Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Chanda and her shooting stars

This is a blogpost by Chanda Jain, a TFI Fellow in Delhi, who is doing something truly remarkable with her “small wonders” in the classroom. Here she introduces you to the shooting stars, as they like to call themselves, and her campaign. We are truly humbled that Chanda chose us to be a part of this beautiful initiative. Support Chanda’s campaign and cheer for her little shooting stars.

Good values are good actions and good words.

‘Can you give me an example of a good value?’

‘Didi if my friend does not have a pencil, I will give her my pencil. I am being helpful.

‘If my bottle falls down and the water is on the floor, and didi scolds the class, I will say didi it is my bottle. I am being honest.’

‘If you are talking, I will say excuse me didi, can you please help me’.

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One year down the road and I began to realize the importance of wording out the good and the bad to my girls. In an environment where 8 year olds hurl the choicest of abuses, fathers gamble under the sun in afternoons and marital fights are everyday affairs, ethics do not constitute a part of their daily life.

I started integrating values into the coursework or narrating stories with morals at the end. It created ripples. I could now refer to the hard-working tortoise who never admitted defeat or the lazy grasshopper who starved through the winters. But we needed more, a bigger cause. Something which would make the students think beyond their immediate community and expose them to the world outside of their homes.

That is when I chanced upon the Rang De website. A social investing site, it aims to lower the cost of micro credit to underserved communities through peer-to-peer lending. I introduced the website in the class along with the concept of savings and investment. What happened next was something even I had not prepared myself for. An open discussion ensued. About the less fortunate. About people striving to fulfil their dreams. About poverty. About propelling yourself out of poverty. And then my girls gave me the answer. They told me they wanted to pitch in.

 

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Now, the class comes forward in droves to drop in a rupee or two into the piggy banks I instructed to bring for the class. They try to do without a packet of chips or that typhoid-on-a-stick chuski sold right outside the school premises. Instead these ten-year olds are religiously putting aside their money so they can make their first collective social investment and help fund a dream.

Some days they pick up the piggy banks and weigh them in their hands to figure out if they have saved a respectable amount. Some days they chide themselves for not having saved enough. And every day, they inspire me.

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With Chanda’s consent we have launched a campaign where our social investors can triplicate the amount these little girls save for Rang De’s borrowers. Lets celebrate these little heroines. Please visit Chanda’s campaign on Rang De to add your contribution

And to keep up with Chanda’s journey as a TFI Fellow please follow her beautiful blog

 

The Madness Continues: 2 months on

This is a post by our guest blogger Siddharth Agarwal, of the Madness Project fame. Here he reflects back on his life altering journey and why the end is sometimes just the beginning.

A little over two months now, since the completion of the Madness Project and the customary completion story still hasn’t been typed out. This has to do less with willingness and more with what I’m going to write down in this article, i hope you get the message that i’m trying to convey. I had received an e-mail from Tanvi a week after the completion of the Madness project regarding creation of a photo essay that would wrap up the project and I ended up not replying to that email. It might sound immature to a lot of the folks reading this, but, i did not want it to wrap up.

In various conversations between Ujjawal and I on our trip across the country, we would often remark on how we’d be more than happy to perpetually stay on the roads like nomads, wandering with our cycles to different corners of this country and beyond. And trust me, if you’ve ever been out there on a journey of madness such as this, you will understand. I did not want to put a formal ending to the project, and i do not intend to do so even through this post. I shall only highlight a few points here, for a single post that containing all details will be too lengthy to read !!

As you continuously pedal your bike, kilometre after kilometre, hour by hour, for days and weeks, you realize the potential of your mind. You realize how much more efficient it can be if you make it work in a single direction, for a specific purpose. The continuous act of cycling did that for me, chained my thoughts and then made me churn it to produce more refined thoughts. It helped me understand things better, it helped me control my anger and increased my patience manifold. And it wasn’t simply the act of cycling, but the continuous influx of words and stories, the inspiration and support from friends and family, words of wisdom from books and strangers, and most important of all, experiences that we lived daily!!

