“They only live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive” – Swami Vivekananda
On 4th October, I joined the Rang De team on a Field Trip to meet a community of borrowers in Warangal, associated with the Sarvodaya Youth Organization (SYO). We were a group of 12 members and we reached the first village, Pasragonda, right around noon. We received a warm welcome from all the villagers, including a big banner announcing all of our names.
Most of the villagers who assembled at the venue were widows. They were asked to share their stories, how receiving loans from Rang De had impacted their lives.
It was heart-warming to listen to their stories of hope, despair, love and courage against all odds. The guts and fortitude shown by these amazing women was truly remarkable. The common view that came through was that the support they are receiving right now is just the beginning, and there is still much to be done to uplift the women in these villages.
After the meeting, which concluded an hour later, we proceeded for a simple and delicious lunch, which was arranged near the venue.
Post lunch, we reached the second village, Atmakur around 2:30 pm. All of us assembled at the house of a borrower, where around 20 women were present. The intention was to have a deeper interaction with the borrowers. Here, the women shared their stories about hardships they faced and the progress they had made so far.
Meeting women of courage and grit
One story that struck me with a jolt was that of Radhika, who was ostracized by her family on the death of her husband. Radhika’s husband was unable to pay back the loans he had taken due to the poor produce that resulted from the bad monsoons. In the end, he took his own life by consuming pesticide. Radhika was left with two young daughters to care for, with no help from outside.
In these circumstances, Radhika heard of an organization called SYO who were conducting meetings in her village. When she approached them, they listened to her story, and granted her the Rs 50,000 as a loan after the required due diligence process.
She used a some of the money to repay a part of her husband’s loan, and with the remaining amount, she invested in a sewing machine. Today, she continues to take up tailoring to support her family. She tells us that without the help of SYO and Rang De, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
Saritha’s story was similar. He husband had also committed suicide due to excessive debt. With the help of a loan from Rang De, she has now taken up tailoring and has also started a small grocery store which sells daily food items. Another lady Anusha went the through the same hardships with the additional challenge of her son’s ailment – a heart condition which requires constant, expensive medical attention.
In all of these stories, there were few rays of sunshine. Around 200 ladies across the villages have been trained in computers and few of them are now getting into computer related jobs. Some of them have also joined a centre where they are being trained in tailoring.
At the end of the session, we clicked some group pictures and boarded the bus back to the SYO office in Hanamkonda. In his office, Mr Damodar briefed us about SYO’s activities and the awards and recognition the organization had received. It was good to know that their efforts are being appreciated.
And with that, the trip came to an end. We departed by 6:30 PM and took a bus back to Hyderabad.
What an experience it was! It is one thing to sit in the comfort of your office and donate money online. But it is quite another thing to actually be out there in the field, with the people and hear their stories.
It helps you understand that of the many things we complain about, there are still people with struggle to make a living. It shakes you up and makes you think about your priorities in life.
My sincere thanks to Rang De for this eye-opening experience.
By Shridhar Pishapati
Shridhar Pishapati is a social investor with Rang De. He was part of a 12 – member team that visited the Sarvodaya Youth Organization (SYO) in Warangal, Telangana in October 2018.