Mr. Gopinath. R comes from the remote village of Manchigana halli in the Kolar district. He was the youngest in an educated family of four children, one elder sister and two elder brothers. He did not have a joyful childhood, because his father sold all the family property including the house to fund his alcohol addiction.
His father finallyabandoned the familywhen Gopinath was three years old.His mother started to live without shelter with her four children and later in a neighbour’s hut. People of Manchigana halli called his mother Gudusalu Ramakka. Gopinath and his brothers and sister could not afford to go to school and were forced to work with their mother. Even the young Gopinath had to accompany his elder brother to clean the cow shed and work in the field for daily meals.
While cleaning the cow shed, Gopinath watched the owner’s children going to school. He heard them talking about the school, the games, etc., and he wondered, “why can’t I go to school too?”
Five to six years passed, and one day Gopi’s father came back to the village, telling everyone that he was now living in Bangalore doing construction work. Gopinath approached his father and followed him into the city, as he thought that he was now in a good position and could take care of him.
In Bangalore, his father took him to work with him and to live with his new wife. His step mother was very affectionate with Gopi. Sheheld his hand and enrolled him in a nearby school. Gopi’s life completely changed at this point, and his desire to reach for the skies was born. However he was still forced work part time with his father after school.
He was lucky to have like minded friends in MSW. With their support, he started a group called the Social Worker Association for People (SWAP) in the year 2002. Through this association he focused on improving primary children’s education. He went with his friends to government and private schools in Ramnagar, city market, cement colony, Yeshwanthpura.
They met slow learners, study disabled, and school dropouts. They identified their problems, and accordingly counselled them. They also organized, through this association, health check-up camps, awareness programs on education, and personality development classes for the government schools’ children.
In 2004, Gopi joined PARASPARA TRUST, which worked on child labour issues. His career started as a State level coordinator for the project of State Alliance For Education. This work allowed him to travel all over Karnataka for three years and to study the problems of children who are deprived of education. He decided to raise his voice to bring every child to school and to improve the quality of education in the Common School System in India.
During his job he met one of the Singh community groups in Akkiappa Garden, near Yeshwanthpura. In this community, children never reach high school. When they reach the age of 12 or 13, parents push them into the workforce. The boys must make and sell knives, and the girls must cook and take care of their younger siblings. Gopi managed to convince the parents to bring their children back to school. Every evening, for two hours, he organized special coaching and personality development classes for them.
After three years of effort, it was a memorable day when seven boys and two girls passed the SSLC, scoring above 60 percent. All the children continued their higher studies in Vivakananda College, Rajajinagar. Now the oldest children are taking care of the youngest and ensure that they get minimum education (at least 2nd PUC).
At the same time, during his Sundays, Gopi started to search for children who had never been enrolled in schools or had dropped out the educational system. He found a group of such children near Bettalasuru who were engaged in quarry work. Gopi installed a paper hut in the area and started to give them awareness about education every Sunday for two to three months. Later he started to give non-formal classes to these children.
Based on all these experiences, Gopi realized that he would not be able to reach more children by working as an individual. He discussed the situation with his friend D.S. Krishna. With Krishna’s help and with support from his wife Chitra he created a group of friends. Working with his well-wishers and with a team of MSW volunteers, he registered the organization in 2005. The organization, SPARSHA TRUST, which means ‘to touch a needy’ was born.