Monday, December 8, 2008

Sewa Sandesh 114: December 8, 2008

From Editor’s Desk
Some of the projects in Bharat have reached out to the real needy, may be in villages or tribal areas, may be in urban slums, and have excelled in providing them the right kind of Sewa that enables the beneficiaries to be self reliant. We had a young volunteer from UK visiting one of such projects located in Gujarat known as Dr. Ambedkar Vanvasi Kalyan Trust which is trying to serve the tribal population as well as the socially backward castes in South Gujarat. We are producing the report on the project in two parts and the impressions of the young volunteer that speaks volumes for the project.
While we expect more and more young volunteers from abroad to come to Bharat and join one or the other Sewa projects, we are trying our best to present our readers with good reports from such exemplary projects. We hope you enjoy reading these and join hands in this noble cause.

Seva Bharati Meghalaya Starts A Library Project In Meghalaya
On Monday, 1st Dec. 2008, Seva Bharati Meghalaya handed over a set of books (library) to the Seng Khasi Riwar School.
The Library Project is sponsored by Akshar Bharati, Pune. The main objective of this project is to provide a channel to the school children through which they could be aware of the literary world.
All the students were present in the function. The Chairman, Secretary and other members of managing committee were also present. Smt. Mira Dkhar, one of the renowned personalities of Shillong addressed the function and told about the reading habit and its advantages. Books of various kinds donated by Akshar Bharati include story books, ancient epic stories like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Science stories, and other books which attract and enhance curiosity of children.
Shri Jefree Khonglam, a teacher by profession, delivered a speech. He told the students that it was the golden opportunity in the vacation to upgrade knowledge. The function was concluded with national song. This library is open for students from 10 December, 2008.

Akshar Bharati Reaches Out With Its Community-Libraries To The Local Kids In Pune, Maharashtra
Driven by a strong desire to help the underprivileged sections of the society, a few engineers from Symantec in Pune started an initiative known as Akshar Bharati. The driving idea behind it was to give something back to the society by setting up small size community library in areas which do not have proper library to cater to the hunger of reading of the local kids. The libraries were to also act as a catalyst in development of the children, help them become good citizens and contribute to the development of the country.
Akshar Bharati libraries are very low cost community libraries. Each of the libraries contains 500 to 1000 books that require just one bookshelf occupying about three square foot of area. Akshar Bharti does not expect a separate room or staff for the library and it could be operated from any office, home or room where the space of keeping the shelf is available.
Akshar Bharati collaborated with various NGOs, who help in running the library on a day to day basis. The activity of raising funds, and organizing various activities at the libraries on a regular basis, was taken up by the Akshar Bharati volunteers. Going by the way it has grown in the last one year, this method has been pretty successful.
Akshar Bharati has gone through an elaborate process to fine tune the list of books provided to the library. The books provided are brand new, colorful, in English as well as in Marathi, and include story books, activity books, biographies, science books etc. The books are rich in content and presentation.
Akshar Bharati was started on 19th of April, 2007 and within a year has set up over 55 libraries with more than 45,000 books around various parts of Pune. A volunteer force of about fifty engineers, Akshar Bharati manages to get things done in the arena of identifying the NGO, identifying the books, procurement, fund collection, cataloging of the books, setting up the libraries, consolidating the feedback received and many more things which come in the operational aspect.
Seva Sahayog has been instrumental in providing the back office support to Akshar Bharati in terms of managing the accounts as well as helping in the networking with various NGOs. Under the guidance of Seva Sahayog, Akshar Bharati has been very successful in running this project.

Training camp of Ekal Vidyalaya full timers
A training camp of full timers of Ekal Vidyalaya scheme was held at Pittapuram Shakti Peetham, Podagaya in Andhra Pradesh from October 14 to 18. A total of 30 workers participated in the camp. Sri M. Bhikshamaiah, Ekal Kshetra Prashikshan Pramukh, Sri H. Veeranna, Ekal Kshetra Vyavastha Pramukh, Sri R. Papaiah Sharma, Prant Yojna Pramukh and Kumari Madhu Mohan guided the workers on various topics.

