Four Long Decades and Counting, CRY Lives Up to Rippan’s Dreams
“If we all do something, then together there is no problem that we cannot solve.” Rippan Kapur, the late founder of 'CRY – Child Rights and You' did not just preach and believe in this mantra, he lived it. So strong was his faith in people, in the fact that kindness exists, that he built an organization around it – an organization that has stepped into its 40th year, and is living up to his dreams.
Rippan's compassion for India's children and his zeal to do something for them, however, dates way beyond 1979, the year CRY was born. Since his childhood, the gaping differences between the privileged and the underprivileged plagued him. He struggled to understand why opportunities and access presented themselves to the privileged children while others would have to fight for survival. For him, from his own childhood years, it was clear that every child should have every opportunity to live, learn, grow, play and be safe, and access to every service that enables them to do so.
An optimist always, Rippan believed, “If you have intended something good, then there is no need to be anxious, everything will go well.” An airline purser hailing from a typical Indian middle-class family, he did not have enough financial support to follow his calling. But, a dream is a dream. And often, it is dreams that make people bridge the gap between imagination and reality. Rippan believed, that only a movement that was led by ordinary people advocating for India’s children and their rights, would make a happy childhood for every child a reality. Only when every citizen pitched in, with whatever they could - time, energy, money, skills, ideas, expertise – would India's children get their due. Thus 'You' came to be the better half of CRY.
“I felt disgust(ed) at the way some children were growing up in India. I realized I couldn’t just stand back and do nothing about it,” he said. And he could not wait to get started. With a minuscule fund of Rs.50 collected from seven of his friends, Rs.8 being his own share, he started the organization called CRY, around his mother's dining table. The rest, as they say, is history.
But was this passion enough to change the way children were looked at and treated in India during his time?
Absolutely not. Most journeys aimed at bringing path-breaking changes are often overshadowed by difficulties and hurdles, and Rippan’s was no exception. To take you back to the time we are discussing, India's development sector was quite a different scenario in 1979, a mere 32 years after Independence. The country was grappling with the tags of 'underdeveloped' and 'poor', a social cause was more of charity done by the rich, and the huge class divide between the wealthy and the poor made issues like child labor. Discriminations against children were either invisible or normalized and ignored. The very thought of an "India for her children," and sensitizing people about children's problems did not seem viable.
But Rippan’s mantra was simple – “What must be done and how to do it are known. The necessary resources exist. But how to make it all converge into action? That is the challenge.”
And he did defy all odds – be it his humble background, amateur activism or financial constraints to fund his dream – Rippan’s story is not just inspirational. It is one that holds your hand and walks you through the journey while reaffirming your faith in ‘achieving the impossible’. Simply because, Rippan's story is not his story alone – it is a sum total of every story of every individual who believed in his dreams, and translated that belief into action. From creating a bridge between people with resources with people who need them to enabling every interested person become a change-maker; from reaching the very last child in the most resource-poor region to turning the energetic youth into volunteers transforming pockets of society; from selling cards to create awareness to making donating your first paycheck the coolest thing to do, CRY's journey is a string of stories of individuals who stepped up for children.
Which is precisely the reason, why, since Rippan passed on in CRY's 15th year of existence when he was just at 40, CRY has not really changed much. Rippan's vision and innate passion to create a more sensitized India for its children is embedded in CRY's DNA. Taking his legacy forward, the national non-profit organization has not only grown but adapted and made itself viable with the times – moving from relief-centric action to rights-based initiatives, penetrating into more states or multiplying manifold the number of children whose lives have changed for the better.
Walking a journey spanning four decades, two and half of which its founder was with them in spirit alone, CRY has become a national champion advocating for children’s rights. Working across the major thematic areas of education, child protection, child participation, health and nutrition, standing tall in its 40th year, through its 850 initiatives and presence across 19 states, CRY has been able to ensure happier childhoods for over 3 million children and counting.
(Disclaimer: The author of this article, Puja Marwaha, CEO at CRY – Child Rights and You. The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)