Supporting the Village

Mr. S.S. Bhatt has been the chief general manager of Canara Bank for the last 33 years. He looks after the priority credit financial inclusions as well as CSR initiatives.

He narrates to us, his experiences working on the Thimmaiyanadoddi project.

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“Corporate Social Responsibilities is in the DNA of Canara bank. We have been doing CSR activities since 1906 when the bank was established. The founder of Canara bank, who has been a supporter of the lower caste and the people of weaker sections said, ‘A good bank is not only a commercial heart of a community, but also the social heart.’ Accordingly, he made the bank interested in common people’s causes and found ways to help them. These ethos have been continued in Canara Bank over the years. Year after year, we all work towards developing the CSR concepts.

The bank has been taking up CSR initiatives in fields of education, health, family welfare and many other areas. The development of villages has been one of the great initiatives. Many of our initiatives are associated with villages, where we have helped with development. These interventions have happened with the help of other banks and NGO’s in the field too.

Thimmaiyanadoddi village, near Bangalore, is a hamlet with about 60 families. It was quite a backward village. When Nivasa came up with a development plan for the village, Canara bank was really interested in associating with Nivasa in creating good infrastructure in the village and also to make sure that the interventions required for the development is supported by Canara Bank. A preliminary survey was conducted in the village. A gap assessment was also made in the village in the study.

As the name suggests, Nivasa was working towards building houses for the people there. They encouraged the people to decide to build new houses through the funding arrangement. Canara Bank wanted to support this initiative by giving support for laying out roads, drainage systems, water harvesting systems, drinking water supply, and some non-credit interventions like supporting the children through education, building a community hall for the meeting of village people and the women there. We also wanted to identify the unemployed youth and women providing them with some skill-based training to take up self-employment ventures.

Over time, we noticed many development changes in the village. In December 2014, new houses, water tanks, central road with drainage, water harvesting system were all constructed and set up. The community hall, an important part of the village, was complete and provided the village with a place to meet. It also provides space for workshops and programmes organised for the children by volunteers. We also provided computers in the school for computer education for the children.

Providing support for infrastructure alone in a village is not sufficient. There should be some growth in the village so that the people find ways to get income through a productive venture. In order to do that, we provided farmers with the right credit facility. We identified entrepreneurship among the women, trained them in some activities (candle making, tailoring, etc.) We have a self-employment training institute exclusively for women in Harohalli where these women were trained by expert faculty. There was an arrangement made, wherein the women were connected to a merchant in Bangalore, so that whatever they make is sold easily and they get their income.”

Watch the remainder of the interview in the video.

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Sharing Values

Dr. Usha Vasthare is the founder of YogaKshema Rehabilitation & Wellness Centre. She conducts support group meetings for various sections of the society ranging from home-makers, professionals to survivors of chronic illnesses and their caregivers. So far she has conducted more than 500 such meetings.  Her workshops are based on the most recent advances in Neuro-scientific research and are geared to the participants in improving their quality of Life.  Dr. Usha Vasthare’s objective is to introduce positive psychology, practical and scientific methods to lead a holistic living. She aims to bring the confluence of science and ancient wisdom in her talks & workshops. Her target audiences come from all stations and walks of life.

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She has shared some insights into working alongside Nivasa.

What is the collaboration and complimentary relationship that Nivasa and Yogakshema have?

“For less than two years, Yogakshema has been involved with Nivasa. Our goals and philosophies match and there is a synergy between our values. Both organizations believe in improving quality of lives of people, although we do it different ways. Yogashema believes in improving people’s lives through internal means- physical, emotional and environmental health through education. Nivasa believes in improving the quality of live by improving the infrastructure (external means).

This synergy has brought Nivasa and Yogakshema together to work together in the village of Thimmaiyanadoddi. Yogakshema placed Prema, a community worker, to work in the village to improve people’s lives by improving their health and hygiene through education and also by empowering the community workers there.”

Can you tell us about the values of Nivasa?

“What attracts us to Nivasa, are its values. The first thing that Nivasa believes in is the Purity of Purpose. They also believe that the Cause is Greater than Self. It is such a unique value. Nivasa believes in integrating thought with action and working towards a purpose. Nivasa’s main interest is to keep community as the locus of interest. This is proof that they put ‘cause’ ahead of ‘self’.

Through patience and perseverance, Nivasa works at the grass- roots level.

What attracted me to Nivasa is Akhila’s infectious enthusiasm and her interest and passion in learning through the process of redefining rural landscapes through culture- sensitive, site-driven and cost-effective means. This enthusiasm she uses to reach this goal also brings people together.”

