Meet UnCaste India's Leader
T. Ravi Kumar and the Association of Relief Volunteers
T. Ravi Kumar is the founder and secretary of the Association of Relief Volunteers (ARV), whose vision is to create a society where the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable communities are made aware of their rights and are empowered to access their entitlements and natural resources.
Since ARV's inception in 2001, Ravi has mobilized more than 300 international volunteers in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. He has also created ties with several renowned national and international NGOs to create a grassroots level network committed to improving the status of the poorest of the poor. ARV’s work mainly focuses on Dalit or tribal communities, the lowest members of the politically abolished but still socially practiced caste system in India. Although it has been more than 50 years since the ratification of the Indian constitution declaring all Indian citizens equal, many remain forgotten by the government. Ravi's approach in helping these communities is very unique in that he goes directly into beleaguered and discriminated villages and becomes an expert in the issues they face. This has made him successful in precisely articulating their needs and, in turn, gaining financial support from the Indian government.
Building Communities, Creating Coalitions
Today, Ravi hopes to expand ARV’s message further than ever before on the international stage. His link with U.S.-based NPO Longitude has provided ARV with international volunteers, financial and programmatic support. Additionally, it has raised the profile of the organization in India and abroad. ARV hosts an average of three volunteer work camps annually in which international volunteers travel to villages and work alongside masons and first-time home-owners to create stable permanent homes, among other tasks. Ravi hopes that further exposure outside of India, particularly in developed nations with well-established volunteer communities, will help to increase funding, work camps and help him develop new visions for how to carry his work onward.
Ravi has become a pivotal member of many social action groups in India such as Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), Habitat for Humanity, HOPE (Helping Organization for Poor and Exploited), Andhra Pradesh Dalit Bahujan Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (a Dalit Human Rights Union). As part of his work with the Food First Information Action Network (FIAN), he was able to secure funding to implement the Children's Feeding Center in two Dalit villages. Additionally, he was invited to speak about the Dalit people and their plight in Andhra Pradesh at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome in 2007. Combining a personal knowledge of Dalit communities, a passionate dedication to the people and incredible leadership skills, Ravi is a formidable defender of the Dalit cause. He is someone whom authorities cannot help but listen to and work with to acknowledge the communities they have ignored in the past.