A life changing field visit to Pusad!

- Sowmya Nandan, Rang De Chief Impact Officer
 
Rang De’s Chief Impact Officer recently returned from her first field visit to Pusad, Maharashtra and brought back with her inspiring stories of our borrowers and field partner, SAGRAS. Here’s a look at the field visit that left her short of words.
 

Every field visit has a different learning scenario and my last field visit to Pusad to meet our field partner SAGRAS (Samagra Gram Vikas Sanstha) had a lot of lessons to teach me! The lessons began even before I set foot in Pusad. The five hour road trip from Nagpur to Pusad opened my eyes to how the apartment culture is encroaching everywhere, not just the cities. Sanju, the person who driving me around informed me that the property prices in Nagpur were almost equivalent to Bangalore. One of the most talked about aspect after every SAGRAS visit is the ever popular ‘Bhakti’ hotel and its Maharashtrian food. Rang De Team members had explicitly given me instructions that I should not miss the bhindi sabji and dal. I promptly ordered it for my first meal and it continued to be my ritual for the rest of my stay.

 
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The experience to SAGRAS was an extremely humbling one. It was heartening to see how closely knit most of the SAGRAS team members were with the community. Every person in the community recognized them and warmly exchanged pleasantries. It’s a rare scenario to see that our Field Staff share such a great rapport with our borrowers. The entire field audit was carried out flawlessly. The tracker sheet I had carried had all the borrower details – however, Mahatreji and Nagaraoji had the database in their minds. As soon as we arrived the community, women flocked together and had already put a beautiful Rangoli and adorned the God with beautiful flowers and lamps. It was emotionally difficult for me to relate to the fact that most of these women who had gathered came from low income groups, yet their gesture was unconditional. They had made beautiful bouquet of flowers and got chai and snacks from one of our borrowers shops.

I would like to applaud how Bhangeji, the founder of SAGRAS has consciously given employment to 2 members who are specially-abled. The entire SAGRAS team members has been working for about 10 years and this decade of experience gives Rang De a lot of community intelligence. I believe that no management book can teach the stuff we can pick from these communities. They are not looking at taking calculated risk, but also think about the future and have alternate plans in place – their energy and soul is put towards making the IMPACT!

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Some trips are Life Changing!

- Smita Ram, Rang De co-founder and Managing Trustee

Rang De’s Smita and Sowmya recently returned from a field visit to Mysore where they interacted with Rang De beneficiaries along with the members of our field partner SVYM. Here’s a detailed account of their exciting experience! 

“Yet another Field Trip!” No, it never really feels that way. Every village in India has so much uniqueness to offer that one can’t but look forward to a Rang De Field Trip. So here I was with Sowmya – one of my best buddies , my co-social worker from college and now Rang De’s Chief Impact Officer – all set for the trip to Mysore.

We decided to rely on the public transport and thus landed at the Kengeri Satellite Bus Station to get our ideal bus to Mysore. ‘Ideal’, we call it because we were hell bent on not taking the volvo. Got into an ordinary bus after gobbling a steaming plate of idlis at Kadamba.

On the way

The drive to Mysore, as everyone is aware, is not just historic but culturally rich. From the thatte idlis of Bidadi to the rocky mountains of Ramnagar, the wooden toys of Chennapatna and the sugar city of Mandya – there is so much to devour on this route that the 150 kms seem really well spent. We were off to meet one of our Field partners – Swamy Vivekananda Youth Movement - for an evaluation. Any field evaluation of Rang De usually involves a review of the partnership and meeting with borrowers who have received Rang De loans. We had to change our plan a bit, thanks to our decision to not take a volvo which meant we headed straight to the field once we reached Mysore. Field in this case was a small village called Ramanahalli – a 15 minute drive from the Columbia Asia Hospital.

We were guided by Mary and Harish – both long timers with SVYM and were joined by Kumar and Jayashree at the village. We went straight to a half constructed building to be greeted by a bunch of enthusiastic women of different age groups. They were members of the SHG – Chamundeswari – all had taken loans for their businesses.

