An unsung hero

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True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

-Arthur Ashe

In my line of work as a part of Alliance India’s Vihaan team, I see many heroes. Heroes, who may not look like Bollywood stars, but their deeds are so remarkable, so heartfelt and so brave, that they form the epitome of real life valor that we seek.

For me, these heroes are in the form of leaders who are working tirelessly towards enhancing the HIV response of the country. I am awestruck by the courage and passion of these leaders who have faced many challenges and hardships in their line of work, with resilience and fervor.

One such leader is a person who is very close to my heart. His name is Manoj, and I was fortunate to meet him when I went on an Onsite data verification visit (OSDV) to Barpeta district in Assam, one of the most-remote districts of Assam.

A place where stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV dominates, herein Manoj works determinedly and relentlessly to strengthen the HIV response of the country. He is an Outreach Worker working with the Assam Network of Positive People (ANP+) CSC, which has a mandate to reach people living with HIV (PLHIV) with care and support services. Manoj travels extensively to more than twenty places a month, and presently, he has reached more than two hundred and fifty PLHIV and their family members with required services. He has been able to link eighty-two PLHIV with social welfare schemes, and regularly helps them in completing their documentation work, while providing them moral support. His excellent rapport with key stakeholders is also the result of dedicated work.

Dr. Tarun Chandra Talukdar, Senior Medical Officer, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College (FAAMCH) ART centre once said, “… another name for dedication is Manoj. He is available for the community at all times, without expecting anything. He is a true motivation for all of us.”

Looking at him, I wonder his reasons for choosing this line of work. He is not living with HIV, then what motivates him to work so untiringly towards this cause? It cannot be the money, as with similar dedication and experience he could have earned more in a corporate sector. How does he still find the zeal within himself to continue working so tirelessly for people living with HIV? The answer I saw can be realized when one sees Manoj interact with the members of the community, his warmth, empathy and commitment towards his work shines brightly

As I reflect on my meeting with him, I realize that in my job as a Technical Officer in the Monitoring and Evaluation team, I am all about the numbers and quantitative data. It is when I go for field visits and interact with people like Manoj am I fully able to gauge the work that I do as a part of Alliance India. People like Manoj are proof that you do not need to be living with HIV or be a part of the vulnerable community to work for this cause. You just need empathy towards the cause and belief in yourself. He has shown to the world that one person can lead the path to a better tomorrow. He epitomizes the character a leader should have. And, I am proud that I know him, and appreciate his teachings that one’s integrity is reason enough to continue ones’ work. Service to human being is service to god, and this is what I take from this exceptional leader. Thank You Manoj!”

The author of this post is Raaj Chauhan, Technical Officer: Monitoring & Evaluation for Alliance India

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