You’ve seen impoverished children begging on the streets. You’ve probably even given them some food or money, out of pity. But have you ever wondered what these kids could achieve in life if only they were given a real opportunity?

Jayavel’s story is testament to the fact that sometimes all one needs is a chance. The 22-year-old grew up begging on the streets of Chennai, but today, after completing a course at Cambridge University, he’s all set to leave for another in Italy.

Back in the 1980s, after their crops were destroyed, Jayavel’s family was forced to shift from Nellore (Andhra Pradesh) to Chennai. With no source of income, the family had to resort to begging on the streets. Jayavel too had to beg to fetch food and money for his family. The struggle intensified after his father died when he was young and his mother took to drinking. In an interview with India Today, Jayavel said:

“We used to sleep on one such pavement. If it would rain, we would try to find other shelter in any nearby shop until the cops came and chased us out of there.”

The turning point came when Uma Muthuraman of Suyam Trust spotted Jayavel and offered to help. Uma, along with her husband, was working on a project about the lives of children on the streets of Chennai when they met Jayavel. Initially, Jayavel and his family were hesitant but finally in 1999, Uma succeeded in taking him under her wings. He was then admitted into a school. 

Jayavel’s life had taken a turn for the better and he made the best use of the opportunity.

He scored well in his 12th standard examinations and later cleared Cambridge University’s entrance as well. He got himself a seat in Glyndwr University in Wales, and studied ‘Performance Car Enhancement Technology Engineering’, a course that deals with enhancing performance of race cars.

Jayavel is now going to Italy for further studies and is a role model for anyone who wants to make it big in life!