We came across varied sets of individuals, from poverty stricken individuals to entrepreneurs, rural populace and urban settlers, and learnt from each one of them. What these stories, interactions and experiences taught us in whole was extremely humbling, and that is our biggest takeaway from this project. I would rate this gain of ours as higher than the funds that were collected, the amount of attention it attracted to the cause of Micro Credit and Child Labour and even higher than the fact that a number of people looked up to us for inspiration. In our takeaway in terms of learning, i believe we have been the biggest beneficiaries through this project.

I’ll recap my experiences with grass root entrepreneurs and Rang De borrowers, with field partners and Rang De team members in my next blog post, and i’ll make sure that you see the beauty that our country is. Before i leave you with a picture from from a field visit in a village near Sambalpur, Odisha, there area few last things that I’d like to say:

“To anyone who is reading this, go out there and do something that you think is beyond your limits, do something for someone who might never be in a position to pay you back for what you did. Rediscover your own self, because in doing that something beyond your limits and in doing that something for others, you will have changed yourself beyond what you think you could ever be.”

Also, i’d take this opportunity to announce that i’m undertaking another project in December, and that too shall have one of its intents to raise funds for rural entrepreneurs through Rang De.

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The Madness Project

This is a guest post by a Rang De social investor, Siddharth Agarwal. Siddharth is currently studying at IIT Kharagpur, is an amateur photographer and a cycling enthusiast. Here he introduces us to the Madness Project and explains why he chose to support Rang De. We’ll be following his journey across India closely and will be bringing you more highlights from the Madness Project in the coming few weeks.

Welcome, to The Madness Project. A journey from the East to the West Coast of India, being undertaken by two undergraduate students on bicycles, fueled by the zeal to explore ourselves, the desire to understand the complex web of culture in our country and a wish to uplift lives around us. We begin this journey on the 27th of May from Kolkata and aim at reaching Mumbai in a span of 30 days, an approximate total travel distance of 2500 kilometres. I am cycling to raise funds for Rang De’s borrowers while Ujjawal is cycling for Child Rights and You (CRY).

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On a lot of grounds, similarities can be drawn between this project and Rang De. The factors of working at the grass root level, working for the betterment of those who do not have privileges and going all out in the process are just a few of many. I have continuously been inspired by the commitment and efforts of the team at Rang De, here’s a quick tour of how and why.

Beginning with an internship in the summer of 2011, i had the opportunity to observe the working of the company very closely . It was because of the people at the office that i felt so comfortable and was able to deliver, graduating from a fresh intern in the beginning of May 2011 to running the TCS 10K Bangalore Marathon with the team in June 2011. The amount of work outflow, the thought process behind each idea/process and the creativity infused into making the process interactive surely inspired me and put into my mind what an ideal workspace would look like.

The association with Rang De has continued ever since and I’ve worked with them on various platforms, getting to learn a lot at each step and as mentioned earlier, being continuously inspired by the thought and idea behind the working of the organisation. Adding to that, being a social investor has given me a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in doing my bit towards the society even while i was attending to my tasks at college.

The inception of this project took place a long time ago, but the moment we decided to go huge, the first thought that crossed my mind was to use this opportunity to raise funds for Rang De, and help the society in whatever we can. My conversation with Smita regarding the project is still etched in my mind, the excitement still running through me. The team has been a great support in creating awareness about the project, in setting up the online portal for fund raising and for pushing us further in the project that we’ve undertaken. We hope that we’ll be able to reach our target, rather, surpass it and make a huge impact. Here’s hoping that more of you join us on this journey, not literally on the roads, cycling with us, but in our efforts in helping eradicate poverty in India.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude towards CoolAge for having agreed to support our trip through various avenues, and in encouraging us to undertake this task.

“It isn’t an easy task to do, but then, most worthwhile things are not.”

