Evaluation trip to Vandavasi

February 9, 2009
By Rang De Team

Two team members from Rang De, Shirley and Pradeep, went to visit a few of our borrowers at Vandavasi in the last week of January. They shared their observations and thoughts with us.Read for yourself.

Shirley Ghosh, Rang De Team

For me the evaluation trip was like the characters of a book that came alive. And as with any book that gets made into a film, some of the characters were exactly how you imagined and others completely different.

Evaluations are necessary, albeit in much smaller groups. This time, we were an army of six that went to visit the borrowers. An intimidating group for a small village.

Our field partner, ASSCOD was a celebrity of sorts in the area. So when we approached with him in the lead, the whole village knew who we were and why we were there. It was the children who were playing outside who took the message to their parents. In fact many of the borrowers (that we were not evaluating, this time round) came up to meet us. Many of them lived in thatched roof huts and others in proper constructed houses. Most of them were very self-conscious initially, but it later gave way to earnestness in letting us know how they had utilized the money, and convincing us that repayments would not be a problem. Hospitality was of course at its best and none of them seemed to be withholding information.

The borrower who impacted me the most was Selvi. She ran a busy “restaurant” serving tiffin. She was a widow raising three children and was busy frying a batch of vadas when we met her. She took us to her house to speak to us. She was so full of energy and enthusiasm and spoke with a smile on her face. Her daughter, who is in 9th grade at school was a bolder version of her mother and was a participant in the conversation.

The others were Jayanthi and Mumtaz.-neighbours, friends who also do business together. They buy flowers, make them into garlands and sell them to retailers. The advantage- when one needs to go out on other work the other completes her garland making. They pool in their money, buy the flowers together and sell all together. They split the profits.

Pradeep Kallayil, Niyati Technologies, Partner Rang De

The trip to Vandavasi was an eye-opener. Although, this being the first trip, I din’t delve into the details of the loan borrowed and amount repaid, but what caught my attention was the enthusiasm and commitment to their small businesses and the amount of difference the loan made to their lives. Selvi, the hotelier (the hotel was a mere 200 sq.ft, mud-floored, thatched hut) was so thrilled to see us. She wanted to serve us food. Too bad we had just had breakfast . She is all kicked about her business after winning a breakfast and lunch contract for 25 people at the nearby milk dairy.

Just words does not justify the experience of actually being there. Each borrower has a story to tell.The women in the village who were social entrepreneurs are true case-studies of how “hard work brings success and wealth “. As social investors, we have to be a part of such trips to see how their money has made a difference.