( Continued… )
Case Study-1
Balubhai Gamit
LLB student: 2004-2006
Currently works as an advocate in a renowned law firm.

Balubhai is originally from Sakardar Thalukuchar, a small district in north Gujarat with a population of around 2000. The district is categorized as a tribal area; his family worked in agriculture and they were not in a position to afford his educational expenses. Balubhai had wanted to be a lawyer right from his young age, and therefore was adamant to come to Surat to study. After many enquiries he met a karyakarta through his local shakha who introduced to him the Dr Ambedkar Trust. He made all his applications to the university in Surat and after securing a place at his chosen university, he was admitted into the hostel. He took an active role in the hostel and was given various responsibilities, and was definitely kept busy. When asked if he could say a few things about his time at the hostel, he said:
‘It was brilliant. When a man has a dream and he cannot achieve it, he is broken. But when I got the chance to stay at the hostel, it meant that my dreams were fulfilled, and, look at where I am now!’
Computer Classes
The computer classes are held at the Dr Ambedkar Trust twice a day. They are being run by volunteers who are trained in computers and have a good amount of experience in the industry. The classes are designed to be tuition classes. There are roughly 12-16 students per class, and the classes are obviously free of charge.
The typical student that attends the class is between year 7 and 10 at school, and is from a slum area. They are taught computer use basics and programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel, as well as programs such as Coraldraw.
Whilst asking the students about their experiences of the class, it became clear to me that the students really enjoyed them. They possessed a genuine interest in computers, which makes it easy for the teacher to teach and the student to pick up any new information very quickly. One student was in year 7 of school, and at the time was making an excellent Powerpoint presentation on the Dr Ambedkar Vanvasi Kalyan Trust. That presentation will now be used in informing people of the activities that the trust does.

Case study-2
Dipakbhai Khambhe
Attended the computer class on a regular basis.
Has a part time job doing office/clerical work in a office stationary firm.
Lives in a slum area.
Dipakbhai attended the class for 3 years prior to him getting the job at the stationary firm. He has grown up on the slum area on which he lives and came to know of the Dr Ambedkar Trust through karyakartas coming to his area. His mother was getting worried about the activities that he was getting involved in and was worried that he would go in the same direction as many of his friends – into a life of crime and poverty. She pushed him to attend these classes as he was thoroughly enjoying studying computers at school. through the classes he got to know more about the organisation, came in to contact with more karyakartas, who in turn happened to be his present employers.
At his current job he works for a few hours everyday after school. Dipakbhais’ employers pay him a fair wage, which means that he can continue at school for longer – he does not have to drop out to support his family like many other children in his area. He aspires to be able to study for as long as possible and hopefully entering the IT sector in future.
The library opened officially 5 years ago, in 2003. It houses around 2000 books, including reference books and a large variety of other books. Entrance is based upon memberships. Membership fees are nominal charges to prevent any sort of misuse – 50rs/ a year for the library, 125rs/ a year for the reading rooms.
The majority of the users are very local – within a few kilometres of the library. Many people from slum areas come to use the library, to use the usually unaffordable reference books and the study space available.
The library also conducts various programs to kep the local community active and to keep the community spirit alive. Recently, an essay competition was created for all students. The topic was ‘An introduction to my samskaars’. Each essay had to be over 1000 words in length, and of a good quality of writing – written or typed, in any language. Many essays were received, and the winner was given a small prize in a presentation held at the trust.