Thoughts on Rural Housing

Shri. P.V. Maiya was in the banking service. He worked for 32 years in SBI before he started the ICICI Bank in 1994. Since his retirement in 1998, he has been working on and off as an advisor to whoever seeks. He also keeps himself busy with social activities. This includes being the president of the Yogakshema trust.

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Here are some of his thoughts on rural housing and ways to bring change.

What are your views about the need for rural housing?

“The question about the need for rural housing is not relevant, because no one can say that there is no need for rural housing. India has over 600,000 villages and in the vast majority of them, people don’t have proper shelter. The basic needs are shelter, food and education. Unfortunately in this country, housing has been a neglected area and it has not be possible for any government over the last 70 years to tackle this problem. This requires an enormous effort, time and money. Unless we do this, our people in villages will continue to live in abject poverty without proper shelter and will be condemned to live without a decent life which is unfortunate. But, there is no question about the need. Today, it is absolutely essential to provide housing to rural folk. Indeed houses to any families who need it, because it is the basic necessity of civilization.”

In the collaboration of the government, financial institutions and NGOs, what role should each play?

“The problem of housing is acute in rural areas (perhaps equally acute in some urban centres), is so enormous that it is not humanly possible for any one government or one agency to tackle this problem. It might take a century given the population of India. Nevertheless, collaborative effort is necessary by all concerned. The role of the government is essential is making sure that proper land is available, all approvals connected with the building of houses are completed efficiently and promptly.

Each of these houses cost money. So, financial institutions have the role of providing the loans for these houses at low rates. This are possible with an insurance and commitment from the home owners. Banks need to make it an easy process with simple formalities.

NGOs role in this case is not just complimentary. Their commitment level is high in bringing awareness about the need for a house, of what are proper shelters. Their work is also in arranging financial assistance and ensuring that the assistance given is repaid promptly.

They also need to make sure that the home owner puts in commitment and his own effort to work towards the house. The more we think about doling money, the more we are actually degrading them. We must encourage them to commit themselves to build their home. That is possible when the individual owner has a sense of feeling towards living better. This is where NGOs can bring a great deal of awareness and education to the people.”

Back to School

 

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As part of our efforts to improve the school at Thimmaiyanadoddi, we arranged for volunteers from Vagdevi Vilas School to come and assess the system.

The teachers who came assessed the school and found the teacher there to be quite knowledgeable and was doing a good job with the teaching using a variety of creative teaching aids. The classroom was well organised and decorated with different charts and concept sheets. A teaching assistant also helped with the activities in the school.

The students were tested on their lessons frequently. The volunteers checked through the question papers prepared and found them to encompass what was necessary. Students on a whole seemed be quite regular in attending classes. The problem found, however, was in the lack of involvement of the parents in their child’s education. This consequently led to a lessened motivation in the students. A possible solution to this would be to educate the parents so that they valued the education of their children.

For one test conducted during the assessment, a few students only showed up when Prema (the community worker) coaxed the parents to send them. The students seemed serious about the test, yet were not able to answer the questions well. It was also noted that none of the students did any homework. This issue was also linked to the lack of interest from the parents and their inability to help their children complete assignments. The teacher suggested that every evening, one parent should supervise their children’s home work for a short time at the school.

Aside from that, the school infrastructure could also be improved. If the ground in the school compound was levelled, then there would be space to accommodate a few playground equipment to be used during school break times. Other needs of the school like the ceiling fan in the classroom and shoes for the children could also be addressed.

Continued support for the school would need to be provided in the form of teaching materials and activity plans for the children. A special programme for Children’s day would also be organised. But most importantly, a method of educating the parents would be the key to improve the school system in Thimmaiyanadoddi.

This was achieved by our community worker and the volunteer teachers who set up a system of rotation where by two parents came to the school beyond school hours to ensure parental involvement.

There were very few kids who completed primary education here, who were able to cope with the middle school education in government schools close by. Many of them ran back home, unable to cope. With continual efforts from Prema and the volunteers, one girl was motivated to study further. YogaKshema managed to support her. A few more students showed interest to continue on to middle school bu the time we left the village.

The costs of traveling to the village is prohibitive to sustain our efforts. Moreover, primary school education is not our forte. Our measures to get corporate companies to fund/include this village in their CSR didn’t work out. Quality education for the kids of Thimmaiyanadoddi is a passport out of penury, and we are still hoping for a guardian angel to descend onto Thimmaiyandoddi.