The story of ‘a good man’

As a child, Naveen Kumar and his late father Rambhaju, dreamed one day Naveen would become a respected leader. Against all odds, Naveen has done that. Today he is having a powerful impact on the lives of students in his village in India.

Naveen is an inspiration. He excelled in school and attended college. He founded an empowerment program. He created a system of instruction in Hindi, English, mathematics, and computers for approximately 100 students in his one-room coaching center. Among his first group of 12 students, eight students secured first division in the matriculation examination.

Naveen’s determination to help others overcome learning difficulties can be traced to his own struggles in math. Because he knows what it is like to both fail and succeed, he welcomes the challenge of teaching other students who are struggling and finds joy in watching them excel.

Naveen Kumar has known the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth all his life and is actively paying his success forward by founding tutoring and enrichment classes for students in his village. He says he was inspired to do so after being educated and cared for by the Sisters. He is pictured with his wife and child.

Naveen does not give up. He and his family have overcome many obstacles. Naveen’s father, Rambhaju, suffered from bad health and was often too weak to work. At those times, he visited Nazareth Hospital in Mokama and the Sisters would give him food. Nirmala Mulackal, SCN, fondly remembers Naveen’s father as an intelligent man with a grateful heart. She recalls, “Rambhaju had a sense of humor and high self-esteem.” Adding he was light-hearted and would enjoy a joke even on himself. The administrator of the convent, Sarala Anithottathil, SCN, offered Rambhaju a job which allowed him the opportunity to support himself and to raise a family.

Rambhaju and his wife had a daughter, Sunita, and a son, Naveen. As a child, Naveen was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Naveen’s sister, meanwhile, faced an arranged marriage as it was the custom of the area. Sisters helped Rambhaju with both Naveen and Sunita. Both Naveen and Sunita knew their father valued education. Naveen, in particular, enjoyed his studies, and though he struggled with health issues, he did well in school. With frequent health crises, Naveen’s family struggled to sometimes make ends meet. Because of lack of transportation, Naveen had to walk a distance daily to reach school. Realizing the many obstacles the family faced, Mercy Thundathil, SCN, administrator of Nazareth Convent arranged for Naveen to stay closer to the school, and he continued to flourish. A generous donor from Ohio sent a monthly donation to cover the cost of Naveen’s education and care and was thrilled to hear how Naveen was excelling in his studies.

Watch a video clip online of Naveen with Cassie Castell, SCN, when he was in the seventh grade. He explains to her how he wants to become, “a good man” when he is older.

One foggy January morning in 2000, as Naveen’s father was walking to work at the convent, he was hit by a truck and died. Naveen did not want to return to school after his father’s death. Sister Mercy strongly encouraged him and he did go back to school to complete his studies. Sister Mercy then helped enroll him in St. Xavier’s High School, with housing in the hostel. Patsy O’Toole, director of the Office of Mission Advancement, remembers meeting Naveen at this time. She and Cassilda Castell, SCN, asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and expected him to say a teacher, doctor, or some other profession. Instead, Naveen immediately responded, “a good man.”

Despite all he faced, Naveen finished high school and advanced to study at a government college. He rode his bicycle for two miles daily to a railway station to board a train to college. During this period, Sister Mercy helped Naveen to build a better home, a one-room concrete house to replace his family’s hut.

Naveen offers a variety of instruction, including computer classes, to over 100 students in his village.

After completing a two-year-degree at college and a one-year computer course at the Don Bosco Industrial Training Institute, Naveen worked for a few years away from home. Eventually, he longed to be near family again and returned to his sister’s village. He began to cultivate vegetables on leased land for a living. With his profits, he added a room to his one-room house in Mokama and completed his undergraduate studies. Naveen is now married and has a child.

In 2015, Naveen started a coaching center for students in his village. Before Naveen started the center, students had to travel a long distance to Mokama for coaching classes, especially in computer science. Naveen wanted to offer classes closer to the village. Since he could not afford to purchase new computers, he approached Sister Mercy for two used computers. Nazareth Academy, Gaya, one of the schools run by the Sisters, donated the computers.

Naveen talks of the Sisters with such love, describing Sister Mercy as his guardian. Sister Mercy has been there for him and has helped with his education and upbringing. Naveen says he is proud to be achieving what he and his father had once dreamed, to become a respected leader and a good man. Now he is trying to give back to others. “I am educated by the Sisters and I, in turn, would like to educate 100 children free of cost,” says Naveen. He adds he hopes to also donate enough money to cover the cost of the Sisters educating another child in need, about $150. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are proud of Naveen and how he is working to pay it forward.