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.

Jab we Met: Project Rang De Lives’ first Field Visit

Payoshni Saraf, Rang De Social Investor
Project Rang De Lives became Rang De’s youngest social investors in September 2013 and went on their first Field visit this month with their teacher Payoshni Saraf. The class spent the day interacting with Rang De borrowers and our field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar; asking questions about entrepreneurship and business and also had a little surprise for everybody! Here’s an account of their First Field Visit.
 

Tiffins after tiffins were stuffed in school bags. Notepads, pens. Lots of Questions. Today was the day! We were going to see if all that sacrifice was worth it? Was it worth forgoing that new glow pen or Lay’s new flavor? Did our Rs.1/- per day really helped anyone? Did those people even exist?

4th October 2013. 9.30 AM. We left from our tiny school in Warje and headed to Ghorpadi, where Rang De’s field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar Sanstha had their office .We were to meet ‘The’ borrowers today. All those faces that we had seen on Didi’s computer screen till now.We were to come face to face with them and swap stories. Today was the day!

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We reached singing songs and p\laying ‘I spy’ to our destination at sharp 11.00 a.m. After keeping our bags at the office we set out to start the exciting meetings that lay ahead. Our first destination was the little Grocery shop of Lata Anthoni. With the biggest smile she welcomed us home and  told us how she started her business. The Father in the Chruch guided her, she shared. Not to open a shop which sold tobacco, but a shop where kids could come and buy. So, with the money that we lent her, Lata Aunty stocked her shop with Candies and  Stationery items and now the shop is busy with customers our size who come from nearby schools.We gifted her a hand made and hand painted wooden ‘Money Box’ for her shop. After posing for a picture with her, we were on our way.

Our next stop was tailor Shobha Travar. We asked her business expansion plans and were delighted to know that she intended to now become a saree seller. What a cool idea to get cheaper sarees from  Madras and sell them here in Pune ! We told her so and also gifted her with a handmade paper roll box to store her threads and needles in.

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Shobha aunty then guided us to Gajanan Uncle’s home, who was the Barber saloon owner in whom we had invested Rs.200/-. Gajanan Band has been running his Barber shop since the last 18 odd years and had learnt the art from his father. Now only the art of taming the mane, Gajanan uncle was very good in thermocol  decorations and he was kind enough to show us some samples of his work. Each piece was bright and beautiful. We were very impressed.Thankfully , we had an equally bright and beautiful panting to gift him.

The sun was mercilessly that day, but how could stop ? A short bus ride away was our next destination, Sitabai Gaikwad’s house. Stern looking Sitabai actually had the widest smile we have seen in a while and shared with us how she runs her business and the stock she keeps and maintains. She also asked us about Rang De and our project and why we were doing what we were doing and was impressed when we gifted her 50 paper bags we had made for her to hand out her wares in to her customers. She posed with our entire group for the picture right infront of her home.

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Maya Dhobhale’s house was a short walk away from the main road but you could identify it from a distance because of the delicious smells wafting out. And why not, afterall she runs a tiffin service. We reached in time to catch Maya aunty taking a break from her Chapati making and we squealed in delight when she told us she could do atleast 200 per day on our own. Wow ! Maya aunty was an inspiring person. She gave us so many tips about being an entrepreneur. She told us how only a will and passion is required to build a person, how no work is big or small and every business is equally valuable. She also advised us on how to run a business ethically, how never to cheat and pay taxes. Her talk really set us thinking. Inspired and by now a little tired, we were on our way back to Parvati Swayamrojgar Sanstha’s office. But not before we gifted May aunty a really cool money box, shaped in the shape of a Tiffin.

After lunch we were to attend their Orientation Program where they would get new aspiring borrowers who would be updated on the microfinance model that Rang De & their Field Partner’s operated on. Once in office, we attacked our tiffin boxes. A little post lunch masti later, Didi sat us down to think about how our day was spent and what were we thinking, we learnt from these people. Each one of us had to share it out with the class.By then, it was almost 2.30 and the Orientation Meeting started. Around 8-9 women had gathered who were seeking loans for either their businesses or education of their kids and it was interesting to see Parvati’s representatives patiently explain the entire model to them and answer questions.

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Filled to the brim with information and inspiration, it was time for us to leave. We thanked Parvati’s staff members for giving us their time and gifted them keychains that we had made for them as a token of our appreciation and love.

The bus made its way back slowly through the traffic and there was a quiet and peaceful expression on everyone’s face. I guess everyone was thinking exactly what I was thinking: IT INDEED WAS WORTH IT!

