While trekking near his village Pamohi in Kamrup district, Assam, Uttam Teron spotted a few children playing with water and mud. He wondered why these children weren’t at school.

“When I saw the life that they were leading, disconnected from the mainstream, I asked their parents to send their children to my home,” recalls the 47-year-old.

For this, he turned the cowshed in his home into a classroom and started teaching the kids for free. Soon after, more parents started sending their children to Uttam’s school.

With just Rs 800 in his pocket, four students, and a cowshed with bamboo walls for a classroom, Uttam established his non-profit school called ‘Parijat Academy’ in 2003.

Today, the school imparts free education to nearly 400 children from 20 villages. Children from remote villages of the Assam–Meghalaya border are provided accommodation in the hostel that has a capacity of 60.

“When I started this school, I thought that it would continue for just 2-3 years, and then I would enrol the children in government schools,” he says.

“But seeing the belief of parents from low-income groups, I felt responsible and started opening more classrooms instead,” adds Uttam.

The school is affiliated with the Assam state board and imparts education to children from nursery till Class 10.

Built on Uttam’s ancestral property of a 20,000 sq ft area, where he resides as well, the school has a library, skill development centres, and a computer lab. The children are also trained in learning computers, sewing, sports, and dance.

Fun activities including theatre, survival training camps, trekking trips, and skill development classes, make Uttam’s academy a popular choice for children.

“We focus on skill development so that they get trained for livelihood opportunities,” he says.

For his selfless work, Uttam has been awarded the CNN IBN Real Heroes Award 2011, the Karmayogi Award from Lions Club, and recognised by the Rotary Club of Dispur in 2015.

“I do not earn profit from this. But this work gives me happiness worth a million dollars. If these underprivileged kids get educated, they could live a life of dignity and secure the future of their next generation, and so on,” he adds.