Literacy India: Key to Life

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LogoliWhen given a chance through education, the poor often thrive. Literacy India, which aims to give underprivileged people the keys to a fulfilling life - education, empowerment and employment, believes in that.

Started in 1996, the organization helps men, women and children, teaching not only basic literacy but also vocational skills and creative expression through theatre, painting and other forms of art.

One of Literacy India's success stories involves Rahul Kumar, who was part of the program and later shared screen space with Aamir Khan in the movie ‘3 Idiots’.

But there are quieter successes like 22 year old Manoj Sansanwal. His father died when he was five and his mother sells milk. He underwent computer training program of Literacy India and was successfully employed. 

20-year-old Nisha, supports a family of five. She enrolled for a one-year training course and is now become an instructor at Literacy India's Daulatabad Centre and a skilled bag designer.

Literacy India has 15 centers around Delhi, NCR, as well as a special venture for indigenous people in West Bengal and Rajasthan. The organization also has an 18,000-square-foot school building on half an acre at Village Bajghera, complete with classrooms, an assembly hall, science and multimedia labs and a library.

The organization's core program is called Vidyapeeth, and offers classes up to high school. Children otherwise often destined for child labor are provided with top-notch education, excursions and meetings with well-known personalities to inspire them. The student-teacher ratio is low, about one teacher to 25 students. Children also receive uniforms, books and stationery. The program has grown from 50 students to 633 today.

Literacy India also conducts a number of other programs designed to lift the poor and help them become self-sufficient by developing their talents.

One such program is Pathshala, where children are taught to read and write within a period of three months to a year. They then get counseling and help getting into mainstream schools. Pathshala also offers classes every summer for dropouts from various government schools. To attract and keep students, the organizers provide a fun learning environment and supplement basic learning with instruction in dance, music, painting and computers.

So far, this program has touched the lives of more than 700 people. Promising students from Pathshala and Vidyapeeth can get financial help for higher education.

Another program, Karigari, gives vocational training to students who are not interested in traditional schooling. These students learn tailoring, beauty culture and computers. They also take courses in retail management, housekeeping and other trades. All courses are designed to help break the cycle of poverty for these students and their families.

The Shiksarth program, meanwhile, nurtures the creative talent of slum children, who learn theatre, dance, pottery and painting. Other programs provide health outreach to villages, nurture awareness of social issues and create community-based livelihood training in rural and semi-urban areas -- all to improve lives through knowledge.

Many have praised Literacy India and the people it has helped. Actor Aamir Khan said working with Rahul was a wonderful experience, and in a letter called the boy "hard-working, diligent, respectful, focused and passionate about his work."

"In my opinion Rahul has a very bright future and great potential, and I am glad Literacy India is making sure that he successfully completes his education besides pursuing his parallel career in acting," Khan wrote.

Literacy India students have also been asked to perform for dignitaries, including past President APJ Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Literacy India officials are now looking toward the future, hoping to achieve their goal of a better-educated, empowered India in which more people have the opportunity to reach their potential.

Financial support for the organization comes from a number of sources, including the Delhi Dynamic Round Table India, Dell and American Express. Individual donors also play an integral part in keeping Literacy India thriving.

Team ‘Make a Difference’ is promoting Literacy India’s work and raising support for them. You too can participate in Socially Positive to promote a social cause and raise support for an NGO.

The Banyan: A shade of hope

Friday, September 24, 2010

The_Banyan_Logo Walk inside any of the facilities for mental illness patients in India, and you are weighed down by the heart-rending stories of desertions by the families of the sufferers. The illness runs deeper into the society.

But in India, the sad commentary does not end only inside the precincts of such government or privately run institutes and homes or care facilities.

Surveys say an estimated 40% of the homeless population in India is affected by the burden of mental illness – living in deplorable conditions on streets.

Citizens with no entitlements and homeless people with mental illness represent a significant portion of people at the margins who are rarely acknowledged in mainstream society or developmental discourses.

In The Banyan, Chennai there is a silver lining. As the name suggests, the organization tries to offer the protective umbrella for the people - women and destitute - suffering from mental illness and are forced to live on the streets of unforgiving cities and towns.

