Raising Awareness through Street Plays

Setting
The city of Alappuzha in Kerala, South India, is widely known to outsiders for the beautiful backwaters and scenic houseboat tours. For many of those who call this area home, however, life is filled with many challenges to be overcome.

Near Alappuzha, the Women’s Initiative Network is partnering with SAFP and the Government of Canada to help 20 communities to solve their poverty related issues. This year, nine of these target villages identified ‘lack of proper health care’ as the problem to be addressed, since they did not have proper access to healthcare or information about health issues. It was found that pollution was contributing significantly to the health problems for the villagers. In order to raise awareness about this issue, it was decided to create a street play to perform in the target villages.

The idea of a street play was discussed during the meetings of the Village Action Teams in these communities. One difficulty they faced was finding someone who was willing to write the script and direct the play. The Program Animator discussed this in the villages and found that one of the VAT members in Veluthully village, Mr. Surendra, had experience directing plays. He agreed to take on this role and write the script and within a week, the script “Jagratha” was completed.

Another challenge was finding people to act in the play. The Animator and VAT members talked with many people in the nine villages, but the villagers were not available to participate. Since the people in these communities rely heavily on daily wage labour for their incomes, they could not take the time to rehearse the play and perform it at each of the villages. The Animator spoke with the VAT in one of the other villages that had selected a different issue and found that the community members were interested in participating. Five people were selected to perform and one man volunteered to play the drum. They rehearsed for a week and then they were ready to perform.

rehearsalThe group started by performing in just one village and eventually showed the play in all nine villages. It was presented in the crowded junctions of the villages, where the team was warmly welcomed and many people attended. Through the play, the team was able to create awareness among the people about pollution and the related health problems.

This initiative was unique and deeply meaningful, as the play was created and performed through the efforts, talents, and cooperation of the VAT members. The script writer, director, actors, and drummer were all members of a VAT. The banner for the play was even created by a VAT member. This activity required some time and creativity to complete, but they were able to generate awareness in an engaging and memorable way.

performing A big thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Women’s Initiative Network for sharing this wonderful story and for all you do to make the SPED III Program a success!

The Search for Eco-Friendly Alternatives Leads to Sustainable Livelihood in Quilon, Kerala

Star Making Group
The waste management campaign that was started by the SPED III team in Thrikkadavoor Panchayath, Quilon, Kerala, is aimed at promoting systematic waste management and reducing the use of plastic products. To sustain the campaign, the team realized that it was critical to introduce the manufacturing and marketing of various paper products into the community. They got the idea that if the production and sales of paper products became a part of people’s livelihoods, they would have more incentive to use paper and avoid plastic.

A large number of the women in the community were unemployed and eager to find a source of income, so they worked together with the SPED III team to find an alternative livelihood that would change the entire ambiance of the community. Mrs. Felsy in Pallivettachira village said that, “We were unaware about the possibilities and opportunities that are available in the community. Once we came to recognize it, we were filled with great confidence and immense enthusiasm”.

Exploring the options

SPED III team was eagerly searching for an alternative livelihood to support the group of women who are actively propagating the systematic waste management and anti-plastic campaign. The team felt strongly that the livelihood project should be sustainable and ecofriendly. The leader of opposition in Thrikkadavoor Panchayath stated that “the Panchayath committee and VAT committees in various villages suggested for paper bag, paper plate products, paper cups and other paper based product manufacturing. But when we think about its feasibility we realize that it needs huge investment and risk”.

Paper StarThe SPED III team identified some companies that are encouraging home-based production of paper stars. These stars are used in India to decorate homes and communities during celebrations, especially Christmas. The companies provide free training and supply raw material at a low cost, then purchase the finished products at a reasonable margin. After receiving the necessary training to make the stars, the SPED III team and the beneficiaries began to network with star making companies. They were also provided with training to market their product and negotiate and bargain with the companies. The training was a blessing and opened up new opportunities to the poor and unemployed women.

