Growing up in a poor family in Tamil Nadu, Ilangovan Sivanmalai learnt the value of education early in his childhood as a means to carve out a new path in life. The milk from a single buffalo was the only source of income for the family, but despite the odds, Sivanmalai persevered to earn scholarships and secure distinctions in his schooling. This was also due to the dedicated hard-work of his mother.
Testaments to his hard work and courage are his three PhDs in Mechanical, Human Services and Journalism, as well as his achievements in business that show a man of resilient strength and character. He received three doctorates from the universities in USA, and were attested and signed by John Kerry, State Secretary. He also received appreciation from the Deputy Chairman of KNPC (Kuwait National Petroleum Company), the company where has toiled away for years.
Speaking exclusively to The Times, Sivanmalai confidently says, “You may be born into a poor family, but you will not die as a poor person. There are many opportunities that can be utilized to help you succeed in life.” He stressed, “If you use these five components: hard work, sincerity, tolerance, sustainability and honesty regularly, a person can come up in life.”
Though he has amassed a small amount of wealth, he is humble and sincere in paying back society for his good fortune. Those who know him cast him in their high regards for being so dedicated to ensuring poor children receive a good education. “Each and every person is responsible to society and to the people in their life. Hence, they have to give back and showing gratitude,” he says.
Talking about the role of education in his life, he added that he was only able to succeed because of education, “With my scholarships, I could take care of my family but I felt responsible to society, in many ways, society helped my education.”
Sivanmalai supports 5,917 children and has so far donated 85 lakhs from the substantial salary he earns from his consultant work in astrology and engineering in addition to the farmland and businesses he owns. All the profits from the multi-directional approach to business has been shared with children eager to become students. Children without a father and no financial support can apply and he will sponsor their education through his charity Aravanaippu & web site http://www.aravanaipu.org/.
Speaking proudly about the charity he says, “I give first priority to girls. My opinion is that women should be able to stand on their own feet with education. For other candidates outside India, I try to meet with them personally. I have set the amount allocated for school, college, engineering student, medical student and others.”
Sivanmalai believes his endeavors will benefit society by alleviating poverty and fostering great minds. Moreover, he has taken it upon himself as a personal challenge and obligation to help these children. He says, “The majority people are poor and so, it is important for those with self-sustaining income to think about others. You should donate at least one percent to society if possible. If you can’t, I am here to take the responsibility and will help those people willing to do something positive.”
Like most intelligent entrepreneurs, Sivanmalai has managed to run his charity with minimal expenditure thanks to the support of his loving family. At least 1 crore and 2 lakhs have been distributed in the last 19 years for education with the support of Sivanmalai’s beloved family, particularly his wife, who has carefully handled the administrative duties of the organization.
His charitable work would also not have been possible without the loving support of his daughter, Vinodhini and his son, the engineer Shuseendragugan as well the large assistance he receives from his warm-hearted friends. He brings up cost because he wants to make it clear; charitable projects are possible for any person as long as they are committed and have the ambition. And like many altruistic philanthropists, Sivanmalai is wholly devoted to his cause.
“The last 19 years I am struggling and sacrificing to reach my goal. My aim is to support 10,000 children through Aravanaippu.” He said, “I should hopefully complete my goal before the age of 60. This project is a 100 percent gratitudinal response for the good society has done towards me.”
Another noteworthy achievement of Sivanmalai is the Green initiative he has undertaken in his farmland. Solar panels have been installed that supply electricity to run his land without any help from the Government. “I am doing this to support society and also, because it is good for the environment.” He said, “It is also the reason I grow beautiful Neem trees that will improve the air quality.”
Sivanmalai raised the idea of being involved in projects benefiting farmers but presently, he is unable due to lack of funds. However, it is within his capacity to secure a future for poor children and guide them as they mature. “I keep in touch with all the children I sponsor, especially those I select from orphanages in Tamil Nadu.” He said, “I encourage them to follow my example, and many later in life when they get good jobs, donate parts of their salary to the charity.”
Though there have been many grand achievements in his life, he sums up two of his proudest moments, “First, the children I support are my priority and my best achievement. Second, would be overcoming my debt in just three years by working hard in Kuwait.” He said, “I am not speaking because of my ego; this is just to show the public that I have climbed out from poverty and am now able to do positive things for others. I am requesting other people to follow my example.”
-Christina Pinto, Staff Writer