Category Archives: Visitor Experiences

Youth Force’s outlook fascinates me: Sagar

Sagar Patel worked with Saath as a volunteer in 2010 and since than has become a regular online donor. He is a faithful well – wisher of the organisation and recently visited Saath on 12th February, 2014. He visited the Youth Force programme and given here’s his experience of the visit in his own words.

I recently visited Saath’s Youthforce program at an Odhav center in February 8along with two visitors from the United States. In the past, I had volunteered with Saath, and I now continue to support Saath as a donor. We met with youth who are personally involved in the program. I did not have much background knowledge about the program other than a video which I had seen online about the program. Upon meeting with the students, I found that this is a wonderful, unique program.

Both the Odhav center coordinator and one of the project leaders from the Saath head office were present. They started by giving me some basic background information about the program. After this, I interacted with a group of about 10 members who were living in that area of Ahmedabad. I asked them first how they had benefited from the program, and from this discussion and further questions I came to learn more about the program.

One of the youth described working on a project as a team to clean the riverfront around the Sabarmati River and educate residents about the harmful effects of throwing garbage in the river. Another project which the youth were involved in was creating a community garden area from an area which was previously filled with garbage. This project was something new which no one had done before, and it helped to develop their ability to work as a team in addition to learning new skills. One member talked about how the youth gain leadership skills and experience with public speaking. Some youth had gone out Ahmedabad for the first time to Mumbai for leadership training. One young woman told me that she had always been afraid to travel on a bus and had lost that fear as a result of the program.

7Sagar (rightmost) at the Odhav Youth Force centre

I was quite impressed with the networking opportunities that the youth receive and the confidence and sense of accomplishment which they exhibited. I found the whole concept of this practical education which aims to not just develop new skills to perform a job but also encourages youth to try new things which excite them to be fascinating. Youthforce helps to address an unmet need in an educational system which is focused too much on rote memorization. I will be excited to come back the next time I am back in Ahmedabad to visit the program again.

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A short visit to Saath

Seiko Okayama, a student of University of Tokyo, visited Saath in January for her research. This was her second trip to India and read below her story of her experience with Saath.

It was definitely a memorable experience for me to join the short research program at Saath this January.

As a student of South Asian area studies in the University of Tokyo, I had been looking for some suitable way to connect to the local society in Ahmedabad in order to know about the situation of the human development there in this research trip.

The staff of Saath kindly welcomed me while my visit was quite a sudden one and arranged good opportunities  for me to talk with the people in various communities. In the preparation meeting, Saath coordinators listened carefully to the purpose and the methods of my research and gave me many helpful advices on how to conduct it.

During the small discussion with Saath’s workers, they recommended me to visit two areas where Saath’s Urban Resource Centres were located so that I have interviews with the residents there through the help by the program workers.

When I visited those places for the first time, local people kindly accepted me and answered my questions about the issues they were facing in the daily lives. From the stories spoken by them, I could see how deeply they were thankful to the Saath’s activities, such as medical, financial and educational services which were essential for their lives.

IMG_0403Seiko at our Vasna Urban Resource Centre

Even after coming back to the headquarter office, workers who specialised in various empowerment programs kindly spared their times to answer my questions again, which helped me a lot to understand the background situation of the comments offered by the residents during the field interviews.

As a whole, the days I spent with Saath brought me quite important clues for the future research on the city of Ahmedabad.

Seiko Okayama

Visit from Disha Foundation

On the 17th and 18th of January Saath was visited by  a team of 7 people from The Disha Foundation, a Nasik based NGO working on Livelihood, health and related development issues in Nasik district since 2002. The aim of their visit was to observe, understand and learn the various activities of SAATH and to gain insight in real experiences in working with labourers. Given below is their experience of the visit with Saath written by Dr. Kartik Prabhu, Manager Research and Devvelopment, Disha Foundation.

The Disha team arrived at Ahmedabad in the evening on January 16th and visited the office on Jan 17th. We were warmly welcomed by the Research Documentation & Communication Coordinator team sharing their good wishes for the orientation and gave a very informative presentation regarding the activities of SAATH providing all the clarifications inquired by us.

Disha Team visited Umeed Training centre as soon as after the orientation session at the office. We were impressed by the Implementation modalities for the training program designed by the SAATH Team. The methods and steps are very systemic to target the real hard core marginalized communities providing technical support, supervision and monitor the changes whenever required for life term sustainability. We also visited the Saath Microfinance Cooperative on the same day. When we asked a women about the reason for forming saving groups they replied that savings provides a sense of ownership and assets.

New Picture (1) Disha Team interacting with Maheshbhai, Nirman Programme Coordinator

Second day visit enhanced with the association members of SAATH Mr. Divyang
Bhatnagar, CEO( MFI), Niraj Jani, Associate Director(Livelihood Services), Nitesh Oza, Livelihood Manager including Ms. Keren Nazareth, the Executive director of the organization. The Team then visited Urban Resource Centre, Vasna. The warm and rousing welcome given by the Youth Force at the Urban Resource Centre has etched an indelible impression on hearts of the Team members. The visit was organised for holding interactive sessions with the members of URC and the Youth Force, including the women folk on Training and Motivation services enhanced by SAATH.