Case Study-3
Rajalben Chapaneria
Lives 1 km away from the trust.
Has 2 children
Rajalben is a tutor for primary school students in her area. Her passion for reading started from a very early age, and ever since she has been into contact with the trust. She has read so many books and she also uses her hobby to expand her choices to teach the students.
She attends the library around twice a week, and is very active in all aspects of life at the trust. Every year, the library sets up a helpline for students and parents of students who, under the pressure of examinations, become depressed or overly stressed. Rajalben volunteers every year to participate in this helpline, and she also counsel’s students and teacher one to one.
She has also expanded her friend circle greatly. Through the libraries’ activities, she has met many other like minded people who also love to read.
When asked about any special incidents she can recall, she replied:
‘Once there was a public speaking event, in which members could come and speak on a subject they like. I went up, and having previously had serious stage fright, found myself confidently talking on stage about the importance of all round education!’
The library has also come into use for her children. The fact that she can take home books meant that she is able to pass on her passion of reading to her children.
Self Reliant Classes
There are a variety of short term courses available for anyone who is interested. These classes are designed to give the members a skill set so that they can start their own businesses and become self sufficient to improve their socio-economic conditions.
Various courses are offered, and are open to both males and females. Courses vary from Tailoring to mobiles, electrical repairs and candle making. Over 2852 people have come through 124 different classes.
Most people attending these classes are from slum areas. The females who attend are usually just housewives and by coming to these short term courses, they are able to generate a second stream of income for the family through which they are able to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.
Many of the males that attend the classes usually work as unskilled labourers, and therefore by attending these classes are able to raise their level of income.
The different classes that are available are shown below:

As well as just educating people, these classes also bring people together. It brings together new groups of tailorers, electricians, and jewellery makers. People also set up partnerships in business with the new skills they have learnt, and by which they help each other out.
Ahwa Dang
The Dang area is categorized as a Tribal area. Much of it is ‘Jungle’ – untouched greenery and nature at its best. Ahwa is fairly high above sea level, and therefore is naturally hard to reach. It is only in the past few years that proper roads and electricity have been taken to the area.
In Dang, the population is around 186,782; however, much of this population is still illiterate. Education is given a low priority. Instead, children are encouraged to help on the farms along with their parents.
‘Sevadham’ is built on 15000 sq metres of land, just outside of Ahwa. It has a capacity to house around 100 students, providing for their food and accommodation. Sevadham is set to prove to be vital for the communities of Ahwa. It has been seen that already before completion it has provided accomodation to 10 students studying in Ahwa itself. It is becoming a centre for many seva projects around the district.
Currently, there are 20 students living at the hostel facilites. All the students are studying at colleges in Ahwa for various courses.
One seva project being conducted is helping the farmers of the area considerably. Agriculture experts are being brought into the area, and they conduct regular meetings with the farmers, and educate them on how to make most efficient use of their land. They are also helping them improve their crop diversity by giving them different types of seeds to grow in the different seasons, and teaching them how best to plant them. One farmer in particular was given seeds to grow watermelon. On his small farm he earned 15,000 Rs. in that season considerably more than his income from other crops. There are many other seva projects to be set up in the area very soon.
They are listed below:

Whilst I was there I went out with a local karyakarta to the villages surrounding Ahwa. We first visited a family, whose son had gone been to Ahwa to study, and had stayed at Sevadham. When asked about his experiences at the hostel, he sincerely replied that Sevadham had given him the chance to study and help his community and family to maintain a better standard of living. He is currently doing government work in his village. Without studying, he would not have been able to get that job. On a typical day, he would leave for college at 7.30am, Start College at 8, and finish by 1pm. He would spend the rest of the day studying, doing basic duties at the hostel, and any community service he feels necessary.
He had also taken part in the great Sabri Kumbh that took place in 2006. He recalls with great affection that he was given the oppurtunity to go in the procession as Shri Ram Bhagwans brother, Laxman.
The Ahwa Dang project is a large scale project, and in my opinion, will be a huge success if utilised properly. The surrounding areas are relatively untouched – literacy levels are low, and poverty levels are high. Sevadham will be able to provide the confidence to the people of Dang so that they can lift themselves from any difficulties they have to face.