Building Confidence

Now it has becomes a sustainable and regular source of income to 400 women. Mrs. Moly Babu, Ward member, Venkekkara village shared that “when we came to experience the star making, we did not believe that it would becomes sure source of income, but now we realized that it is a less expensive and marketable product and it is providing a sustainable and remarkable income to us”. The entire community whole heartedly agreed that the star making training was lighting the lamps of change for many lives and families.

Mr .Prasanth. B, the Grama Panchayath president also expressed that they were doubtful about the success of star making as a livelihood, but the community and the SPED III team proved that it could be a lucrative project for the women. “I would like to appreciate the SPED III team for their sincere efforts and innovative ideas.”

Celebrating Success

Star MakingNow the women are manufacturing two kinds of stars at different rates. The raw materials are purchased by the workers themselves and they sell the finished product to various star making companies in Kollam town. They were earning a reasonable income ranging from Rs. 1500 to Rs. 6500 ($30-$130) in a month.

According to Mrs. Jincy from Pallivaettachiara village, “The training was a blessing to me. Prior to the star making training, I was an unemployed house wife without income. But now I am very proud to be an earning member in my family and happy to be economically self-reliant. I am living in a rented house with my husband and two children. My husband is an alcoholic and completely ignored the family. Prior to the star making training I didn’t have any means of living. But now I am able to achieve nearly Rs.5000 ($100) as my monthly income and to ensure decent standards of living to my children.”

A big thanks to Quilon Social Service Society for providing us with this case study!

What difference does your $20 a month make?

Amaravathy 5
SAFP’s Family Development Program partners our contributors with impoverished families in India in a unique way to promote empowerment and sustainable development. The monthly $20 donation is deposited directly into a bank account that has been set up for the family, so that 100% of the donation reaches them. Our staff in the field support families in planning and budgeting to address the issues that are most important to them and to start a small business. Beneficiaries also receive training on a variety of topics designed to promote physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy families and to provide skills needed to improve their standard of living.

What does all of this mean for the families and what kind of changes can it make in their lives? We asked some beneficiaries to share their experience with us and here is what they had to share.

Jasmine from Kannur, Kerala says: “In the beginning did not have the confidence to go outside of my house, I was too frightened. After joining my self-help group, the Save A Family Plan staff motivated me in starting my own business. So I began selling clothes and making candles. My husband is now preparing to start fishing in his new boat which we bought ourselves with our own funds. Now I have become the secretary of my Parish Church. Now I can take classes with others and am able to go and train other people without hesitation or fear. I am able to motivate others as well.”

Meera from Amravati, Maharashtra shares with us the change she experienced in her life: “My family was deprived of even our most basic needs. With the intervention of SAFP I received a new life and self-confidence. Thank-you for coming into my life and for giving me my dignity.”

Fulma from Amravati, Maharashtra shares: “I am very happy about the life that I live now. There is alot of joy in my life and I have satisfaction. From this village, my daughter Permila is the only girl who did nursing and has good job with Rs. 7000 income. I am very proud of my family. Millions and millions thanks to the family who helped me to come out of the bad days. I have no words to express my thanks to SAFP, to the Coordinator and Animators of SAFP. You all have brought light into my life and family.”

Nagpur 5
Lilly from Mysore, Karnataka says: “I was poor and went through many difficulties. With the financial assistance from the benefactor, I started a petty shop at home. Now my family income is about Rs. 4500/ per month. Now we are not depending on others for our sustenance. We earn our livelihood from our petty shop and we are proud to have it. This shop is the remembrance of Family Development Program. In the meantime we also availed Government housing scheme to build a house with all basic facilities. We are leading a happy life and even making savings for the future. I am very grateful to the benefactor and SAFP for standing with me in my struggles and building up my family”.

Shantha from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu shared with us the impact of FD program in her and her family: “I lost my husband and was left with two children. I was uneducated so I did not know anything of the outside world. Through this program I gained more confidence…I started a small snack shop, and took up tailoring and stitching clothing. I expanded my small shop by selling milk and tea. With this earning I was able to give a good education to my sons. My elder son is employed with a good company and my younger son is doing his Masters in Business Management. This was only possible through the income I gained through my shop. This program has given me the ability to lead my family.”

