Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sewa Sandesh 117: April 8, 2009

From Editor’s Desk:
Meeting the women artisans in remote villages of Kutch district, Gujarat was probably a good lesson learnt while we travelled through the district in the summer heat of April. Life of these women as tougher than those in the rest of the Gujarat state, or better stated, tougher than the life of women in Bhuj the district headquarter.
Against all possible odds, these women are keen to catch up any opportunity that comes their way. A few lessons with modern designs that impress the contemporary market, these artisans produce the best quality material in handicrafts. It is their single minded urge to sustain their family and grow that was evident throughout our team visit to Kutch.
Geetaben, a young lady who has finished here graduation, is a team leader and leads some 8 Self Help Groups (SHGs) in her village, assisted by 8 group leaders who vary in their age from 20 to might be 65. What surprises a visitor is that the SHGs are being run with skill and discipline, unmatched even in some professional establishments.
Rural Bharat is raring to go towards development was inevitable through these village women, if not throughout the country, at least a part of that!

Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation Receives Bharat Vikas Parishad (BVP) Utkrishtata Samman
Bharat Vikas Parishad honoured the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation with its Utkrishtata Samman for the year 2007-08 for its excellent services towards empowerment of Vanvasis and villagers. The Samman was presented at the national Governing Body of the Parishad held in Hyderabad on February 14. It was second Samman by the Parishad, which was instituted in the memory of its founding secretary general the late Dr Suraj Prakash. Shri Vijay Maroo, president of the Foundation accepted the Samman.

Shri Subhash Gupta, president of US Chapter of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation was also present on the occasion. The Major hurdle between India’s growth and her march towards a super power is illiteracy at the grassroots level. Ekal’s mission is to eradicate illiteracy from rural areas, particularly amongst Vanvasis so that they can have access to primary health, childcare and gainful self-employment. It is a vision that embraces integrity, determination and commitment with 26724 Ekal Vidyalayas spread all over India till date. To spread the light of knowledge to the far-flung areas of our country. Ekal works in the fields of basic education, health care education, developmental education and empowerment education. Last year, the award was given to two saints Swami Chidanand Saraswati, head of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, and Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swami, chief pontiff of Sree Ramachandrapura Math, Karnataka.

Vandemataram Founation, Andhra Pradesh: Tansforming the Lives of the Poor

Experiencing the need of inculcating values among the children, Vandemataram Foundation, an NGO was established by a few young social workers. Drawing inspiration from Vandemataram movement that inspired scores of Indians to fight the British, the Foundation works towards building the character and integrity of the individuals. Making a Village School the Nodal Point, the Foundation has setup a team consisting of village elders, youth and alumni of the school. The team working in tandem with the Parents and the teachers of the school actively involves the students in various constructive and creative activities. Such an exercise not only sharpen the students sensibilities and but also promotes a sense of duty among them.
It is obvious that only those children who can not afford their educational expenses in private schools join Government Schools. Perhaps, such children may not get any guidance either from the parents or from any other source.

The Foundation wants to fill these lacunae by way of extending a helping hand. Need of the hour is to undertake programmes targeting the government schools because the poor are looking for help. The Foundation is willing to undertake such programmes which will bring out the latent talents among the children. The only way to rescue the poorer sections is to create basic facilities in schools.

The Objectives
· To inculcate the spirit of freedom struggle and to nurture patriotism among youth, targeting the government schools
· To mould and transform the students into noble citizens by imparting time tested values of our heritage
· To sustain and further patriotic fervor among the students by judicious blend sports and academics
· To make students active participants in the great vision of 2020 of Former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam with a view to make India Strong and Prosperous

. To identify school dropouts and to endeavour to take them back to school by ensuring quality education
· To encourage and patronize the higher education of the poor meritorious students
· Intermediate education for Kishori Students-Organising study camps with them in Government schools.