The Banyan works in the sector of mental health care for people affected by poverty and homelessness providing free mental health services at the grassroots in Tamil Nadu, while advocating nationally for their rights.

The Banyan's approach focuses on rehabilitation and consumer empowerment as opposed to traditional institutional and/or clinically focused models.

“Our mission is to enable a meaningful life for people who have lost everything - their home, family, livelihood and identity - due to the devastating effects of mental illness and poverty,” says Swapna Krishnakumar, a senior official of The Banyan.

“Our initiatives are aimed at ensuring for these people – the right to rescue, the right to care, the right to options for their future and the right to life,” she says.

The Banyan runs several projects and initiatives. One of them is ‘Adaikalam’ –The Banyan’s Transit Care Centre for homeless women with mental illness in Chennai.

The NGO says it has changed the dynamics of institutional care and made several innovations in socio medical model of care for mental health. The Project includes Rehabilitation, After Care and Networking services that establish models for rehabilitating people back to communities after successful recovery.

The Banyan runs a Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP). It involves developing a model for providing localized care in both rural and urban contexts. It includes psychiatric services in Kovalam and three urban communities of Chennai, among others.

The Banyan also runs an Urban Mental Health Programme (UMHP). The urban mental health clinic was set up in collaboration with the Loyola College of Social Work in Chennai.

The Banyan and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust collaborate every month to provide a Rs.250 disability allowance to over 400 families suffering from mental illness.

This benefit helps families to sustain care of their loved ones and reduces the financial burden of a family member with mental illness.

According to the NGO, what sets The Banyan apart is that all of its programme curricula are focus on the socio medical model of service delivery that doesn't merely look at symptom reduction through clinical interventions, but at longer term rehabilitation of the sufferers.

Dr. Kishore Kumar, Senior Psychiatrist at NIMHANS who has played a key role in Community Mental Health Care in India, comments: “The Banyan has demonstrated that ordinary people can bring new life for the marginalized without compromising technical, professional and ethical issues of care in their work.”

“Their work elucidates the processes of partnership between governmental and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) in India. I consider this exemplary,” Dr Kumar sums up.

The Banyan is now a member of Samhita and you can acces their profile at If you have a creative bent of mind, you can use your creative skills to raise support for The Banyan by participating in Socially Positive. You can write blogs, design posters, click pictures or make short films to promote the good work that The Banyan does. You also stand a chance to win cash prizes and exciting internships. Click here for details and participating.

EdelGive announces Social Innovation Honours 2011

Thursday, September 23, 2010

edelgive_blog_image EdelGive Social Innovation Honours 2011 is a national awards programme instituted by EdelGive Foundation, to reward innovative work in the social sector in India. EdelGive Social Innovation Honours will identify and reward organisations that are innovating to empower women in India.

Prize money of INR 50 Lakhs will be awarded to the winners across the five categories of health & well being, education, economic security & livelihoods, social and cultural rights and governance.

Award categories:

  • Health and well being: Awarding an innovation which promotes women’s health and overall well-being
  • Education: Awarding an innovation which provides women with access to education and/or improved quality of education
  • Economic Security & Livelihoods: Awarding an innovation which helps women increase their income, and / or provides them with employment opportunities.
  • Social and Cultural rights: Awarding an innovation which helps women overcome social and cultural challenges.
  • Governance: Awarding an innovation which prepares women to participate in available legislative positions

To Apply:

Deadline: 23rd October 2010

In case of queries contact EdelGive at:
Phone: 022-65240579/ 4342 8296/97
Email: [email protected]

For queries regarding online application contact Samhita at:
Phone: 022-42641892/ 6520
Email: [email protected]

About EdelGive Foundation:

EdelGive Foundation is an initiative of Edelweiss Capital Limited and provides strategic direction to the philanthropic activities of Edelweiss, its employees, clients and associates. EdelGive’s key priority is to focus on the areas of education, livelihoods and supporting women’s empowerment. EdelGive’s investment is in the form of financial but more importantly, capacity building support to its investees. For more information about us, please visit