Last week, Rang De held its annual Confluence where 18 Field Partners from 12 states came to JP Naik Centre for Education & Development. In three days, they discussed, shared, learned, unlearned and we got a chance to express our appreciation for all the hard work the Partners do throughout the year to help underserved communities across India.
Social investors also attended from places as diverse as Singapore and Hyderabad while 32 social workers who have a combined experience of more than 200 years of social service took two-day train journeys from places as far as Imphal in Manipur and Balasore in Orissa to attend the Confluence.
“We joined Rang De as Social Investors for different reasons but we are all excited because of the ideal partnerships that are there,” Vineeth, a Pune Chapter member, outlined in a talk about Social Investors that want to do more than just invest in rural entrepreneurs.
Ajay Hiraskar, a Startup Mentor, gives people a lift via BlaBlaCar to Mumbai and instead of accepting a fee, he asks them to make a social investment.
Srivatsa Mahesh ran barefoot for part of the distance in a marathon to help raise awareness in October last year.
Siddharth Agarwal walked 400kms in Rajasthan in December to highlight social issues and let people know about Urmul, an NGO for weavers and by the weavers.
As Mr Hiraskar opined during his talk, “The concept is simple — alone, it’s difficult to make a difference but together, it’s a lot easier.”
More than income generation
In particular, making a difference is a lot easier with wonderful field partners, many of whom shared with us all the different facets of the work that they do.
SEVA (Self Employment Voluntary Association) in Manipur know that many weavers and vegetable vendors cannot work beyond 60 so they run a pension scheme to support them in their old age.
In rural Uttar Pradesh where the concept of a girl child attending school is a radical one, Pardada Pardadi Educational Society (PPES) has started an all-girls school. In 2000, they had to knock on the doors of houses and 25 out of the initial 40 students were pulled out of school by their parents within the first week.
Now, they account for the schooling of nearly 1,000 students from 43 villages — these girls are even taught how to do Aartis, a religious activity previously exclusively allowed for men.
SAATH, our partner from Gujarat, has built 850 houses, in collaboration with DBS Home Strategies, aiding the dream of ‘owning a house’ among slum dwellers by offering affordable home-loan solutions & flexible loan repayment options in Ahmedabad and Surat.
Darbar Sahitya Sansad helps returnee migrants rebuild their lives in Odisha, our newest partner deAsra (who signed on during the Confluence) offer 72 online guides (the eventual aim is to offer 250) that teach people how to set up simple businesses (Beauty Salon, Men’s Parlour, Mobile Repairing etc) in both Marathi and English, Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management (SSISM) has setup a dairy farm right next to the university and have placed their students in companies like Cognizant and SAP.
TATA Trusts reiterated their support and explained how Rang De fits into founder Ratan Tata’s dual mission of community service for the underserved while also supporting the aspirational &talented poor.
A reinvigorating time for all
During one of the sessions focusing on leadership in the social sector (a common problem across organisations happens to be manpower retention), Sudanshu from Nari & Sishu Kalyan Samittee had a private conversation with Bhangey ji that I happened to overhear.
“Bhangey ji, aap Odisha kyun nahi aatey hai? Hamney kitni baar bulaaya hai aapko!”
“Kya keh rahe ho ji? Hum toh phone karte hai lekin aap hamesha busy hi rehte ho,” Bhangey ji joked in reply. “Saal mein ek baar toh Rang De bulata hai toh abhi to milney ka mauka mil raha hain na, Sudanshu ji?”
“Sahi baat hai. Odisha jaroor aayiye, Bhangey ji.”
As Nimesh Bhai, the founder of Caring Friends, an informal organisation that cares about the welfare of the people behind NGOs in rural India, stated:
“There is so much work to do in our country but if we do even a little, there is not much to do.”
The Rang De team also benefitted from getting to know these wonderful men and women that we talk to on a daily basis on the phone.
We would like to thank everyone that attended the Confluence and look forward to another fruitful year together. Over the coming weeks, we will share more videos and blog posts with the Rang De community as well.