Conclusion: Dr Ambedkar Vanvasi Kalyan Trust is expanding in numerous ways. It is spreading its sphere of influence into all areas, and I feel that the work that the trust is doing is brilliant. It has built itself a solid foundation and has built upon it, and using the great idealologies it works upon, the Trust is making and is destined to make a massive difference in the weaker section of the society. It has very dedicated workers who are making the whole thing work. The trust is now spreading further into the tribal areas through the Sevadham project, and it would be great to see many more ‘Sevadham style’ projects opening up in other tribal areas and taking the great work it does in Surat to the tribal areas. The tribal areas urgently need a push in the areas of education and health, and in turn, the burden on the bigger cities like Surat will ease off and the slum areas will be taken care of. Likewise, the problem of the slum areas in the cities can also be improved on by education. The government healthcare system in Surat is now of a better quality, especially with the introduction of the ‘108’ service. What needs to be concentrated on now is the education that the new generations coming out of the slum areas are getting. Once the weaker section of the society is given a push in the right direction, the slum areas will soon be a thing of the past, and the whole society will move forward significantly. -- By Ashish Chokshi

Meet Shri Ravishankar, B.Sc (Agriculture) graduate of Annamalai University (Chidambatram) . He belongs to a family of agriculturists of Poondiyankuppam village near Cuddalore (Tamilnadu, Bharat).. He got an employment as manager in a garden designing concern in Singapore. While employed there, he finished his MBA at Wales University, London. He visited his native village in 2006 after a long stay abroad. He found the sea change all around. Industrialization had destroyed the sylvan rural ambience; the wealth of cattle was conspicuously absent. His own ancestral farm that had over 50 cows, was barren. The scene prompted Ravishankar to stay back in his village with a view to revive the cattle wealth. As a first step, he launched a Milk Producers Cooperative. Locals joined it. He struck a deal with the state government-owned milk distribution society Aavin and ensured milk procurement. That made many, who were toying with the idea of selling their cows thinking that it was uneconomical, to change their mind. Next, he established a goshala at a cost of 17 lakh rupees. He procured high yield cows from several sources. For fodder, he cultivated grass on 3 acres of land that he bought for the purpose. His ultimate target is to improve the prosperity of his village by augmenting copious milk production.
S S Srinivasa Thatham of Tiruchy has donated blood 138 times and tops the list in the state of Tamilnadu (Bharat). "Blood donation is the greatest sacrifice as a `relationship' is established between the donor and the recipient," he says. "It is medically proved that blood donors do not contract any disease including heart attack. See, I am 60 and I have never gone to any hospital except to donate blood. Still I am healthy." He appeals to youngsters to donate blood at least on their birthdays. Thatham, winner of the Good Samaritan Award, recalls the year when he first donated blood - 1973, for a child. But it was a different experience on July 9, 1975, on the eve of his wedding. "It was a serious call from a recipient and so had I to donate." That was the third occasion and he has not looked back. "I always slept soundly on the nights I donated blood," the 60-year old says.
Smt. Pushpa is an employee at the Sims park at Coonoor in Nilgiri district (Tamilnadu, Bharat). On November 1, as she went about her work in the public park, she spotted a handbag. She found in it a gold chain weighing 3.5 sovereigns, a mobile phone and Rs.30,000 in cash. She promptly handed over the bag to the police. The police, in turn, traced the owners of the bag as Keshubhai Visvasas's family who were on tour of Tamilnadu. DSP Dharmaraj appreciated the honest lady Pushpa.
Rani Amma is a roadside dweller on the 7th Lane in Thillai Nagar, Tiruchy (Tamilnadu, Bharat). She earns around one thousand rupees per month by doing menial jobs sprinkling water on shop fronts and sweeping. Once she found a small crowd around a dustbin in front of the Government hospital. A female infant lay there crying, It was lapping up its own tears in hunger. Rani quickly picked up the child and went around inquiring whose baby it was. She found none claiming the child. She fed the child with milk bought from a tea stall. Rani took the child under her protective wings and gave her the name Gajapriya. Six years rolled by. Today, Gajapriya goes to school. She is a class one student of Puthur Ramakrishna Middle School, thanks to the spirit of selflessness of Rani Amma, whose only expectation from Gajapriya is that she should be enabled to lead a decent life even after her (Rani Amma's) time. — Courtesy: Panchaamritam

"In this mortal world everything perishes and will perish - but ideas, ideals and dreams do not. One individual may die for an idea-but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in thousand lives. That is how the wheels of evolution move on and the ideas and dreams of one generation are bequeathed to the next" — Subhash Chandra Bose

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