Jancy from Ernakulam, Kerala says: “I have been receiving SAFP assistance since 2007. At the time of selection we were living in an old broken house. My husband was only the earning member of the family. We were struggling a lot to meet the educational expenses of the three children. Now our condition is totally changed through SAFP’s Family Development Program. After attending EDP training, I decided to get trained in the flower making craft, mostly from the eco waste materials. For that I did a certificate course under the Ministry of Textiles of Government of India. By using the Government grant and SAFP assistance, I could start an eco-shop near to my house. It was profitable. Moreover I got many chances to take classes of making flower craft. Now my position is raised from an ordinary housewife into a trainer. I am so proud to say that I am also an income earner of my family. It is achieved only by the great influence of SAFP programs and social workers. We could built a good house by the help of local Government’s housing scheme ,SAFP assistance, SHG loan and bank loan .My eldest son completed his engineering. Now he is working in a Private sector and an earner of the family. My second daughter is an engineering student. My youngest daughter has completed her Secondary School Leaving Certificate. My husband is also in good condition and continuing his works. By the grace of God Almighty and the great support of our benefactor, we are now in a good position in the society. For all our progress we are thankful to all who are helping a lot through the SAFP programs.”

Palakkad 1
We join the thousands of families and communities across India who are on path to improving their quality of life and becoming self-supporting to thank our wonderful contributors who are journeying in partnership with them.

An Inspiration to the Community – Overcoming Disabilities

The Salim FamilyIrfan Salim is from the Puthenjunnu village in Bathery, Kerala, South India. He is a shy but determined man who was born physically disabled and has no use of either of his legs. To help earn a living for the family, his wife Hafsa cleans houses. They have two children; an elder daughter, Tahseen, who is studying fifth grade and a younger daughter, Asifya who is studying second grade.

Both daughters suffer from tuberculosis and need expensive medicine and treatment, which the family cannot afford. The FDP staff members have worked with the family to find a suitable income generation project for Irfan that would give the family more financial stability.
Repairing Bicycles

Irfan was able to attend a bicycle repair workshop and was motivated to begin a small business using his new skill. As he gained momentum and excitement, he expressed his desire to start a small snack shop near their house as well, as there were none in the neighborhood. Now he is successfully operating both of his businesses and has accessed a government resource that provided him with a three wheeled motor bike, allowing him to complete his tasks more quickly.

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He is not only an example of how this program can allow a family to become self-reliant, but he is a source of inspiration for others in his community. He does not allow his disability to limit him.

Three Wheel Motor Bike

Increasing girls’ access to education in Bhuj, Gujarat

Girls ride to school
Bhavana Bhugu, Shantha Kanji, and Kajal Rupa are three girls from the Ahir caste in the village of Dhrang in Gujarat. After completing 8th Standard, the three girls dropped out of school. In Dhrang village, no girls have gone on to study beyond 8th Standard and many do not have the chance to study at all. The mentality in this community is that girls with more education have more difficulty getting married, since it is harder to find a suitable match for them with equal qualifications.

This village is located in a desert area near the border of Pakistan and there are no facilities for higher secondary school available nearby. The closest high school is 6 kilometers away and there are no transportation facilities readily available. The parents are not ready to send them to this school, especially since female children are typically not allowed to leave the village.

In Dhrang village, it is a custom in the Ahir caste for girls to spend their time making traditional handicrafts, including wall hangings and dresses, to take with them to their husband’s house after marriage. This custom also discourages girls from attending school and contributes to the low literacy rate.
Traditional Handicrafts
The local animators approached the girls and their families, as well as the principal of the local elementary school, to discuss the possibility of the girls continuing their studies. They pointed out the exemplary lives led by women who had come forward to work for the betterment of the nation. However, the families did not agree, claiming that the girls would not get admission in the schools anyways as registration for the year was over.