· Organising residential camps during the examinations in the localities of the poor to sharpen the talents of the poor students
· To orient and nurture such spirit among the youth which motivates them to fight corruption
· To promote awareness about employment opportunities for the unemployed youth and to work towards women empowerment
· To work towards eradication of social evils such as untouchability and child marriages
· To organize periodical medical awareness camps in the villages to enhance awareness about various diseases
· To sustain and further traditional value system and ethical values and pass them on to the future generations
· To felicitate all those who are steadfastly working in various spheres of life and try to make a difference

Kutch Kala Sewa Kendra: An Artisan Resource Centre, Kutch, Gujarat

Women-owned businesses have the potential to make significant contributions to job creation and economic growth; Economic empowerment of women changes the balance of power because it allows half the world's population to contemplate higher goals than basic survival. Allowing the women to grow on their own with some training and funding that encourage them to find their own way and build enterprises. However women in many parts of the country are not fully participating in entrepreneurial activity because of lack of attention in government policies and other support system.
The Kutch Kala Sewa Kendra
Kutch Kala Sewa Kendra is a federation of Self Help Groups of artisans. This project is being implemented by Sewa International and supported by India Development and Relief Fund (I.D.R.F.). Embroidery is a vital, living and evolving expression of the craft and textile traditions of the people living in this area. Different patterns of stitch and motif articulate their cultural identity as well as their vision about the world.
To identify and motivate poor women in the rural areas and to deliver capacity building workshop, training cum exhibition and provide financial assistance by linking them to the banks and facilitating them to avail soft loan timely and in efficient manner so that Sewa International as an organisation can prove to be a financially sustainable MED model for the poor

An important element of this project is to develop and promote sustainable programme in the domain of handicrafts and bring the people above poverty line in the most backward area of Kutch. The primary objectives of this project are as below:
1. To provide self-employment for handicrafts artisans, which will help them in establishing their micro-enterprise.
2. Intervention for skill upgradation, design development technology, provision of adequate infrastructure, marketing etc.
3. To ensure effective, collective participation of all the members involved in production and marketing process for optimal growth in human resource, production, business and income through SHG approach.
4. To provide sustainable and long-term marketing network and linkages.
5. To provide Social welfare & social security to the artisans.
Motivation for key activities:
* Group formation
* Capacity building training for SHGs and Animator
* Enterpreneurship Development Programme
* Skill training programme (Visual Training Programme, skill upgradation & specialized skill)
* Credit rating
* Youth group formation and skill development.
The project is operational in 08 villages of Bhuj Block, of Kutch District, selected on the basis of level of poverty and backwardness. Some of the villages are Keshav Nagar, Atal Nagar, Dhaneti, Jaam Kundariya, Godpar, and Sanosara, Vagura, Sangam Ner of Bhuj Block.
Presently, 110 women are directly & 125 indirectly associated with the project. Rise in income of the beneficiaries could be seen clearly from the amount of work they are doing.

Future plans:
Establishing Sewa Design & Development Centre for sustainable development-

A Successful Effort In Economic Emancipation Through Micro-Financing

The Sree Narayan Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), the sword arm of the 26 per cent Hindu Ezhava community of Kerala, has completed 106 years of existence. The saintly order Sree Narayan Dharma Sangham was founded by Sree Narayana Guru, the great social reformer and saint of Kerala. Dr Palpu, who had medical education in Banglore, met Swami Vivekananda there, after taking the blessings of Sree Narayana Guru. Based on Vivekananda’s instructions, he founded the SNDP. Sri Kumaran Asan, the immortal poet of Kerala was its first general secretary. The SNDP is now led by vibrant, decisive and effective personality Sri Vellapalli Natesan, who has given dynamic leadership to Hindu unity in Kerala, from SCs to Brahmins. During his two decades hard work, he has converted the SNDP into a strong and vibrant organisation, ready to take up the community’s and Hindu issues. He has been the hard critic of church efforts to control and commercialise education and health care. He has taken strong stand against religious conversions. By adopting several innovative methods the SNDP has emerged as a major community organisation helping its fellowmen. Educational aid to economically deprived children Economically deprived children are adopted and put in hostels. Their food, uniform, books and other expenses are taken care of upto employment. Based on qualifications, jobs are also provided in SNDP-run job centres as well as outside. Thousands of youth are drawing benefit from this scheme.

