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Suneetha Lakhamraju gets the prestigious 'People Choice Award'
You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a Nobel Prize winner to bring about a change or to do something revolutionary. If you really want to make a change, all you need is immense determination and the will to push through. You have to be like the wonderfully strong willed woman Suneetha Lakhamraju, who is making a huge difference to society.

Suneetha Lakhamraju, a housewife, started an NGO called Maruthi Mahila Society (MMS) that has done pioneering social work in the red light areas of Guntur district. She is also doing yeoman service to the rag pickers in that district. Suneetha Lakhamraju has actually started AP's first childhood care centre network for children of women working in red light areas and child rag pickers. 

A crusader for the welfare of destitute children, Suneetha Lakhamraju was recognized repeatedly for her outstanding services to the society. To honour her services, The Journalist magazine, on Friday presented her with the prestigious "People's Choice Award" at Vijayawada. 

Gordon Bitner Hinckley, an American author, said, "The happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others." As the author said, Suneetha Lakhamraju, is now a happy social worker who sacrificed her own resources and career in the service of destitute people. 

The kind-hearted Suneetha Lakhamraju started her social service activities in the name of Maruthi Mahila Society (MMS) in 1988 with her hard-earned savings. 

"At that time, I didn't have any goals. But after seeing the plight of prostitutes, their children and rag pickers, I decided to serve them. In the beginning, I voluntarily went to the Anganvadi centres where these children were coming to study, and started to teach them about the importance of good personal hygiene habits including: washing the body often, washing hands with soap before preparing and / or eating food. Later I collected old garments and toys from my family and friends and distributed them to these children," she said. 

Although prostitution is illegal in India, there are millions of unfortunate girls who are forced into it. Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh is the largest flesh trade centre in the state. Suneetha Lakhamraju once read a news article about the miserable lives of prostitutes in the area and decided to work for the betterment of these 'cursed' women living in shame.

"In the beginning my family members and friends discouraged and objected to my plan. But I patiently explained them the sufferings of prostitutes and their children. First I stated my work at Mangalagiri area, where my team first identified the HIV suffers and their children," she added. 

"We advocated the importance of condoms and asked them to insist that the customers wear them. Now MMS alone, with the help of APSACS, distributes nearly 70,000 condoms every month. Apart from that, MMS distributes nutritional food to hundreds of HIV patients. MMS has set up several childhood care centres with the help of AP Social Welfare Board for supporting the marginalized children in slum areas," she explains. 

Suneetha Lakhamraju is also helping rag pickers and their children by operating child care centres and skill training centres for women. 

"A ragpicker, despite doing work that benefits the municipality and society at large is condemned to live a very insecure existence," she said. 

But with the help of Suneeta's Maruthi Mahila Society many rag pickers have come out of their dirty business and learned job oriented skills. Later with the support of NABARD and PPI several orphans along with many rag pickers settled in various small jobs. Last year, TATA trust chose eight societies, including MMS, for construction of toilets in Krishna district. Only MMS has achieved the accomplishment in record time and got an appreciation letter from the District Collector. 

Social workers are a part of the few who do care. They care about social injustices committed every day, across the globe – behind closed doors and out in the open. They are the ones who care enough to believe they can make the world a better place. Unless someone like Suneetha Lakhamraju cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. 

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