“In the past, she has got around half a dozen small awards, and every paisa she donated to her cause. Even the prize money from Magsaysay Award will go to Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan (BNGVN),” an elated father Chandrashekhar Mishra declared.
The award carries a purse of $50,000 (Rs.22 lakh).
The third of his four children, Mishra said that the family and the entire town of Bahadarpur with a population of around 10,000 is ‘proud that her selfless social service has been accorded international recognition’.
Mishra will accompany Nileema to the Phillipines – her first foreign trip – for the award ceremony. The duo will leave from Mumbai on August 24.
Mishra said that since her early childhood, when she was less than ten years old, Nileema had made a name for herself in the neighbourhood by her outgoing and helpful nature.
“She had this passion, or craze you may call, for helping people, sometimes by sacrificing her own time and resources, making her a very popular figure in the town,” Mishra said.
When she went to Pune to complete her Master’s in clinical psychology, Nileema came in contact with children of well-known personalities, Mishra said.
Though Nileema hailed from a middle-class rural background, it was her helpful nature that made her instantly popular. Her resolve at the age of 13 not to get married and to devote herself to rural social work was strengthened when she travelled all over India while working with an NGO, Vigyan Ashram, near Pune, for eight years after graduation.
“Even today, many of her old classmates and friends, some of whom belong to the biggest industrial or political families in the state, treat her affectionately. ‘Do not give charity and make people dependent. Instead, make them self-sufficent and independent to face life,’ – they always advised her, and she heeded them. They are ready to spend any amount for making people self-reliant and stand on their feet. Her work is proof of it,” Mishra explained.
The knowledge that she acquired from her domestic travels prompted her to set up the BNGVN, which is today a force to reckon with in rural Maharashtra.
Originally from Uttar Pradesh, the Mishras are settled in Maharashtra since seven generations.At home, we speak Hindi with a lot of Marathi words thrown in,” Mishra laughed.
Nileema’s mother Nirupama hails from Kanpur, while her two sisters are married and settled in Nashik and Pune.
Their only brother Shailendra is an area manager with a Pune-based pharmaceutical company, currently based in Mehsana, Gujarat.