We were devastated when on Sunday 28 November 2022 four of our team were involved in a tragic car accident on their way back from Bangladesh. While three of our team are on the road to recovery, tragically Vishal Ahire who was travelling in the front passenger seat died at the scene.
The team of four had played a major role in organizing our Sadbhavana Cycle Rally which saw a core team of around 80 cyclists joined by many more en route as they travelled through five states from Ahmednagar Fort to reach the Bangladesh border. There a smaller team of 11, including Vishal, continued to Noakhali in Bangladesh. The cycle rally was a huge success in spreading goodwill and exposing all involved to different cultures, languages, nature, social issues and inspirations, thanks in no small part to the efforts and enthusiasm of Vishal. He learnt so much and was excited to build on the success of his experience and learning upon his return to Snehalaya. You can read more about the success of the cycle rally he created here.
28-year-old Vishal first came to Snehalaya when he was just six years old. He was with his mother who was HIV+ and had been brought to our hospital for treatment, unfortunately, we were unable to save her and she sadly died a short time later. From the moment he entered our Rehab Center, Vishal was drawn in by the laughter of the children living here and was quick to join in with their games. He threw himself into our activities and when his mother passed away he briefly went back to his hometown of Srirampur to bring his two-year-old brother to also live under the care of Snehalaya. Vishal was a loving older brother to Manoj, dedicated to ensuring his success and he did an excellent job, 24-year-old Manoj is now a highly successful table-tennis coach at Radiance Academy in Pune.
Despite some tragic experiences in his youth, including one that changed the course of his life, Vishal flourished into a kind and caring young man. When Humans of Bombay shared his experiences as a child, we were inspired to also tell his story, including a tragic accident that could have steered the young Vishal down a very dangerous path. Made for a competition, and starring the children living in our Rehab Center at the time, the film’s duration was limited to three minutes and merely skims the surface of this dynamic young man’s life. But what shines through in Vishal’s own words is his motivation to inspire people facing adverse situations. He was proof that anyone can turn their life around no matter what.
He certainly did this himself and, when he reached 18, he chose to work for Snehalaya. Starting in our accounts team and studying social work and then a masters in political science he became a much loved leader as project coordinator for our Yuva Nirman project. There he was able to inspire the thousands of youths who live, volunteer, visit and work with us. He was responsible for connecting with young people through our twice-yearly youth camps and keeping in touch to mentor them in working for society and setting up their own organisations, inspired by Snehalaya's projects and mission.
Vishal was always ready to help where most needed. During the pandemic, he worked night and day on our Mission Rahat, distributing food and supplies to thousands of daily-wage workers and greeting thousands more migrant workers at our roadside centers. The hours were long but his drive to help those in their hour of need drove him on. As the second wave of COVID in India subsided, floods devastated western Maharashtra and it was Vishal who led a team to be first on the scene to help those worst affected.
Vishal always had a smile and time for everyone and was always ready to help which made him a hugely popular member of the Snehalaya family. We are incredibly proud of all of our son, brother and friend’s achievements with us and know that he too was very happy and proud of his work, especially in his final role of making the #Snehalayacycleyatra happen. While we remain extremely shocked and incredibly saddened by his tragic death and miss him so much we are determined that his legacy will live on.
Sleep well Vishal, you will always be remembered with deep love and affection.
This video is a small tribute to Vishal with just a few of the many highlights of an amazing final journey of #goodwill.