I, Avijith Chandramouli am studying Electrical Engineering in PDPU, I came to know about SAATH through my friends. After visiting SAATH, I felt that I liked its initiatives and landed up here to do my first internship. I started my internship at SAATH without really knowing what the organisation does and how it reaches out to the needy people. But now, after visiting an Urban Resource center of SAATH, I really came to experience the difficulties that the vast majority of the urban poor feel in India, difficulties that I had previously only imagined.
I noticed how the URC program of SAATH is a one-stop centre for the urban poor people of the locality to know about the various schemes of the government for them and also how the SAATH employees work with dynamic skills and abundant patience in making these people understand and use these schemes for their benefit.
In the afternoon, I visited the Microfinancing centre of SAATH learnt about how it promotes and tries to inculcate the habit of saving among the people who lead a miserable hand-to-mouth existence by making it compulsory for them to save a certain amount before they start receiving loans so that they learn its advantage in times of adversity. Moreover, these micro-loans help the destitute to realise their goals and be satisfied. By this method, SAATH is helping the people become self-sufficient and become able to stand on their own legs by promoting micro-entrepreneurship and helping them come out of hopeless vicious debt cycles. I also heard miraculous real life stories about people who have become successful with help from SAATH and was astonished beyond measure.
Finally, at the end of my first day at SAATH, I felt that if there are organisations as selfless as SAATH in prioritising and promoting the cause of the needy and destitute in India and in imbuing in them a sense of fortitude to carry on in life, that day will not be far off when we see a fully united and enlightened India without poverty.
There are 315 million young people aged 10-24 years in India, representing 30% of the country’s population. Youth empowerment is often addressed as a gateway to inter-generational equality, civic engagement and democracy building. It is essential to India’s social, political and economic growth. However most of the youth population nowadays struggles to find their identity and cement their place in the community. This is the story of one such youth who struggled to find her identity in the society but has now undergone a miraculous transformation and is now working rigorously to change the lives of many others.
Mamta Manubhai Patel, 23 is a resident of Meghaninagar. Her father passed away when she was an infant. The responsibility of the survival of Mamta and her younger brother fell on her mother’s shoulders. Mamta had always been a mediocre student through the primary schooling and flunked in her 10 board exams. Her mother was extremely supportive of her and guided her to work for a better future rather than lamenting in past failures. She realized early on in her life that if she would have to survive she would have to start working at an early age. She took up her first job at the age of 20 at a medical needle making workshop at a pay of Rs.2200 a month. After six months she quit her first job to become a librarian at a small library in Shahibaug. She received a pay of Rs. 4000 working as the librarian. However she was caught up in the monotonous web of life. She felt that she had no meaning in life. She felt that she did not have a concrete image in the society.
Since 2011 the field workers of SAATH have adopted a new strategy for marketing, i.e. Door to Door marketing strategy. One of these workers visited Mamta’s home and explained her mother in detail about the programme, its structure, fees and benefits. Mamta’s mother suggested her to join the course. Mamta too found the course tempting as she did not have any training in computers and the course gave her a chance to learn briefly about Computers, Spoken English and Personality Development. Also, came the added incentive of a better job opportunity after getting training in accounts. She was extremely satisfied with the course structure and it’s working. Another thing that she was fond of was the activities conducted on Saturdays. Mamta didn’t get a chance to attend college but the different days organized at the center allowed her to let go of the disappointment of not attending formal college. During one of the UMEED lectures, Sandeep Panchal the coordinator of Youth force programme in Ahmedabad visited the Meghaninagar center and talked to the UMEED participants about the concept of the Youth programme, its benefits and its mission. Mamta was immediately interested to join the Youth group. She remarks “I instantly felt a connection with the programme. I had already learned a lot of new concepts from the UMEED programme. It had also given me a platform to meet new people and make new friends. I felt that I had the skills and knowledge but however lacked the confidence to showcase them. I felt that by joining the youth group I could overcome my fears. I felt it could provide me with a platform to build my image and in the process help me become independent “. Mamta enrolled for the youth group. She would attend the UMEED lectures on weekdays and would attend the youth group meetings on weekends.
