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India: Awareness is key, says actor Kunal Kapoor

Actor Kunal Kapoor has supported Save the Children for three years.

Recently, he took time from his busy schedule to come and see our work first-hand.

We set out early in the morning to visit Tonk in Rajasthan, two hours from the capital city, Jaipur.

Tall, handsome, and never stand-offish, Kunal struck an immediate rapport with everyone from the kids to the village elders.

Overcoming resistance

Our first halt was the Anganwadi centre, part of a government-run scheme to provide early education and nutrition for children under six and counseling for pregnant women and adolescent girls.

Save the Children has set up a men’s support group here.

It wasn’t easy to convince men about the importance of health and nutrition for women and children. But despite initial resistance, these men are now leading the way for other men in their community to follow.

After an engaging discussion with the men, Kunal was struck with the magic that awareness can work.

Awareness is key

“We all know awareness is the key to change but it is the first time that I have seen it working so beautifully,” said Kunal.

The people of Tonk were all ears when Kunal discussed topics such as malnutrition, safe pregnancy and vaccination.

The community was won over by his easy charm as he hugged the kids, sat with the men and listened to their problems and coaxed the cranky tots to smile.

People listened with attention when he shared a piece of advice with village elders:

Aap log bade hain, aapki advice sab log dhyaan se sunenge aur apnayenge bhi. Zaroori hai ki aap sabke sath milkar initiative le aur issues ko solve karein.” “You are the elders in the community. People will listen to your advice. It is important that you take the lead to solve the problem together with others.”

Tonk was an eye opener

“The visit to Tonk was really an eye opener,” said Kunal.  “Save the Children are doing wonderful work.”

“Meeting children and health workers who are working tirelessly at the ground level was a revelation for me. They are the real foot soldiers, saving precious lives.

“I was shocked to see those families. They are in dire need of help. They don’t even have enough to eat. It is very sad.”

Man with a mission

After visiting Tonk, we headed straight back to Jaipur, for a press conference to launch our report A Life Free from Hunger. The cameramen ran to get the first flash of the actor as he made his way to the conference room.

Kunal told the press, “I was appalled to meet families who are in dire need. There is not enough to eat and it is children who suffer the most.

“In the first few years of life, the need for a nutritious diet is most crucial. Without that, children do not get a healthy start and this leads to serious disadvantages in terms of physical and cognitive development,” said Kunal.

“Having seen the problems and solutions both, I can confidently say that change is possible when communities are empowered with information and health and nutrition facilities.”

“We all need to work together: people like me, government, media, to tackle the problem.”

 

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