Faces in the Crowd – Born to Lead

Posted on December 15, 2016 under Faces in the Crowd with no comments yet

A big man with a big heart

“ My greatest wish is that we can give our children the skills to better their lives.”

Meet Balaraju.

The youngest of three siblings born to Narsamma and Veeraiah in Gagillapur, India, hard work has been the hallmark of Balaraju’s life,  starting at a very early age. His parents weren’t all that interested in educating their children. Chores around the family home took precedence. A teacher by the name of Rachael encouraged him to enrol and through his own initiative, he began his educational journey.

In the eleventh and twelfth levels, his focus was mainly on sciences: biology , physics and chemistry but deep down, he knew that this wasn’t the direction he wanted to go. He was profoundly affected during his eighth level by the Mandal president at the time, Gnaneswar Mudiraj. He was enthralled by his speeches and his community activism. Balaraju even volunteered to assist the president for a number of years.

He entered the Bachelor of Arts program  at Osmania University as he now had his sights clearly set on community development and local politics. Regrettably, he had to drop out of the program in the 13th. level due to family problems and a lack of money.

For six years he worked as a milk vendor getting up at 3:00 in the morning to go area farms to pick up milk and deliver it to the depot. The hours were long and the work was hard. In 1996 , he married Pushpa and the couple have two children: a son, Pavan and a daughter, Sowmya.

 Even though the milk business provided a steady income for the family, politics was in his blood so it was no surprise that he decided to run for the office of village president in 2006. Despite being outspent by a margin of three to one in the election campaign, Balaraju came out on top.

He realized that his community needed a lot of help to raise the standard of living. He knocked on a lot of doors of companies doing business in the area. He managed to secure money for a water storage sump. He also realized that these same companies were also contributing something else that was far less desirable: pollution. He made his case, stood his ground and extracted commitments from these companies to improve air and water quality.

He recognized that  a healthy community contributes to a prosperous community and so he worked very hard to improve health standards. This required a great deal of public education. His bold, dynamic personality and strong work ethic made him a well respected leader in the village.

When his term of office expired, he stayed involved in the community and remains so until this day. He is quick to point out that in order for the village to continue to move forward, that interventions from organizations like MAS are crucial. “ Our people need to be empowered to speak up for themselves and MAS is giving us the necessary tools to do this, “ he commented. “ Mas has helped in so many ways including oversight on infrastructure projects and working closely with groups in the community to build capacities. At the end of the day, we must become  masters of our own destiny.”

Balaraju is a social worker  at heart and continues to fight for basic amenities that many places take for granted. “ My big dream is to see the day when we have a modern sewage treatment plant, “ he said.

Don’t be fooled by his warmth, his firm handshake and his easy smile. Behind that veil is a man consumed with passion to make his community the best it can be.

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