asthana

I was recently in Bhuvaneshawar, Odisha  for an international legal conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Bar along with the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) University. What took me there was an invitation to take part in deliberations on the globalisation of legal services with participation by high profile dignitaries such as the President of India, Chief Minister of the Orissa, the Law Minister, Chief Justice of India, other distinguished jurists and lawyers from India and overseas, however what I gained from the trip was far more valuable than the chance to interact with those dignitaries or to contribute as an Australian legal expert.

I learnt the ‘Art of Giving’ from an initiative started by a man who lives by this belief and is a perfect example of someone who selflessly contributes to society that gave him everything, Mr.Achyuta Samanta, who started the world class KIIT University as well as the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) University.

So what is so great about this man or about what he does and why have I come back a huge fan, thinking that the world is a better place because of people like him and initiatives such as his.

It all started with a modest vocational institution centre in 1992 in a two room rental building with just Rs 5000.  It took the shape of an institution in 2007 when the degree engineering program commenced. Mr Samantha’s vision made KIIT into one of the most respected educational conglomerate within a decade accommodating 22 world class campuses spread over 25sqkms with 1 million sq meters of aesthetically constructed built up area. It has over 25,000 fulltime students in more than 100 academic programs including medical, dental, law and engineering amongst many others. It also has excellent sporting facilities with a modern stadium of seating capacity of 35000 people, Indoor stadium and 10 sports complexes.  It also has 15 food courts, amenities like banking, departmental store post office etc.

However what is amazing is the humanity and generosity of the founder Mr Samanta. He is himself from a very humble background whose father’s untimely death when Mr Samanta was only 4 years old plunged the whole family comprising 7 siblings and mother into abject poverty and deprivation. With no future to fall back upon the family was left to languish in their remote village in Odisha and would often go without a square meal a day. With his determination Mr Samanta became an academician but deep within his passionate heart he wanted to do something to emancipate the poor and the deprived.

This is where his ‘Art of Giving’ saw the establishment of the KISS University. KISS is remarkable being the first of its kind University that houses, feeds and educates 25,000 tribal kids (aborigines of India) all funded by the founder Mr Samanta. Started with just 125 tribal students in 1993, KISS has today grown into the largest free residential institute for tribal children. KISS provides holistic education from Kindergarten to Post graduation, vocational training , food, accommodation, healthcare and all other basic necessities of life to these children coming from marginal backgrounds absolutely free.

The Institute plans to educate 200,000 poor indigenous children over the next decade. To achieve this goal, it has set up/setting up branches in 10 states, with the support of the respective state governments. The educations standard is impeccable with many first generation learners achieving cent percent pass records in final grade examinations for more than 10 years in a row. They have been representing State in the prestigious National Children’s Science Congress every year since 2005.

But this representation is not confined to the National level. A tribal boy from the institute represented India in the Malala day United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2013. The Students have also secured admissions in prestigious national level institutes like NITs, IITs and IIMs and bagged job offers fromtop companies like Accenture, TCS and Wipro.  The course curriculumis unique in itself as it incorporates vocational training with formaleducation, thus helping the child to grow up educated as well as self sufficient.

The children have also excelled in sports and cultural activities. They were the Champions in the Under 13 InternationalRugby Tournament held in Manchester, UK in 2011, and participated in Asian Games in Guangzhou and Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Each student passing out from the Institute is becoming a change agent for the future.

Many world organisations like UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA and US Federal Government have come forwardto be associated with various programs of the Institute.  The Institute has been frequented by Presidents, Vice Presidents, Union Minister’s, Governors, ChiefMinisters,Policy makers, Planners, Noble Laureates, Social activists, academicians and diplomats and the activities of the institute have been attracting attention of leading national and International media like TimeMagazine, Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post etc. Recently actor VidyaBalan interviewed Mr Samanta which was broadcasted on NDTV.

Some of the tribal boys are also being trained in Australian Rules Football (footy). As an AFL Multicultural Community Ambassador, I went to meet these boys and was very happy to see their enthusiasm for the game. I was very honoured that I got to see the achievements of the University first hand and to be facilitatedby the University as well. The size of the campus as well as the facilities they have are close to none. Their dining room itself can seat 18000 people and they cook for 25000 kids everyday. They have a replica of a famous temple in the complex, a rock garden and other attractions. When I was there the kids were practicing for the Indian Independence Day functions and there were over 1000 kids just practicing for the march past, a few hundred for the yoga display and about 50 or so doing amazing feats of gymnastics and acrobatics.

My dream would be to see this model replicated in Australia. If anyone would like to find out more about the University or would like to contribute to this cause please contact me on mols_28@yahoo.com.

Molina is a Principal Solicitor with the Victorian Government. She is also on the board of numerous community organisations as well as legal organisations. She has been working on the issues of cultural and gender diversity in various areas and has won the Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence in 2014 for her work in this area.

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