Article by Sourabha Rao
Sometimes, all it takes for one to orient oneself to the direction of a fulfilling life is a gentle prod. And that is exactly what our Livelihood Support programme did to Vinod Kumar, a beneficiary who has now molded his life as a well-known building contractor.
Vinod Kumar (one on the right) in a building being constructed under his supervision.
In the bucolic Madenuru Haadi, Vinod was born to a tribal family that knew the travails of living in a forest. He finished his initial schooling in Thithimathi. It was when he was in the 8th grade that he and his family got acquainted with WCS-India’s programme that enables various livelihood options for families that voluntarily relocate from inside of Protected Areas.
Moving out of the forest in the quest for a better life was indeed a happy choice for young Vinod, but his days were soon to be shadowed by the tragedy of his mother’s untimely death. Adding to his woes was another form of abandonment when his father left his family. Vinod had to be in his relatives’ care for a while. For high school, with WCS-India’s Livelihood Support programme’s aid, he was sent to a Belthangady hostel in the Dakshina Kannada district.
It was here that Vinod was exposed to living with learned people which filled him with a new zest for life. So strong was his will to do something worthwhile that he even dropped out of school to travel to Bengaluru, where, while searching for a job, he met a building contractor. He dedicated his time in the big city to learn everything he could from the self-made contractor. The new job had all his interest and attention. “If he can, why not me?” Vinod asked himself, dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur. When he felt that he had indeed got the hang of his work, he wished to return to Mysuru district.
By this time, Vinod’s younger brother, Manikantha, had been a recent beneficiary of voluntary relocation from the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. And it was Manikantha who provided the much-needed impetus by helping his elder brother purchase necessary materials to work as an independent building contractor in their area, Hanagodu hobali. It was time for Vinod to lay down his roots.
Because Vinod hailed from a humble background, he knew the value of employment in tribal people’s lives. As a part of giving something good back to the community, he started creating employment opportunities for his own people. He ensured they were trained to keep up to the ever-evolving requirements of the work.
Even to this day, true to his vision, Vinod continues to enable employment for several of his fellow tribal people. He empowers them to become entrepreneurs and lead financially independent, responsible lives instead of working for others for meagre daily wages in faraway estates and other places. His passion and dedication to deliver work of uncompromised quality has made him one of the most sought after building contractors in his area. The MLA of Hosur taluk also recognised Vinod’s work, entrusting him with a few projects.
Recovering from the recent setback brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vinod now dreams of upgrading his equipment range with modern implements. He is married and has two children. And although he himself had dropped out of school, he wants to ensure his two children get a good education so they make their own mark in life. We wish Vinod and his family the very best. The tenacity and welfare of people like Vinod in turn serve as a propulsive force to our Livelihood Support programme.