Tag Archives: 2010

My SAATH Internship – MLS Cooray

I spent a short time at SAATH microfinance during my winter vacation from LSE. Most of my time was spent visiting field officers and the project offices of SAATH. The process of orientating myself with SAATH was a challenging and fun experience. I knew before traveling to Gujarat that SAATH was a successful model incorporating market-based solutions in assisting the poor but I had little knowledge about the innovative methods they employed in achieving their goals. I witnessed an organization silently changing the landscape of Ahmedabad through innovative means; clients of SAATH microfinance generally felt empowered about their future. I also got to participate in a staff training session held by SAATH microfinance on the theme of “Gender and Microfinance”. Unfortunately, my Gujarati wasn’t quite up to scratch after four days of living in India so I am not able to expand on exactly what was discussed!

I treated my SAATH experience as a way of testing ideas that I had formed while studying for my bachelors in Development Economics as well as my MSc. in Development Studies. I always found myself doubting the practical aspects of my ideas until I explored the SAATH field operations. I was particularly impressed by UMEED, a center that not only trained women and men in skills development for a minimal fee, but also placed them in jobs and followed up even after they started working

The highlight of my experience was when I traveled to the SAMVAD community video unit. This project was special because it presented a hands-on approach in addressing certain issues faced by communities in and around Ahmedabad. In essence, the unit, comprised of those who had benefited from SAATH, talked to others in the community to address a specific problem. This documentary was then shown to the community, prior to the unit and other SAATH officials initiating important discussions of the issues with the audience members.  Overall, my experience with SAATH and the SAATH staff was very positive. Hence, I decided to also take a course related to Innovation at the ‘Base of the Pyramid’ upon my return to LSE.  I would definitely encourage other students to explore ‘Incredible India’ through SAATH!



ESL Class with Teachers in Juhapura

For three days a week over the past month, I have been sharing in English classes with a group of women in Juhapura, an area of Ahmedabad. The group of women that I work with are teachers at Saath’s balghars, pre-school education centers located in Juhapura.  As I have no knowledge of Hindi or Gujarati, and the majority of the teachers have a very low level of understanding in English, we truly started the class from square one. The teachers are energetic and lively, and despite our divide in language, we have been able to produce an enjoyable learning environment together.

English class with teachers of the Balghars (pre-schools)

On the first day of class, we established our goal: to improve communication with visitors to the balghars. We start each class with a chai and a “warm-up” activity, which often includes sharing information about ourselves or some type of physical activity. The class is always a warm and vibrant space, and the eagerness of the teachers to learn is clear with each lesson. Due to our language barrier, I often use drawings  or gestures in teaching, making for an active and frequently comical classroom.

After ten classes together, we have covered a range of English vocabulary and grammar structures, and the class has progressed at an inspiring rate. All of the teachers are now able to carry out a basic conversation, and seek information such as name, country of origin, and other personal information. Each student is also now able to introduce others, which is demonstrated whenever an outsider comes to the classroom and is introduced in English. After ten classes, we have already reached the basics of our goal, and we are now moving forward to different topics.

The teachers are now excited to practice their new conversation skills with visitors to the balghars, who they face trouble in communicating with. Sharing this time with the group of teachers has been an amazing experience for me, and I am certain that I am taking just as much, if not more, from the class. Many of the women have shared their homes with me, both inside and outside of Juhapura, and introduced me to their families and neighbors. As we cover more English in the classroom, we are able to understand and to communicate with each other in more depth.  I am so lucky to find myself surrounded by such positive energy each week, and I look forward to the future classes that we will share together.

(by Catherine McBride – Intern)


Dear All,

We are very happy to share our Saath Newsletter with all of you! We hope you’ll enjoy reading it.


Stepping up to a challenge. Join in.


We thought of trying something new to raise funds.

Through the India Giving Challenge, Give India will match the funds we raise! Below are details about how you can go about it. It would be absolutely great if you could pass this on to those in your networks. The Challenge ends 2nd October – so we have the Joy of Giving Week to raise funds.

Saath has decided to join the India Giving Challenge! And it’s a challenge we cannot win without you.

The amount we raise within this coming week we will get a matching Grant from GiveIndia. It’s a double bonus!!

Our target is:

Rs. 5,00,000   =   ₤7018.57 / € 8,371 / $ 10,948

Why should you donate now?

You will help raise double the amount you donate to Saath!

Your donation will support urban programmes that are working towards employability of youth, getting children out of labour, supplementing nutrition for under nourished children in slums, subsidising a child’s higher education, giving families an opportunity to experience an improved life!

What do you need to do? SIMPLE

  1. Click on http://www.giveindia.org/give/pledgepage/saath
  2. Register with Give India
  3. 9.1% of your donation will go to Give India, the remaining will come to Saath.
  4. Click the donate tab at the bottom and you can donate via netbanking, credit card or by sending in a cheque to the amount you pledge
  5. If you’re from India:  You will receive Income Tax benefits.
    1. If you’re from outside India, then you may not receive a tax rebate but you’re definitely making a huge difference to the life of vulnerable family and that too for as little 3$, €2,₤1.5

Its a click away! Pay it Forward.

Thank you for simply taking the time to read this. Your time is greatly appreciated.

It’s that time of the year to experience the Joy of Giving.

Youth Stories: Bismilla

Bismilla, at age 19, was brought up in a traditional household in Sankalit Nagar, H Ward, consisting of her father whom is a driver, a housewife mother, a married sister, and a brother who is a carpenter. Before joining with Saath, she was unable to leave her household by herself. She was shy, and was unable to communicate with other people. She was able to study up to her 10th standard, but unable to advance any further in education because she was unable to leave the house. Fortunately, about one year ago she came in contact with another young girl, whom was a part of the Youth Group, coming door-to-door telling people about the program, and asked Bismilla to join.  She had to decline because she knew her parents would disapprove. After the encounter however, the youth coordinator came and sat down with Bismilla’s parents, and told them of the advantage the Youth Program can bring, including developing personal skills and interacting with a network of local youth that experience the same everyday difficulties as do you. Hesitantly, they allowed her to go to one meeting.

She was very interested at the first meeting, and was able to convince her parents to allow her to attend more, and become actively involved in its programs including the 3 month long Cleanliness Campaign. She shared that one day the youth group had a picnic at Science City, and this became the first time she left her home, unescorted by her parents.

Later she joined the UMEED program, in order to train in customer relations and get a job. She would have never been allowed to work before, but after the youth coordinator sat down with her parents, they were willing to let this happen. Currently she works with India Infoline, earning Rs. 6000 monthly. Initially her father said no to it, because it was far away. Yet she stayed firm on her desires, with a new found confidence uncovered by the youth program, and persuaded her father to allow her. With such a good occupation, I found it hard to believe that just one year ago, she had no concept of a job, and didn’t even know what her father did for a living. It was only after her first meeting at the youth group, that her and her mother went to her father’s job, and asked questions and learned about what he actually did.

When asked about the transformation she experience as apart of the youth group, Bismilla said “before I was nothing,” and now she is a confident, self empowered young woman. Bismilla encourages other people to join the group, saying that it helps develop a better person out of you, and moreover develop a better community and society through individual growth.

This story was documented by Sagar Patel, 16 (US) who volunteered at Saath for a month. He visited the field and met with youth from the Azaad Youth  Groups.