The program coordinator met with the principal of the high school to discuss the possibility of the girls continuing their studies. Although the school admission was over, the girls were enrolled in 9th Standard with the recommendation of the staff of the local NGO. All three are now regularly attending Lodai High School, which is 6km away from the village. At first, they would walk to school each day, but eventually they were able to purchase bicycles to make the travel easier.

The girls are very happy to have the chance to continue their studies, especially Bhavana Bhugu, who wants to become a police officer and fight against domestic violence and dowry. They feel that by seeing them attend school, some other parents may also be motivated to send their children as well.

Accessible Medical Care at Kovanur

The rural poor in India face many obstacles to their development, including the challenge of accessing health care. In addition to the lack of health care facilities, equipment, supplies, and drugs in rural areas, there is also a shortage of medical experts and staff. Many organizations avoid investing in rural health infrastructure because of low returns and few highly trained medical personnel wish to provide services in such remote areas because of low wages. Medical camps have been demonstrated as a model to surmount these obstacles to health access.

People arrive at the Medical Camp in Kovanur

Kovanur is a remote village near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu in the south of India. The people lack transportation facilities and their economic condition prevents them from travelling to the city to visit a doctor or buy medicine. When the SPED III Program was started in their village, the community selected the issue of health and hygiene and organized a medical camp in collaboration with a hospital in Kumbakonam. It was a great blessing to the people who were suffering from various diseases, especially the old and the underprivileged. All villagers, including the infants and the aged men and women, participated and benefited in the medical camp.

Villagers receiving health check Two doctors and the team of Nurses and lab technicians performed health checks and diagnosed patients. Common conditions such as skin diseases, orthopedics, and simple diseases like fever and headache were treated. The lab technicians also conducted blood tests and urine tests for the adults to identify diseases such as diabetes and blood pressure problems, and the doctors prescribed medicine for the people and gave them instructions on how to take care in the future.

Checking healthy weight This medical camp brought awareness that there are many in the villages who are diabetic and also several infected by skin diseases. Health committees were established by the SPED III Animator in the village and the committee played a major role in the follow up by taking these individuals to hospitals in the city.
 
 
The Medical camp was ably supported by Village Action Team, the local field staff, and the Health Committee. In addition, the youth of the village and the self-help groups pitched in to help. They raised awareness about the event by distributing pamphlets and informing the people ahead of time about the Medical Camp. On the day of the camp, they also took care to prepare the site, to bring the people to the camp, and to organize those who attended. In all a total of 180 men and women, young and old benefited from the medical camp.

Providing medicine for patients

A big thanks to our partner, the Kumbakonam Multi Purpose Social Service Society for providing us with this story and for all their efforts in making the SPED III Program a success!

New opportunities for families by accessing government resources

Mrs. Sheela and family in front of their home
Mrs. Sheela Kurian and her family come from Kottayam, Kerala in the south of India. When the family joined SAFP’s Family Development Program in March 2007, they were unable to meet their daily expenses, and their children’s education was at stake as the family could not afford to send both their son and daughter to school. Mr. Kurian was unable to work as he suffered from severe pain in his lower back.

At the time of selection, the family owned 0.03 acres of land and they were able to mobilize both government and local resources to reconstruct their house. Through monitoring visits, local SAFP staff identified Mrs. Sheela’s motivation and enthusiasm in starting an income generation project and encouraged her to attend driving school. She was able to graduate from driving school and wished to start her own taxi service, but did not have the funding to purchase a vehicle. With the support of SAFP staff, and through networking with other community organizations she was able to access a grant subsidy from the Kerala State Government of $2098.00, under the Women Taxi Promotion Program.
Mrs. Sheela receives a subsidy to buy a taxi
On November 17th, 2012, her taxi business was officially inaugurated by the Honorable District Collector. Through this business, she is able to make a profit of $104.00 a month. Her husband is very supportive of her and now he is also able to work by driving an auto rickshaw. Their son Ajmal has completed 12th grade and has applied to take computer technology courses in college, and their daughter Ashna has successfully completed 6th grade.
Mrs. Sheela with her new taxi