New Picture (3)Disha Team interacting with Urban Resource Centre and Youth Force team

Conclusion

Overall the entire team felt this visit as an learning experience. We felt that the philosophy and practice of SAATH encompassing community cutting across class, caste and religion is unique and emblematic.

SAATH: As a special purpose vehicle have a very strong and effective autonomous organizational structure having equal number of Technical Team of young professionals willing to work in far flung rural areas, having close interaction with the community. They mobilize and help the community in preparation of plans, assessment, and selection & designing of appropriate cost effective activities, best suited to their need. Their roles are well defined. Management of services being shouldered by community itself and local level
solutions have been put in place which is cost effective, effective and rapid.
We would like to replicate similar activities in our own community as we deeply felt that the initiatives of SAATH can impact up on many lives. We were overwhelmed by the mass support, collective strength and temporal democratic paragons of SAATH which have permeated from top to bottom.

The field visit was a miracle and highly satisfactory for the Disha team. Based on this, we would like to convey our deep sensitive thanks to all the staff members for sharing their experience and managing requirements during the field visit.
We would like also to express our sincere thanks to Mr. Kunal Patel and Ms. Jenny Parekh for their supportive coordination from the beginning of the visit and their effort in arranging the visit.

New Picture (5)Disha Team with Youth Force members

Testimonials from Participants

Dr. Karthik Prabu, said, “Our experience in SAATH was entirely different. SAATH encompasses community from all religions and thus symbolizes the democratic system of India. We appreciate the entire procurement activities of SAATH under URC. Also it is amazing to see how people transformed themselves into a confidence hub in their career just with bold determination and collective strength. I also appreciate the Training education programs in SAATH.”

Mr. Kiran Kale,  Coordinator at Disha opined, “There are many things to learn from SAATH as it is working with a view to increase income and employment among the community and this is indeed a learning process for me“.

Ms. Rekha Sable, Assisstant MIRC Facilitator, Disha said “Visit to SAATH Organization was a real learning experience for us. We are keen to explore the possibility of replicating the Training model in our foundation”.

Saath visited by EDI

Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI) is an autonomous and not-for-profit institute set up in 1983. It’s mission is to increase the supply of new entrepreneurs through Education, Research & Training. On the 6th of July 13 students from the new batch of  ‘Business Entrepreneurship & In Development Studies’ visited Saath along with one of their Professors.

The aim of the visit was to give the new students an idea about how organizations work from the grass-root level. Their focus was to give the students exposure about how the not-for profit sector works, and how they run their individual programmes and implementing the same. They also wanted to visit a slum and see the real situation of the people living in slums and understand their problems.

IMG_0773EDI Students at Saath office

The students were given the overall presentation of the different programmes of Saath. The focus of the presentation was on the history of Saath and about how each individual programme was developed. The students asked the questions regarding the target group for programmes and lively discussions were done about the implementing strategies and steps taken by Saath so as to create an inclusive society as per its vision. After the presentation the students were taken to Vasna where they visited the Urban Resource Centre (URC) run by Saath. Here they interacted with our Staff members Geetaben and Ramilaben and learned from them about how Saath developed over the years from working on Education and Health to Slum infrastructure to Microfinance and the URC’s for the upliftment of the slums. After this they visited the Vasna area and interacted with various people of the area and learned about their problems and the work done by Saath in the area.

IMG_0780Students at our Vasna URC centre interactive with URC staff members Geetaben and Ramilaben

Here are the responses from some of the students:

I cam to know something new about the development sector from Saath. It was a pleasure to interact with the community. It is an excellent work that Saath is doing. I’m looking forward to meet and do combined work in development sector” – Sanjay Romala

My visit was really motivational. Saath is doing a commendable job reaching to the problems at grass root levels which affects development. Keep up the work!! Looking forward to working with Saath” – Niharika Bhatia

“The presentation was awesome and very informative and got to know a lot about Saath. The interaction with slum dwellers and people was an experience worth having.  Got to know about Saath’s work and it is impressive. Looking forward to work with Saath” – Mallika Bakshi

Youth for Youth: About Dreams and Aspirations

Last February a group of six students from Sweden visited our organization. They all shared their experiences with us. Read below the story of two students: Alice and Simon.

We are a group of six students from Global College in Sweden. In February we made a field study in Ahmedabad for two weeks. Our aim was to find out what youth’s dreams and aspirations were and what possibilities they had to achieve them. During our field study we interviewed a couple of girls from SAATH’s education program UMEED. The youths were very friendly and we made easy contact with the interpreters as well.

The interviews gave us an understanding of youths’ situation in the slums. We learnt how the society, the family and the norms affluence the youths’ dreams and their opportunities to achieve their dreams. We also got an insight of our own culture and could see similarities to the youths in Sweden.

SAATH were an exceptional organization to work with, they were very accommodating and flexible. They not only arranged youths we could interview and interpreters, but also could adjust the schedule to our specifications and made it possible for us to make home visits to the youths. Our contact person, Chetasi, was also very helpful. She could give us more information about Ahmedabad, the situation in the slums and about youth’s situation in society. She could also guide us in our work by suggesting questions we should ask and other perspectives we should look at.

Alice Harlin and Simon Rudholm