Struggling through school as a self-supporting student, Vatwani successfully completed his medical studies in psychiatry at Grant Medical College and at G.S. Medical College & Hospital, both in Mumbai.
Dr. Vatwani and his wife started an informal operation of bringing mentally-ill street persons to their private clinic for treatment, leading them to establish Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation in 1988, aimed at rescuing mentally-ill persons living on the streets; providing free shelter, food, and psychiatric treatment; and reuniting them with their families.
Their rescue work has been aided by the police, social workers, and referrals. Shraddha’s free custodial care and treatment ranges from personal hygiene, medical check-ups, psychiatric treatment, to appropriate medication—all done in the open, healing environment of the Karjat facility.
In electing Bharat Vatwani to receive the 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes “his tremendous courage and healing compassion in embracing India’s mentally-afflicted destitute, and his steadfast and magnanimous dedication to the work of restoring and affirming the human dignity of even the most ostracized in our midst.”
Harnessing nature, culture and education for community progress
- He was a 19-year-old engineering student at the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar, Kashmir, when he went into tutoring to finance his schooling and help woefully unprepared students pass the national college matriculation exams
- In 1988, after earning his engineering degree, Wangchuk founded Students’ Education and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) and started coaching Ladakhi student, 95% of whom used to fail the government exams.
- In 1994, with Wangchuk in the lead, “Operation New Hope” (ONH) was launched to expand and consolidate the partnership-driven educational reform program. Taking a life of its own, to date ONH has trained 700 teachers, 1000 VEC leaders, and dramatically increased the success rate of students in matriculation exams from just 5% in 1996 to 75% by 2015.
- In electing Sonam Wangchuk to receive the 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes “his uniquely systematic, collaborative and community-driven reform of learning systems in remote northern India, thus improving the life opportunities of Ladakhi youth, and his constructive engagement of all sectors in local society to harness science and culture creatively for economic progress, thus setting an example for minority peoples in the world.”