Saving the future - Concern India Foundation
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Friday, January, 31st, 2014

Saving the future

Social campaigns are an interesting way of reaching out to a larger segment of people and in creating visibility and fundraising opportunities. Concern India Foundation’s various branches across India have done several such campaigns over the years. One such campaign that is still fresh in my mind was an anti-plastic and waste recycling campaign done at our Bangalore branch years ago.

It was a common topic of discussion at the time and almost every other organisation was planning activities around it. We wanted to highlight the impending doom of plastics, if measures were not taken immediately. We wanted to inspire people to take concrete actions.

Advertising agency Ogilvy came up with a fantastic creative – a self explanatory visual that portrayed the future of this world to be plastic if nothing was done about it soon. We all loved it and Vakil Housing supported us.

For the first time, two local government departments – Karnataka Pollution Control Board and Bangalore Municipal Corporation (BBMP) came on board to support us. We inaugurated the campaign with a rally on Brigade Road – the heart of the city and it ran for a month.

Children from our various projects, corporate volunteers, besides the Concern Team used their creativity to come up with innovative slogans and placards during the rally. We also involved more than 30 schools and corporates by organising plays, seminars and exhibitions about the issue.

– Pampa Chowdhury, Branch Manager, Concern India Foundation (Bengaluru)

Tuesday, January, 28th, 2014

Strangers in their own city

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity” – Nelson Mandela

Very little is known about urban tribals. They seem to be the invisible population that inhabit the city without an identity of their own, even though they should be afforded the position of primary natives. In Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, this concrete jungle, where life never comes to stop, it is remarkable for me to imagine the lives of these 5000 families. Primary natives of this land, they continue to live without access to basic amenities, are not afforded the right to vote and are denied some of their most basic constitutional rights.

The Warli tribe, commonly known as adivasis, has been living in and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai for centuries now. Living in the heart of the city, basic facilities like electricity, water, sanitation, health care and education still seem like a distant dream. As most of their homes are on the steep hills within the park, children walk for miles to access primary education. They depend on the meagre forest produce for their survival and grow vegetables for their own consumption. Through our conversation with the programme staff, we got to know that animal attacks, harassment from the authorities and the threat of being displaced from their land are just some of the problems they battle with everyday.

When they sleep here, they see the skyscrapers and a million lights shining in the distance, while all they have is darkness to settle for. These forests are their homes; these forests were uprooted to make this city. So while others live in luxury, the very people who gave up their homes for development are the ones who remain wanting” says Vitthal Lad. Vitthal Lad, a social worker, stumbled across the milk colony located in Aarey colony in Goregaon in the early 1980s and was outraged at the living conditions of the villagers. Cows were offered clean water, nutritious food and clean shelters. Meanwhile, the villagers continued to live at the margin, with no sustainable means of support.

He decided to demand for them what was rightfully theirs – ownership of their lands, schools for their children, healthcare facilities nearby, basic amenities and skill development opportunities. Jaag was formed in 1992 under the leadership of Vitthal who endeavours to work for these communities, ensuring that they are able to live a life of dignity.

After scaling a small hillock, we reached a hamlet known as Patacha Paani, one of the 56 that are inhabited by this community. Zindabad was a ubiquitous slogan. It was a way of greeting that unified them. We could hear children reciting poems inside a thatched hut, lilting voices singing in Marathi. These were the voices of the tribal children who attended non-formal education classes run by Jaag in the village. These classes fill in as a remedial school for those children who go to school but still needed help.

Concern India Foundation has been supporting 3 such village schools in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park since 1995. Over the years, students of these centres have gone on to get jobs as teachers, drivers, municipal workers, and more. They are now able to successfully support their families, bringing them stability and a steady income; while remaining connected to their roots.

Machindra Waizal, a 24-year-old youth leader helps his sister teach the children. Machindra went to a Jaag school himself and decided to work for his community to ensure that no other child has to suffer the hardships that he had to endure. “Now all the children are enrolled in education programmes and every child is immunized across 3 villages, thanks to the health camps. These are some significant changes against all the odds” he explained, beaming with joy.

Each of the 56 villages has a youth leader and several community workers who come from the community itself. They are educating the future generations of leaders and thinkers, creating awareness among the parents to bridge the gaps between the present and future. Vithal today is confident that Jaag can continue its work without him. “There is no need for me to be physically present anymore. I know I will be succeeded by these young people, who have the attitude and passion to take this forward even. They are motivated to secure the future of generations to come” he says, with pride.

