As a young boy growing up in Delhi, Umeed Foundation, Chairman Arvind Khanna loved hearing stories of Punjab from his parents. Stories of lush fields, with abundant crops, colourful harvest festivals, with young boys and girls dancing and singing in fields and strapping Punjabi youth proving their mettle in sports. Punjab seemed like a place straight out of a Hindi film for him.
After studying in Delhi till the age of 14, Arvind left for England for his higher education. On his return in 1995, Arvind visited Punjab to discover his roots. He travelled the length and breadth of the state and what he saw left him shocked. Years of terrorism had wrecked havoc in the state. The condition of some districts was appalling and far removed from the image of a prosperous Punjab that Arvind had cherished in his mind.
Though it is widely believed that Punjab is largely well-off, there are some districts like Sangrur where people have suffered from repeated division of land holdings and absence of any real source of employment. Ignored at the time by both planners and institutional service providers, the poor in Sangrur fell off the state’s development map and no one seemed to notice. Arvind was shocked to see the condition of the local marginalised communities and decided to do something about it. Thus was born the vision of Umeed Foundation.
In 1997, Arvind identified Sangrur district as the most impoverished in Punjab and embarked on working for the uplift of its people. Over the years, Umeed has become a lifeline and a ray of hope for the rural underprivileged. Today, the NGO boasts of covering over 550 villages through its various healthcare and social empowerment programmes.