Sri Vellapally Natesan, Secretary, SNDP

Old age pension
The SNDP has 118 unions and 5488 shakhas worldwide. Selected economically deprived old persons are given Rs 125 pension per month. Lakhs of people are benefiting from this scheme. Marriage of economically deprived girls Every year several economically deprived girls are identified and the SNDP make essential arrangements for their marriage by providing gold, dress, wedding feast etc. Adopting non-earning member families Families who lose their earning members in accidents are provided home delivery of essential food provisions. Jobs are also given to such people in SNDP-managed margin-free shops. Jobs to unemployed youth

Almost 1000 auto-rickshaws have been distributed among unemployed youth under the Prime Minister Rozgar Yojana. Banks are willingly giving loans since SNDP is monitoring repayment effectively. Since autos are purchased in bulk, the Bajaj Auto Ltd has given Rs 10,000 discount per auto and banks give Rs 7,500 subsidy. Loans are arranged for women for starting DTP centres, ladies fancy stores and beauty parlours. For men it is for electronic repair shops and general stores. A three-day residential camp, with food and accommodation, is organised every month targetting prospective new-weds—both rich and poor attend the camp. Eight major topics affecting them are discussed there.

Personality development and civil services coaching Besides providing coaching to children in spoken English, personality development, Gita, Gurudev’s darshan, a civil service training course for prospective IFS, IAS IPS and other civil services is to be commenced shortly. Micro-financing The micro-financing initiative started by the SNDP in 2004, has now grown into a massive ‘banyan tree’ consisting of 64,440 Self-Help Groups (SHG) involving 12 lakh women and benefiting 50 lakh people i.e. 1/6th of Kerala’s population. Up to the last month, the total turnover was Rs 810 crore, surpassing Mohammed Yunus of Bangladesh’s record of 3300 crores in 37 years. The SNDP has outbeaten the Nobel record by its vision, mission and dedication. SHGs of 12-20 women in each of the 5488 shakhas were formed for overall development like financial, educational, social, cultural and poverty eradication. Name of Sree Narayan Guru is given to each unit and they meet in different houses every week. Here they imbibe qualities of good culture, leadership, public speaking etc. Rs. 20/- has to be put in by each woman curtailing expenditure, every week. Account is opened in a bank and amount is deposited there. This ensures transparency and interaction with bank officials. After six months, evaluation of internal loans upto Rs 1000 is done. Bank also gives four times of the deposit amount as loan. In two years, the deposit amount comes to Rs 20,000 and the bank gives Rs 80,000 loan for starting small micro-enterprises. Agarbatti manufacturing, tailoring and garment making, pickles, jams, squashes, soaps, papads, bakery products, electronic and internet related enterprises etc. are started by the SHGs. Marketing is taken up by the shops run by SNDP and majors in the field of agarbatti, textiles, garments and electronics, etc.