Aahana Dhar, Communication Team, Concern India Foundation (Delhi)

Friday, January, 24th, 2014

The Season of Joy

For us at Concern India Foundation, the month of December was extra special because we got an opportunity to spread the season’s cheer with one of our programmes for differently abled children.

Our day began with decorating the school with bright silver and golden stars, red and green tassles and colourful balloons. The school looked vibrant and the children enjoyed the songs of the season as a group of local carolers sang along with them. A puppet and magic show kept everyone entertained even as snacks were served to everybody.

Since no Christmas celebration is ever complete without the man of the season, one of our team members dressed up as Santa Claus to give the children some interesting gifts.

It was an amazing experience for all of us. The time spent in spreading cheer and joy in the hearts of these special children was also well appreciated by the school.

Rosheena Ismail, Resource Mobiliser, Concern India Foundation (Hyderabad)

Monday, January, 20th, 2014

Winning over Disability

Partha Sarathi Banerjee belongs to a middle class Bengali Hindu family. He has epilepsy with moderate mental disability. His condition was detected at the onset of early childhood.

When he was about 3-years-old, his father approached this programme supported by Concern India Foundation. After the assessment, admission was advised. He was striving hard to cope in a regular school. Due to his condition, he could not perform in his class. He was also being bullied by his peers and rebuked by the teachers. Slowly he lost confidence and self- esteem.

At the programme, Partha started learning new skills and his improvement was evident. He has since then shown marked improvement in communication skills, independent living skills, recitation and computer knowledge.

During the last academic year, he even performed at many competitions and cultural meets. He has regained his self- esteem. He is very happy and enjoys being at this programme.

Sudakshina Aich, Programme Coordinator, Concern India Foundation (Kolkata)

Tuesday, January, 14th, 2014

Marathon for a Deed

Apart from the pleasant wintery nip, there is another buzz that has the Mumbaikars excited these days. Prominent city locations have changed face as massive billboards give way to messages about social responsibility. Suddenly the scenic pathways at Marine Drive and Worli, the sloping curves of Malabar Hill, the long circular stretch at Race Course, the beach side at Juhu Chowpatty and the Suburban Mumbai bylanes are thronged with a stream of runners gearing up for the big day. The season of Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is here once again.

As one of the beneficiary charities, Concern India Foundation reaches out to corporates, individuals, celebrities and go-getters motivating them to run for a cause.

For our internal fundraising team it means a series of administrative work, keeping abreast with the event’s rules and regulations, understanding the various processes to be followed and most importantly sticking to every deadline so as not to miss the boat. If there is a dash of disappointment at having lost a corporate team, there is a surge of happiness when an unexpected pledge raiser joins in.

This year apart from our regular supporters and pledge raisers, we have six youngsters who are raising funds for our various initiatives. It is heart-warming to see them all getting so involved, especially these teenagers who are still in their formative years. As someone wisely said, “For there to be an effective change in society, the entire community needs to participate harmoniously.”

Resource Mobilisation team, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)

Tuesday, January, 7th, 2014

A positive impact

The day dawned bright and early for these 305 enthusiastic young children, in the age groups of 6 to 16 years, who were eagerly awaiting their fun day out planned by Concern India Foundation and a group of corporate volunteers. What made this activity so heartwarming was the fact that all these children were HIV-infected and came from various NGOs in and around Chennai to mark the occasion of World AIDS Day on December 1.

Even if just for a day, we wanted them to forget their pain and enjoy this day specially planned for them. They were divided into two groups according to which the activities were conducted. These included various games, talent contests, art workshops and staged performances.

From music to dance, mimicry and yoga, the children showcased their talents to a spellbound audience. The excitement during the games was palpable. It was quite a sight to watch the children team up with the volunteers as they huddled together on ‘strategy sessions’ during the games and erupting into euphoria on winning.

The dance floor, undoubtedly, was the biggest hit with the children. The children danced with such abandon and joy that it quickly caught on and enthused the rest of us to join in.

At the end of the day, the children went home with return gifts, huge smiles and cheer. We went back in thoughtful reflection of the life lessons we had just learnt – through the joy and positivity of these children.

Bharathi Ram, Resource Mobiliser, Concern India Foundation (Chennai)