Support the Madness Project | Follow Siddharth on Twitter

A Day with Rang De’s youngest Social Investors

- Madhur Jajoo, Rang De Social Investor and Rang De Pune Chapter Member

A Rang De social investor since December 2011, Madhur Jajoo is also a member of the Rang De Pune Chapter. Madhur accompanied the students of Project Rang De Lives on their first field visit last October and spent a day interacting with the students, Rang De borrowers and our field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar. Here’s his account of the field visit. 
 

Sometimes in life we learn valuable things from children which we adults seldom put serious thought into. And more often than not, this process leaves us with increased wisdom and conscientiousness. I came across one such inspiring story last year which my made me take a step back and provoked me to ask “How?”

Last year, 19 students of class VII from Abhimanyu Eng. Medium School, Pune raised Rs.900 to invest in Rang De borrowers and became Rang De’s youngest social investors. Rang De borrowers are individuals who apply for a loan to support either their business or their children’s education. The class raised the money from their personal savings (I think it’s important to note that these students belong to middle class families). The story started with their class teacher, Mrs Payoshini Saraf, a Teach for India fellow and Rang De social investor, introducing Project Rang De Lives in her class. She explained the Rang De model to the class and got them thinking by asking them how they can help.

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Having made their first social investment in Rang De, the students were interested in interacting with the borrowers and learning how they operated their businesses and in getting answers for the many questions that they had. Their wish was granted by Rang De with its field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar and a field visit was organised in Pune for the students to meet the borrowers. Fortunately, I was part of this trip which allowed me to meet the students and learn from them.

On 4th October, the field visit started with the students visiting the borrowers’ houses at Ghorpade, Pune. These young ignited minds were ready to explore the world and their teacher, ready to teach them chapters outside the syllabus. The students asked a range of questions to every borrower we visitedfrom how they set up a business to financial viability of the business and the challenges that they faced. The kind of questions the students asked, their level of thinking and their curious minds left me amazed. To top it all, the students made hand-made utility gifts like paper envelopes, bags etc. for the borrowers depending on the kind of business they were involved in. These gifts would be of help to the borrowers in their businesses and I was completely astonished by this!

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This story of these enthusiastic and affectionate students enriched me in many ways and I hope it will do the same to you as well. These students showed me that age has little to do with empathy, maturity and the ability to make a difference. I also hope more teachers like Mrs Payoshini inspire and guide their students to do something similar to make India a better place.

Project Rang De Lives has invested Rs.3,800 and impacted 19 lives since September 2013. If you would like to explore ‘Empathy in a Classroom’ and introduce Rang De at a school near you, write to us sushmita@rangde.org.

I Have a Dream

-Bharti, Rang De higher education loan student

Bharti is one of our first higher education loan students and is currently studying Optometry at Sankara College of Optometry, Bangalore. She scored 80% in her 3rd year and topped her batch a few months ago. This Women’s Day, Bharti shares with us how she’s glad she didn’t give up on her dream and what it is like to be a woman today! 
 

Hello friends,

I am Bharti and I’m from a small town in Madhya pradesh. I belong to middle class family but I think being rich or poor doesn’t matter. What matters is how confident one is, how hard one is willing to work and that success never comes without struggle.

I have a dream. And the dream is to be a medical professional one day. But after my father’s passing, our family faced a lot of problems and I couldn’t continue my studies. I tried really hard; I applied for an education loan too but was turned down. After trying for many months, I finally thought of giving up. But I decided to continue to fight! I wasn’t going to give up so soon and life wasn’t easy for everybody. So what if I was a girl? I wasn’t weak. I resumed my journey of trying to complete my studies again and finally came across Rang De. Rang De’s loan and support have not only helped my in realising my dreams but also has also made me want to help other students after my graduation.

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I’d like to say that every girl is intelligent, confident and should never give up. I’m proud of my self and that being a girl isn’t stopping me from taking care of my family and doing anything that I set my mind to because “whatever we do in life, we are never defeated, unless we give up!”

Happy Women’s Day!

Join us in saluting our Sisters In Arms and celebrating the undying spirit of women all over!