 

 

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From selling vegetables and fruits, there was every single business that one could think of that was being done to make a living. We couldn’t but help think of the 262 unique activities that Rang De has funded so far. After a lively discussion with the group that was led by an enterprising Madhavi, we departed to meet the next group. The next group was located in the heart of Mysore – just opposite a hospital. A group of street vendors who are amongst the most exploited – by the local money lenders, the police and also victims of their own competition. Not any more for this group as our field partner has helped them deal with all these problems. The Rang De loans have taken them to safety. From paying Rs.200 per day as interest on a Rs.1000 loan, they are now the proud recipients of the Rang De loan where they pay Rs.850 per year on a 10,000 loan. Their stories were all deeply inspiring, Rang De’s impact more than obvious – both tangible and intangible!

Thanks to a downpour, we decided to head to SVYM’s office. As always, this is a place one needs to be to get inspired. We had a meaningful discussion about Rang De’s partnership with SVYM with the director Mr. Sudharshan and then spent time going through the records that were maintained for Rang De.

As we bid goodbye to all the team members a SVYM before we got into our ‘ideal’ bus again, one couldnt but imagine the blurring of boundaries between 2 organizations. We felt that we were no longer 2 entities working in tandem. We had incredibly become one to fulfill a common mission of fighting poverty and destitution in India!

Interested in meeting Rang De’s borrowers and our field partner SVYM in Mysore? We’re heading out to Mysore on 10th August, 2013 to do just that! Sign up NOW! 

 

The Story of a Quilt

BlogI’d like to share a story today; a story that is apt for Women’s Day.

The story goes like this. A few years ago, at a community meeting for women, someone asked the group, “As a woman, what is that one skill you have that can contribute economically?” A few women responded. one said “making agarbattis” and another said ‘making pickles’ and the answers stopped. Then, after a long pause, a woman asked “What can I do, apart from making “godhadis?”The group had a good laugh about this seemingly trivial idea. What was pushed aside as a laughable suggestion is now changing the life of close to 2000 women in the village of Bahadarpur in the Jalagaon district of Maharashtra. Seeing merit in this idea, our field partner BNGVN has formed a collective of women from the community all of them now contributing to the production of more than 250,000 quilts every 6 months. The sheer scale of effort leaves one mesmerized and the community engagement is inspiring and the simplicity of the idea is just way too humbling.

On a recent visit, I saw women working in 3 shifts and clocking close to 16 hour days collectively and the men are now helping the women too! One of the members turned up late to a Gram Sabha Meeting and when questioned, he said he was helping his wife with the cutting the cloth for the quilt. Making quilts has become their life now and the process has been divided into several sub tasks and each group is responsible for one of these activities. One group is responsible for cutting, one for sewing and one for packing and so on.

At 11.30 PM in the night the ‘chehel’, ‘pehel’ in the front yard of the office of BNGVN was simply breathtaking.  And there were many lessons to be learnt from the humble idea of a quilt. So often, as women we hesitate to share our ideas or speak our mind, mostly with the worry that it is not an idea worth sharing. And here was an idea that was laughed at and is now changing the lives of thousands.

Many such ideas that were once laughed at have proved to be transformational. Be it the idea of Seva Bank or the one of Lijjat Papad. This Women’s Day, let us celebrate the power of ideas and the power of one woman to change – her family, her community and the world!

Kerala: Land of resolute women and inspiring tales!

Rang De team member Sushmita Banda and social investor Aravind Deivendran are just back from a field trip to Palakkad and have brought back inspiring tales of our incredible borrowers from Kerala. Presenting the photo stories of the trip!

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Every month, we touch base with our borrowers to see how they are doing and if our loans have been helpful or not. With the rising number of people we are investing in, we need more and more support from you. Click on the image above for more details on how you can help. Do forward this to those in your circle whom you think can help.