To know more about, contribute or volunteer for our class project on microfinance do write in to payoshni.saraf2012@teachforindia.org or grade7abhimanyu@gmail.com 

 

Project Rang De Lives: The First Leap

Payoshni Saraf, Rang De Social Investor

In our last blogpost, we introduced Project Rang De Lives where Rang De Social Investor Payoshni Saraf also a Teach for India Fellow introduced the concept of ‘saving’ and ‘investing’ to her 7th graders in Pune. The class saved for a month and recently made their first investment! Here’s an account of their journey.
 

There was excitement. There was tension. There was this little bubble of maturity that was forming, almost like a first step into adolescence. Today is the day. The day when we make us count. The day we make our first Rang De social investment.

Then there were questions. Lots of questions.

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Some of the students asked. “Didi, whom are we going to invest in?”, “ Didi, do you know them?”, “ Didi, when will get our returns?”, “Didi, what is the interest %?” A meek voice also said, “Didi can you please teach me again how to calculate interest. My team wants me to close the accounts for this month.”

Didi also had some questions. “Was doing Rang De Lives easy or tough?”, “Was saving money while cutting down your spending easy or tough?”, “What values did you learn in the last one month?”, “When you spoke to your friends and family about what you are doing, was there a negative reaction and how did you handle it?”, “Can you think of ways to improve this project?”

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After our lunch break, we huddled around Didi in small groups and went through Rang De’s website. We met the team, read their vision, their working model, we saw how one can participate and we read the success stories.

And then came the time we had been waiting for! In our groups of 3 and 4 we chose 5 borrowers to make an investment in. Sitabai Gaikwad runs a vegetable stall and was funded for INR 200/-. Gajanan Band ran a hair salon and got INR 200/- from us to help him expand his business. Maya Dhobhale who runs a mess service wanted money to procure tiffin boxes, vegetables, grocery items and we invested INR 200/-  so that she could do exactly that. Our total investment for the day was INR 900!

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Next, we sat within our teams and discussed all the questions that Didi had asked us to reflect upon. Hear 2 of our friends talk about their experience on this journey.

It has been a fulfilling one month, but we are not done yet. We have increased our target and prepared to make a bigger investment next month. Also, keenly anticipated is our field visit when we go and actually meet these borrowers and know their stories. Watch out this space for more!

To know more about or contribute or volunteer for our class project on microfinance do write in to payoshni.saraf2012@teachforindia.org or  grade7abhimanyu@gmail.com   

 

Microcredit in a Classroom: Project Rang De Lives

Payoshni Saraf, Rang De Social Investor
Payoshni Saraf is a Rang De Social Investor and a Teach for India Fellow who teaches Grade 7 in an underprivileged school in Pune. She recently introduced Project Rang De Lives in her class which will soon make these seventh graders Rang De’s youngest social investors! Here’s their story. 
 

Payoshni 3What happens when you ignite a young mind?
What happens when you make them look beyond their comfort zone?
What happens when you challenge them to a greater good?
What happens when you make them learn the power of sacrifice?
A small fire is lit.
Flickering but steady .
Unsure of itself first, but braving the winds nevertheless.

I can see this little brave flame in my class. I saw the matches strike each other and create small sparks when I first discussed Rang De in class and the work that Rang De and its many social investors do together. How small savings from many people are pooled together to eradicate India’s monstrous problem of POVERTY.

Is poverty new to us? I asked them. They said NO. Does giving that occasional coin to the beggar going to solve it? They said NO. Giving donations to temples and churches going to help us? They said NO, God is too busy anyway. So can we all together do something? That, set them thinking.

Our Vision for Project Rang De Lives is “Together WE will make a difference!”

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You discount us because we are children, because we come from lesser privileged backgrounds, because you underestimate the power of teamwork or the power of us saving our ice cream and pani puri money and investing it in a business.

We rose to the challenge. The class divided itself into smaller groups of 3s and 4s. We had started maintaining an Income-Expenses and Savings register since summer vacations so the concept was not alien. We just now knew how to utilize these savings better.

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The groups got themselves names, logos, posters and shared responsibilities and working titles for all its members. Somebody became an accountant, somebody a treasurer. They fixed a achievable and modest target for their savings (threshold being Rs.100/-) and also worked out an algorithm for how much to save weekly to reach the monthly target or how to save it (no asking money from parents, but not buying that small pack of chips and saving Rs,5/- that way). They invested their family and friends in the venture. We were ready to roll now.

On September 2nd, we make our first social investment. We invest in entrepreneurs from Pune, who need finance  for their business ventures, from vegetables vendors to bangle sellers.We will also go and visit them and see for ourselves how our little savings have been utilized and helped the business. We will learn tips and tricks of business from them and experience the joy of entrepreneurship.

Because together, we will make a difference!

To know more about, contribute or volunteer for our class project on microcredit do write in to payoshni.saraf2012@teachforindia.org or  grade7abhimanyu@gmail.com

 

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!