A pair of dumbbells hits the floor as Tipu Azad finishes a set of chest presses. The disciplined 22-year-old, a former sponsored child, works out most mornings at the gym, moving from one machine to the next in a circuit-training plan.
It’s a utilitarian space — more like a boxing gym than L.A. Fitness — that matches the feel of his no-frills neighborhood in southeast Delhi. Most families here live in poverty, but enough have crossed an economic threshold to where they, like Tipu, have some disposable income to pay for a gym membership.
After finishing his workout, Tipu strolls through the maze of narrow concrete streets back to his home. With a haircut modeled after soccer star David Beckham and a cell phone in his pocket that captures frequent selfies, he waves hello to neighbors and friends he passes.
He shares a four-story home with five brothers, one sister, and their parents, who brought the family to Delhi in 1995 from Bhojpur, a small city in Bihar state about 620 miles away.
An unexpected byproduct of their move: access to World Vision’s presence in Delhi, which has helped each family member flourish. Eldest brother Saddham was sponsored at age 5; now 23, he’s a graphic designer. Sixteen-yearold Amir still has a sponsor in the U.S.
World Vision’s economic empowerment programs also helped transform the family’s future. Because they had tailoring experience, Tipu’s parents, Nasima and Mohammad, received sewing machines to start a business from their home. Their workshop is now a hub of activity with two sewing machines that barely rest. “The entire neighborhood are our customers,” Nasima says with a laugh.
Tipu was sponsored at age 7. But as a younger teenager, he got involved with the wrong crowd — skipping school, loitering, and teasing girls. All that changed when he began spending more time with staff at World Vision’s center in his neighborhood. “It was a mindset shift,” he says. “It’s about taking negative things and making them positive.”
It was a mindset shift. It’s about taking negative things and making them positive.—Tipu Azad
All seven siblings have embraced a variety of World Vision programs and workshops. Children’s clubs help them develop leadership skills and a passion for helping others; self-defense training for Heena, the only daughter in the family, inspires confidence; drama performances teach creative expression. Even the library at the World Vision center shaped Tipu’s future by stimulating his appetite for books. He became a regular visitor, checking out novels, biographies, fables, and language instruction books.
Because of his transformative experience as a sponsored child, Tipu started volunteering for a local nonprofit organization in 2011. Soon, he was hired as a full-time staff member in their South Delhi office, teaching children about health, how to respect their parents, social and emotional learning, sports, and the importance of education.
“There are small kids — 6 and 7 years old — smoking, drinking, stealing, not going to school,” he says — ample opportunity for him to make a difference in their lives.
Every day, he facilitates two two-hour sessions for local children. Today, a dozen kids form a circle in the neighborhood park, and Tipu leads them in a song about good hygiene habits before playing a few games and working on soccer skills. The sessions are a hodgepodge of educational activities and games, and through it all Tipu builds trust and reinforces that he’s available for the kids whenever they need him.
He’s proud to be a leader in his community. “A train has both cars and an engine,” he says. “A lot of people say they want to be leaders, but not many do.”
Inspired by a World Vision staff member, several years ago Tipu switched the focus of his college studies from communications to social work, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2016. He’s now working toward a master’s in social work.
Exhausted from the two kids’ sessions and his own coursework, Tipu ends the day with his siblings. They crowd into their parents’ workshop, joking and talking over one another. Bolstered by their affection and care for each other, the tight-knit family has shone their warmth outward into their community.
“We want two things for our kids,” says their father, reading glasses perched on his nose. “Character — that they be soft-spoken, behave in the proper way, and have good manners. And studying — that they will do something and stand on their own two feet.”
With World Vision’s help and encouragement, Tipu has fulfilled his father’s hopes — and he’s helping other children reach their own potential.