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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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!

Rang De 2012 Moments!

2012 has been an eventful year for Rang De. Presenting our Top 10 moments of the year!

  • Rang De presented Leadership Expert and globally-acclaimed author Robin Sharma in Bangalore in February 2012. Robin Sharma presented ‘Winning Leadership Lessons’ to build a great organization in his seminar, ‘Lead Without a Title’
  • The Rang De team met Prof. Muhammad Yunus at the Bombay Gymkhana in February at an event organized by Grameen Creative Labs, India to brainstorm and come up with a strategy to build a “Social Business” ecosystem in India.
  • Rang De Co-founder and CEO Ramakrishna Nk was formally inducted into the Ashoka Fellowship in September 2012! 9 other change makers were inducted and recognized for their outstanding social entrepreneurship.
  • Rang De was the 1st runner up in the ‘Best use of Internet for Social & Economic Development’ at the 2nd India Digital Awards! Rang De also won the SAFRG (South Asian International Fund Raising Group) Fund raising Campaign of the year Award – New Media for its ‘World Cup Fever’ Campaign.
  • Raghu Dixit became Rang De’s Brand Ambassador and Social Investor this year! He was a part of the Rang De Freedom Bus concert where he interacted with Rang De borrowers and performed for more than 400 people in Pusad, Maharashtra
  • Rang De was featured in the Microfinance India: State of the Sector Report 2012 for being a Web-based Microfinance initiative. Microfinance India: State of the Sector Report is an annual publication on the microfinance sector quantifying its growth and performance.
  • Rang De was featured on CNN IBN’s series India Positive as their Diwali SpecialIndia Positive is a series that showcases stories of courage, hope, inventions, discoveries, harmony and peace!
  • Rang De crossed Rs.100 Million worth of social investments this October! We’d like to thank everyone that has been a part of our journey for helping us get here.
  • Trafigura Foundation and Deshpande Foundation joined hands with Rang De in 2012 starting new relationships.
  • Rang De joined hands with many new Field Partners in 2012. Among them is Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Ms. Neelima Mishra’s Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan.

A big thank you to everyone that has been a part of our journey so far. We’d also take this opportunity to invite new people to join our exciting journey and be a part of the Rang De family!

The Freedom Bus!

The group interacting with borrowers!
The group interacting with borrowers!

By Smita Ram, Rang De Team

On 13th August 43 of us set out on a roadtrip to Pusad covering close to 2000 kms, cutting across the boundaries of 3 states.  Pusad – a small town in the heart of the Vidarbha region was the unheard of destination.  To think that 43 individuals, most of them complete strangers would spend the next 72 hours together  travelling and sharing their views on social change and Rang De was unthinkable until a week ago for all of us who were part of the Freedom Bus.

It all started with the spark of an idea. We wanted to do something unique for Independence Day and thought of a field trip. The spark got ignited with Raghu Dixit‘s involvement and his interest to interact with his borrowers in Pusad.  We decided to throw open the invitation to Raghu Dixit’s fans and lo! the Freedom Bus started to take shape.

Raghu Dixit & Laxmi Pandhare's family
Raghu Dixit & Laxmi Pandhare’s family

The group started from Bangalore on 13th August and reached Pusad on 14th morning. After a sumptuous Maharashtrian breakfast of poha and jalebis, the groups took off to interact with borrowers who had taken a loan from Rang De.  Raghu Dixit who is also Rang De’s Brand Ambassador met with borrowers in whose businesses he had invested.

 

Raghu Dixit Live!
Raghu Dixit Live!

For the first time ever, many of us were interacting with borrowers. And for the first time many of us understood the importance of credit in economic empowerment.  We understand the impact of Rang De and its field partner’s work in supporting entrepreneurs. We were also exposed to the different dimensions of poverty and how debilitating it can be.

 

Field trip and an authentic Maharashtrian meal done, it was time to be enthralled by the man himself! To have the opportunity to interact with and watch Raghu Dixit Live in concert was simply a dream come true. The icing on the cake was the community members joining us to watch the concert!

 

The community joined us to watch Raghu Dixit Live!
The community joined us to watch Raghu Dixit Live!

This Independence Day, we decided to take the Road not taken.  At the end of the journey, we had spent time with Raghu Dixit, we had made new friends, we had listened to some amazing music, we had chatted about Rang De, we had eaten the best food ever and we had had the best fun ever!

At the end of the Journey - The Freedom Bus Trippers
At the end of the Journey – The Freedom Bus Trippers

 

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