When the UMEED course concluded then instead of taking up a job immediately like her peers she decided that she wanted to become an active member of the youth group. She explains “I did not want to take up a job just for the sake of earning money. I wanted to become a part of an organization where I could get a chance to grow, experience the real world and build my own identity. I wanted to do something for others, something for my community and the members of my locality. Seeing her intense passion she was offered the position of team leader of Meghaninagar. She took the offer without a hitch”. She is having an amazing experience working at with the youth group. She got a chance to visit various recreational and spiritual landmarks of the city like Gandhi Ashram, Science Center etc. She remarks “Even though I have been born and brought up in the city of Ahmedabad, I never got the time to visit Gandhi ashram. The trip gave me an opportunity to relieve the independence struggle and Gandhiji’s sacrifice for the nation and the Gandhian values. In today’s world most of us have forgotten about the values that Gandhiji taught us. If we would sincerely follow his teachings then the world would be a better place”. She also got a chance to visit the different UMEED and youth force centers around the city to understand their way of working. She participated in the cleanliness campaign that was conducted by the youth group in Vatva.
Mamta has undergone a huge transformation since she has joined the youth force. There is an immense passion in her to bring about change in the society. She is extremely proud of her mother whose constant support has helped her become what she is today. She explains “I have become extremely confident today. I now want to channel my energy towards women empowerment. I want to initiate a movement against women exploitation. The traditions of dowry and child marriage have been going on for years in our Country. I want to put an end to these rituals. Women deserve an equal footing as men. I always motivate other girls of my age to be brave and follow their dreams. I have seen all my dreams come true since I have joined the youth force group. I am proud to be a member of the youth force. I am extremely proud of my mother who has worked every single day to provide me with a better life. If I can do it, anyone can”.
Mamta has become an inspiration for many girls of her age and for the youth of India. She would like to give one message to her fellow peers “Never be afraid to tell the truth. Never lose hope, with hard work and determination anything is possible. Everyone should get a chance to explore the outside world. You cannot learn if you remain locked up in the four walls of your house. Try to live not only for yourself but for others. Try to understand people rather than critiquing what they say. It is extremely important to become independent and self-sufficient. This is the time to build a platform for yourself and help others in building theirs”.
Story by Ishan Bhatt
My internship at SAATH was a real grounding experience. Having said that my journey in the organization was absolutely phenomenal. I got an opportunity to learn new things every single day and the atmosphere at SAATH allowed me to grow into a better human being. It made me realize that even though our country is developing in leaps and bounds we ignore a very large section of the society. We have failed to understand the true meaning of ” Human Progress“. When I visited the different centers of SAATH present in urban slums I realized that my country is not so “Vibrant” as I had thought.
A very large section of our society still does not have access to even the basic facilities. The work undertaken by SAATH for the upliftment of the urban slum population is commendable. I got a chance to meet the beneficiaries of various programmes of SAATH and it made me extremely proud that I am contributing to an organization which is really working hard to promote the standard of living of the urban and the rural poor. Each and every member of the organization is extremely dynamic and whole-heartedly committed to their work. The experience has certainly taught me to value what i have in life. The organization works like an “Well Oiled Machine“.
Every single staff member is warm, friendly and extremely helpful. My coordinators and project heads were “ever-ready” to solve any doubt or query, small or big. I hope that in the coming years many more people would be benefited by the different programmes of SAATH. I am extremely thankful and fell privileged that I got an opportunity to intern at such a wonderful organization.
During my graduation, I was a member of social service forum of our college. A few questions used to puzzle me a lot then,
- Does scale always come at the cost of depth in impact?
- Can social activity be made independent of donor support through income generation from it?
- Is it really possible to have commercial solutions to social issues?
I used to think hard, however, could never gather enough insights to substantially reach to any conclusion.
This summer, I got an opportunity to rethink over some of these questions. During internship with Saath, there I could observe, feel and see the strive for the answers to the questions that had always puzzled me.
During my stint there, I also realized one of my faults in search for answers. I always focused on thinking; the right thing of course was, doing, experimenting, inventing and refining. At Saath I saw that the focus is always on doing, trying. And this ability to take a risk of doing things is perhaps the key to find the right answers.
Brooding over issues doesn’t solve them, acting on them can. However this risk taking ability needs to be developed, nurtured and protected to keep it alive in everyday actions. As an intern also the kind of freedom of thought, expression and exploration that I enjoyed at Saath were rare to find in most other organizations.
Time of two and a half months may not help one discover all the answers however, my internship has given me a new line of thinking, acting and initiating. That I believe is rarest possible reward for any work. If answers to above questions raised on above mentioned lines exist, Saath – as an organization- is perhaps the way to find them and see them in action too.
– Dhruv Joshi, Intern at Saath April- Jun2 2010 from FORE School of Management, New Delhi