Under the Haritha Geetham project, farmers are identified in each shakha and cultivation of paddy, vegetables, banana and coconut are encouraged. Bank loans are also arranged by SNDP for this project. Kerala is a state which imports more than two lakh litres of milk from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It was Sri Vellapalli Natesan’s idea to start the ‘Sheera Samrudhi’ project under SHG for self-reliance in milk production. Under this project, farmers are identified in each of the 5488 shakhas and are given 3 cows and a shed. The milk is sold to the milk societies who further supply to government dairies. The plan is to give 20,000 cows to 10,000 farmers. Already 600 cows have been distributed till now. Thus in two-three years Kerala’s import of milk will stop. Best cows are selected, checked by doctors, insured and handed over to farmers. They look after the cows, settle the bank loan and look after their family. The Rs 20/- thrift started four years ago has become Rs 202 crores. Major Banks like SBI, Canara Bank, State Bank of Travancore, Union Bank, Dhanlakshmi Bank, Federal Bank, South Indian Bank etc. are financing the SNDP projects. The SNDP, Sree Narayan Trust etc. run almost 70 schools, 23 Art an Science Colleges, 2 ITIs, 7 Engineering Colleges and 3 Hospitals. Plans are in pipeline to start a Medical College at the earliest. Due to the exposure gained in the SHGs, Hindu Ezhavas have won the three-tier Panchayat polls and are rendering commendable service to society. Sri Vellapalli Natesan says the idea of SHG struck him when he was organising prayer groups at SNDP shakhas. What started as contribution of Rs 5000 to 25 shakhas has grown into a huge banyan tree comprising of 64,440 SHGs, 12 lakh members, 880 crore turnover and 50 lakh beneficiaries. If other Hindu community leaders emulate the dynamic vision and missionary zeal of SNDP general secretary Sri Vellapalli Natesan, the economic, social, cultural and educational uplift of Hindu society will be quickened many fold. May the tribe of Vellapalli Natesan increase! — By S Chandrasekhar
1. Dashrath Manjhi (born in 1934) of village Gehlour is a daily wage labourer. The nearest hospital was 80 kilometers away. In other words, a child in that village had hard time surviving. People with health problems found it nearly impossible to walk on a muddy road for 80 kms to get a pill or the doctor's advice. Some people even died on the way. One day Dashrath's wife fell down on that very path when she was on the way to meet Dashrath with his midday meal. It was at this point that Dashrath decided to build a tunnel through the Gehlour hills to make life easier for his village folk. Obviously the whole village thought Dashrath had gone insane. He earned his daily wages as a coolie, and then devoted a few hours everyday to this new challenge. He constructed a 360 feet long, 30 feet high and 25 feet wide passage through Gehlour hills with a hammer, chisel and nails working day and night for 22 years from 1960 to 1982. His feat reduced the distance between Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya district (Bihar, Bharat) from 75 km to just one km. The village was blessed with a new lifeline. People from his village could reach the nearest hospital in 10 minutes. He felt peace in his heart as he knew an entire village benefited. The then President Abdul Kalam honoured him with the Padmashree Award for this selfless act. The government offered to give him a piece of land and a house in Karjani village. He requested the government to build a hospital in the land. He was hit by cancer and died in August 2007 at the age of 78.
2. Of all the institutions that The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) runs, `Sravanam' is unique. Sravanam is an institute specially started for the children who are hearing impaired. This is very special because it takes children up to 5 years of age and trains them to speak, unlike most institutes that train them in sign language. Along with the child, the mother is provided free board and lodging until the completion of the training. The institute was started with the first batch of 6 children. Today it benefits 120 children. What is amazing is that the student to teacher ratio. It has one teacher for two students. When the first batch of 'graduating' children spoke from the dais during a function, every eye in the audience was moist with tears. I write this to specially ask the readers to refer children with hearing impairment (Age up to 5 years) to the Sravanam, TTD, Tirupati. They will be pleased to take as many, so the future generations can hear and chant the Divya Nama of Govinda.The first batch of these 6 children are fit for admission into the regular schools of the TTD.
3. Shri Navinbhai M. Shah of Narayanpura, Ahmedabad ( Gujarat , Bharat), carried a packet containing 50 tolas (580 grams) of gold ornaments to the locker section of the Ahmedabad Mercantile Cooperatve Bank. He took out all the contents of the locker and checked them. He placed all of them back into the locker, but in a hurry, left the packet that he had brought for keeping in the locker on the table there, locked his locker and went home. An hour later Smt Namrata Behn Patel of Asarwa came to the bank to operate her locker. She was taken aback on seeing a packet filled with jewellery lying on the table. After finishing her work, she contacted the locker manager Shri Dilipbhai Patel and handed over the packet. He at once called all the customers who came that day to the locker section and after inquiries, handed over the packet to Navinbhai in the presnce of Namrata Behn. On getting back his jewel packet worth Rs 7.5 lakhs, Navibhai heartily thanked the manager and Namrata Behn. -- Courtesy– Panchaamritam

The Idea of Swadeshi or one's own country is one of the noblest conceptions that have ever stirred the heart of humanity…
The devotion to motherland, which is enshrined in the highest Swadeshi, is an influence so profound and so passionate that its very thought thrills and its actual touch lifts one out of oneself. -- Gopal Krishna Gokhale
A Sewa International Delhi Publication.

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