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Article about SMH in The Sunday Express

The Sunday Express
April 11, 2010

MAMOON AKHTAR, was a student of a reputed English-medium school in Howrah. When he was in Class IX his parents could no longer pay his school fees and as a result he had to drop out of school. Now, decades after the incident, Mammon has not forgotten the pains of being forced to quit school. At present he runs a school in Tikiapara in Howrah with about 2,000 students who just pay Rs 5 per month. Mamoon, who used to work as a librarian and give private tuition, started the Samaritan Health Mission (SHM) from his own savings and donations.

In the beginning, the financial condition of SHM was precarious and the annual budget was as low as Rs 38,000 per annum. Out of this, Mamoon and his friends contributed Rs10,000 and the rest Rs 28,000 was collected out of door-to-door collection from houses in the locality and from some small offices. It was an uphill task and required persistent and tireless efforts. He also motivated the local college-going poor girls of the locality to offer their services by teaching these children on the payment of a nominal honorarium of Rs 100 per month.

The noble mission of Mamoon at 127, Noor Md Munshi Lane in Howrah created quite a ripple among the right thinking people of Tikiapara. They realised the importance of education and wanted their children to be well educated. SHM believes that anything given free of cost will lose its value and importance. Therefore, for all its programmes, it charges a nominal fees and this has ensured the involvement of guardians, especially mothers. All of them are happy to be a part of the system. SHM, within a span of six years, has brought about an educational revolution as it were in the neighbourhood. The story of these eventful six years is that 3,000 children are back to school – they are continuing their education and are marching from strength to strength. The children of SHM are being trained in such a way that they develop a feeling of compassion for their fellow human beings and uphold secular views and love for their Motherland. SHM believes that children will serve the nation better, they will be part of its progress, and will break the barriers of caste, creed and religion.

Mamoon charges a nominal fee of Rs 5 from the children per month. He says that children should learn that nothing is free in the world and everything comes at a price. Mamoon, after dropping out in Class IX, so far has managed to pass his Higher Secondary examination only.

The organisation is involved in a number of projects. It has ventured into almost every domain that can help people access some form of education and employment. The projects include vocational training for poor girls and widows, literacy programme of formal school from Class I-IV for the underprivileged children, Samaritan Kindergarten, Computer Literacy Programme for poor meritorious girls who do not have access to computer education, sponsorship programme for orphan boys and girls for education from the primary level till Class X and further studies.

The help for Mamoon comes as people know about his work. Organizations and caring friends have come to his aid. Even the American Consulate has been attracted to his work. In March the Consul General, Beth Payne, will inaugurate a project of SHM in Howrah. As the efforts by Mamoon grow from strength to strength, he says that there are many responsibilities and a large number of underprivileged masses to be taken care of. His quest only goes on with only one aim that no child should be deprived of schooling even if he has limited resources.

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