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Kalinga Institute Of Social Sciences: Empowering Underprivileged Tribal Children

It was the only NGO from India selected to participate in the United Nation's 55th session of the Commission for Social Development in New York this month

Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), Bhubaneswar, is a unique initiative of social transformation through holistic education. Founded by noted educationist and social activist Dr Achyuta Samanta in 1993, it is now the largest residential institute for the tribals in the world, providing accommodation, food, healthcare, and education from KG to PG, vocational training and all other basic amenities of life absolutely free to 25,000 poorest of the poor children.

Some of the recent achievements of KISS provide an insight into the role KISS is playing in empowering tribal communities. It was the only NGO from India selected to participate in the United Nation's 55th session of the Commission for Social Development, held at the UN Headquarters in New York from February 1 to 10.

The theme for the 2017-2018 review and policy cycle was "Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all", which was decided in UN Resolution 2016/6, the Economic and Social Council. The deliberation resulted in adoption of action-oriented policy recommendations on strategies for the eradication of poverty to achieve sustainable development for all.

A high-level delegation from KISS, which was among only 40 NGOs from across the world to participate in this important UN session, presented its work on "Poverty eradication through education with special reference to indigenous people" on February 6.

While the numbers are impressive enough to merit a special documentary in the National Geographic Channel (India's Mega Kitchen, August 29, 2016) and entry in the Guinness World Records (the Largest Human Sentence and Longest Human Chain-High Five), the institute's real credit lies in its remarkable success in transforming the most underprivileged children into powerful change-makers.

With a focus on overall personality development of these children, KISS has produced hundreds of uncommon achievers, who herald new hope for the tribal community as a whole.

Some of the young achievers of the institute have created examples for tribal communities. Sumitra Nayak is one of them. Sumitra was born in a poverty-stricken family in Jajpur district of Odisha. Her future looked bleak after her mother had to run away from home with her three children, including Sumitra, to escape regular violence by her drunkard husband. However, like thousands of tribal students studying KISS, her fate changed for the better after she got admission here in 2004. She went on to captain the KISS Girls' Rugby Team. Recently, she delivered a talk at TEDx Pune, becoming the first representative from the tribal community to share her ideas on this prestigious platform.

In a similar story of empowerment, Shanti Murmu presented a talk and shared the stage with Nobel Peace Prize winner Prof Muhammad Yunus at the Shared Value Summit 2016 in Gurugram in November. She is one of the two KISS students selected as the best Youth Venturers by Ashoka Foundation - Dharmananda Bhoi being the other one. It is for the first time that two tribal teenagers from India figure in the list of Youth Venturers of the Ashoka Foundation.

Shanti had lost her mother when she was only five months old. She endured ill-treatment at the hands of her step-mother throughout her childhood. Every student taking admission in KISS comes from sad circumstances similar to Sumitra's and Shanti's. However, the caring and enabling ambience of KISS helps them overcome all odds and aim for the sky. Aiming for the sky, two students of KISS - Dhanurjaya Dehury and Sebati Kutruka - became national-level winners of the prestigious Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Ignite 2016 Awards instituted by the National Innovation Foundation-India (NIF). They received the award from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, H.E. President of India in November.

Attracting Attention
Success of KISS has been attracting world attention. It has recently darted into the list of top 223 NGOs of the world and been placed among the 10 best NGOs of India in the prestigious ranking of world NGOs published annually by NGO Advisor, a Geneva-based independent media organization. KISS has also been approved by the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) after scrutiny of its unparalleled work for 'Association' with it. Earlier, it had been conferred Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) - the highest recognition to an Non Government Organization by the United Nations. The institute has been awarded the Guide Star Champion Level Platinum Certification by Guide Star India for NGO Transparency. It is one among 14 NGO out of 51,400 to get the Platinum Certification.

The institute routinely reaches out to tribal families in distress. In an example of this, KISS has admitted three daughters of Dana Majhi of Odisha's Kalahandi district, who was in news recently for carrying his wife's body on his shoulders for 10 km after ambulance allegedly refused help.

KISS is playing an important role in curbing Maoism in tribal areas of Odisha through education. It has recently admitted 18 boys and girls of Naxal-hit Gumudmah village of Kandhamal District in Odisha. While five of these children belong to the families that were the victims of accidental death during an anti-Maoist operation, the other 13 are small kids from the same village who expressed their desire to study at KISS. The district staff of the Institute convinced these families to send their children to KISS for their education. Interestingly, most of these tribal students are first timers in their families to get educated and venture out of forests. Thanks to the education they receive here, they are choosing to join the mainstream society, instead of the Naxal movement.

"I am glad that KISS has been selected to participate in the United Nation's 55th session of the Commission for Social Development. The Institute provides holistic education to the deprived children and enables them to become global citizens of tomorrow. We have achieved significant success in this noble endeavour and believe that our experiences will be useful at international level," said Dr Samanta.

KISS has proved itself as a successful model of poverty eradication through education. The main campus of KISS in Bhubaneswar is running with support from KIIT University, a leading institution of professional education, also established by Dr. Samanta. With an aim to educate and empower 2,00,000 underprivileged children over the next decade, he is now in the process of setting up branches of KISS in 20 States of India with the support of the government and non-government agencies.

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