Working to uplift the village could not be achieved by just giving the infrastructure a face-lift. The mindset of the people had to be changed. They had to somehow realize that in order for a complete change in their community, lifestyle improvements were necessary.
Prema Kumari was appointed for this important task. Despite having only a little training, she had the desire to be a part of this project and soon developed a strong commitment to the people. Her involvement began at the onset of construction when she motivated the people to actively participate in block making, educated them in the benefits of smokeless chulhas and helped instill a sense of pride and ownership in the families.
What else must be done to improve the community? Prema then began to bring some changes to the school system in the village. A small school catered to the younger children in the community, but interest was minimal and both the teacher and the students were very erratic in their attendance. An additional teacher was appointed to divide up the schedule and soon parents were eager to motivate their children in attending classes.
Health and hygiene was another challenge. Stopping old habits and developing new ones is always a big hurdle to overcome. From runny noses to the cons of outdoor defecation, Prema worked on a variety of issues pertaining to children, men and women. A day programme at SVYM for the people was also organized on health and sanitation and soon the panchayat was approached about building toilets for each of the houses.
Prema worked with the women in the community. She taught them how to sign their names and taught them basic sewing. Over time, the people learnt the benefits of saving their earnings and with the help of Canara Bank, many opened bank accounts.
Prema often received hostility, criticism and resistance to her efforts. Through support groups and monthly programmes that were organized, positive outcomes were obvious. Henceforth, the people were grateful and she gained their trust. A cleaner and friendlier neighbourhood is evidence of lifestyle improvements that will hopefully, over time be passed down through generations.