In Conversation With

Sujith Kumar, CEO of Maatram Foundation, on helping students realise their dreams

Today, Sujith Kumar is a well-known name and Maatram Foundation holds a special place when it comes to the NGOs. 

Well, was it easier when he started? 

How did he manage to pull things off? 

In conversation with Penbugs, Sujith Kumar began to reveal things one by one. Here are the excerpts from the interview. 

First things first. 

2013 it was. Sujith Kumar was having a normal day. He just finished a session of career counselling in Madurai. A small girl waited outside the hall to meet him. She refused to enter but wanted to meet Sujith outside. Certainly, a strange request. 

She was super young, was holding a notebook close to her heart and asked Sujith on finding a guaranteed job. Puzzled by this request, Sujith tried hard, and the girl started to narrate her story. 

She was the lone breadwinner of the family. She lost her mother when she was young, and her father was an alcoholic. She did household chores and took care of her siblings as well. This was something you call as the starting point for Sujith. 

He realised that all these years of career counselling has helped him to gain a lot of contacts. He randomly dialled a number belonging to the college chairman who incidentally is also into charity. The chairman was excited to help Sujith, added that finding the right deserving person was difficult for him, and if Sujith could help him, he would give away some 20 seats every year. 

With time, after witnessing how the students are performing and after knowing how well Maatram is doing, a few colleges came forward to help as well. Now, Maatram Foundation has helped out more than 900 students with more than 250 students in this academic year alone. 

Helping the students with a scholarship wasn’t as difficult as finding the right students, says Sujith. He adds that a lot of people who can survive on their own do try to acquire free scholarships and a lot of work goes into this. 

The verification takes a lot, he says. Talking about the volunteers who juggles between the job and volunteering, Sujith says that the admission time alone will be a bit hectic for everyone, otherwise, they don’t need a lot of physical work. Also, the whole family of the volunteers loves to get involved in the process, thereby, making things easier for everyone. 

While every single core volunteer has different work based on their skills, he adds that his wife does the major work when it comes to the foundation, starting from the back-end till picking up the helpline number. 

Maatram supports students irrespective of the caste and other things if they are really eligible and they do give importance to the girl child, says Sujith who then elaborated about how the foundation selects the students. He also adds that he wants his students to aim high and to appreciate that, the students who perform very well at the academics receive prize money from the foundation, during their annual meet. Also, he wants his students to carry the legacy forward and to help the other students who are in need.

As a career counsellor, Sujith wants the young students to keep in mind that the people who ran behind money by taking up some random course has never come up in life. He wants everyone to follow their passion no matter what it is. He adds that every single course has its own benefits and the exposure is very important. Also, there is no shame in going behind something we love even if it is not preferred by everyone. Sujith doesn’t want the students to care about others’ opinion as well. 

We asked about the mental health of the students and Sujith was quick to reply that every single student of the foundation is mentally strong. They keep in touch with the volunteers who talk them through during difficult times. Advice he normally gives them is that to forgive the past, forgive the family and other incidents and focus on the future. He says that he firmly believes in the fact that the four years of their studies can change their life completely. He narrated an example of how a girl who didn’t understand a word in English some four years back is currently placed in six companies. 

Since this interview is for men’s day, we asked him a few words about the day, he replied that every single day is men’s day and women are the one who needs more attention. He added that this day is for all the men to look back and learn from their mistakes to become a gentleman. A man must stand up for what he believes is right and work towards it, he says, and signs off.

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