He also has help from people who hear about his work and come forward to contribute what they can.

They should have what I never did Meet the Coimbatore auto driver helping hundreds of students Image: Raja Sethu Muthu (Centre)
news Social service Wednesday, August 09, 2017 - 16:59

Raja Sethu Murali doesn’t have many regrets in life, save one – he never got an opportunity to study. As a child, his family lived a hand-to-mouth existence, meaning that there was never any money to spare for his education.

“My father was an alcoholic and my mother used work as a daily wage labourer. So, we would only get food after she came back. There were days when she didn’t make any money. Those nights, we would go hungry,” the 45-year-old auto driver from Coimbatore tells TNM.

These early experiences left a deep impact on Raja – so much so that he didn’t want another child to go through the same thing if he could help it. So for the past decade, Raja has been using most of the what he earns to financially help well-performing government school children.

Image: Bags distributed to students who have scored well.

Every year when the academic session begins, Bala goes around the government schools in Coimbatore and speaks to class 10 teachers. “They help me identify the bright students who are from poor families. I buy them school bags, books and lunchboxes,” Raja says, adding that he spends about Rs 1700 on each student.

But doesn’t he need money for his daily affairs? Raja says that he only has his mother to support, and the rent he gets from a property in Kuniamuthur supports his daily income of Rs 750. Whatever he saves goes for the school children.

“I started with just three children and today I am able to help about 150 students yearly from 32 government schools. If the students are able to score well in class 10, they will be able to do well in their future,” says Raja. In 11 years, Raja says he has helped about 1300 students.

He also has help from people who hear about his work and come forward to contribute what they can. These people are other auto drivers, daily wage labourers, toilet cleaners, hotel staff and hotel owners.

Image: Raja Sethu Muthu (Extreme Right) distributing things to poor families.

Apart from school children, Raja also likes to spend time with children in neighbouring villages who are HIV positive. He comes to know about these children and families through word of mouth, and tries to bring them gifts on special occasions like festivals.

"A lot of people know that I'm doing social work so they contact me asking if I can help a particular family in a village. I often provide them with one month's groceries. It costs around Rs 3000 which is usually sponsored by different people," Raja says.

Does Raja ever think about saving up and making a better life for himself? “I am satisfied with what I have,” says Raja. “I don’t want these children to face poverty the way I did… They have so much potential. They should have what I never did – education, food and a good future,” he asserts.

 

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