Wednesday, November 01, 2006

one man can make a difference

most of us usually feel that there is not much change in society that we as individuals can bring about. we blame the system/government/bureaucracy/lack of infrastructure/lack of time for our 'inability' to make any significant, meaningful contribution.

but its amazing how one man with vision and inspiration can make a big difference and a significant contribution to society!

today i happened to read the brochure of the 'parivaar education society' and was not just thoroughly impressed but also deeply touched and humbled.

i was introduced to parivaar through my wife who's an iim-kolkata product (read on to know why this bit of info is relevant). she is a regular contributor and used to keep trying to share details of parivaar with me. i only had a vague idea about what it did. it was only after reading the literature today that i realised the scale of the work being done. i would like to share some of the details of this institution with you and would sincerely implore you to check it out for yourself at (most of the info that follows is reproduced from the brochure.)

parivaar was started by an iit-kharagpur and iim-kolkata alumnus, vinayak lohani (1991-93 batch) who was inspired by the teachings and ideals of sri ramakrishna paramahamsa and swami vivekananda. he did not take up final placement on campus and instead decided to dedicate his life to the upliftment of homeless children. parivaar's motto is to provide 'home, family and future for homeless, family-less children'.

starting in january 2004 with just 3 children in a small rented building with almost no financial resources, there are currently 204 children at the parivaar ashram at bakhrahat (quite close to the iim-c jokha campus). a facility is now under construction to accommodate almost 500 children!

the children admitted into parivaar ashram are destitute/homeless/family-less and are from categories like orphans, street/pavement dwelling children, children of critically/terminally ill mothers (with no father or other family support), abandoned children, children from rural areas and also from red-light areas. the children are admitted at a very young age (3-8 years) and they come with no educational background. they are then trained in the ashram to get them admission into a quality formal education school.

since parivaar works for total rehabilitation of the children, it provides everything a child needs including food, clothing, education, recreation, etc. parivaar focuses on the all-round development of the child, including physical, emotional, intellectual as well as spiritual growth. parivaar works with the idea of providing support to each child with a minimum commitment of 12 to 15 years, right from their kindergarten stage till he/she grows up and makes good in life.

parivaar has been fortunate to have many contributors (over 350 iim alumni itself). (you can contribute through their website where details are provided.)

vinayak could have become a successful professional like most of us. but he chose to do something far nobler, and something much bigger in life. and according to me he has achieved far greater success in life. how many of us can claim to have positively contributed and changed the life of another human being?

what i also appreciate about his model for the organisation that he has founded is that he has very clearly established the spiritual principles that seem to be inspiring and driving the ethos of parivaar. he very openly acknowledges the spiritual support that he receives from the ramakrishna mission. as part of their spiritual development, the children are exposed to pranayam, dhyana and a 'sanskar siksha upadesh' session which includes imparting teachings on moral and spiritual lines. they have a prayer hall with images of sri ramakrishna, mother sarada devi, and swami vivekananda. they celebrate the anniversaries of these saints.

but vinayak has clearly established parivaar as a non-spiritual organisation with no formal, direct involvement of any of the above-mentioned spiritual organisations.

and thus he has managed to achieve a wonderful balance between the secular and the spiritual and managed to beautify the lives of so many deserving children.

i only wish there are many more such vinayaks who get inspired and create many more such parivaars across our country. and that could bring about a revolution - an educational, spiritual and nation-building revolution!


lakshmi, said...

Hi Guru,
Ya, I have heard abt this orgn..havent had a chance to interct w them, but heard its doin great work..

As a part of my course, ive been able to get a chance to see many such organisations..and it is inspiring..

ill tel u sumthin, u prolly know, but this is somehting ive realise din the last two years:

i have alwz felt ki 3 things are very important to keep the good workof such organisations , rather any ngo type..going:
a) the passion, the interest and the desire to do some thing - along with clarity of what u wanna do for the target grp..

b) the grass roots knowledge, a clear understanding of what is the root problem, whatis it that is really lacking - Not according to you, but from the point of view of ur target grp..

A and B- most social workers do have it in em.. as per my observation and experience..

c) the management skill - to handel things professionally , - to think about ur plans and activities strategically - long tern n short term, for raise funds, to be smart and tap all the resources possible, in a smart, dignified and effective way , to think strategically manage the organisation as a wehole-

this C part is where people like Vinayak (i think) are gretat..
all three parts are in there in a venture like this one, .. and thats what makes the difference..

And abt what u said in the beginning- we as people constantly blaming govt etc I sooo agree with u..
like vinayak, i have herd of a a few more people, and guess,, junta has started realisin that we have to do sumthin now..

guess it hi time we join politics too..

(i know dis is a long post, but i cant write short)

kc said...

Hi GP,

I wanted to share the work of a couple who are doing great work in villages.

Balaji Sampath
Balaji Sampath is a central figure both within Association for India's Development (AID), and in India where he works with the All India People's Science Movements (AIPSN) in general, and Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF) in particular. He has made several vital contributions in planning and executing mass movements & campaigns in health, literacy, and improving quality of education in Indian schools. His work in this regard has culminated in the Hundred Block Plan (HBP) - a multi-pronged rural intervention and development program across India - which he pioneered with Dr. Sundarraman of the AIPSN. The HBP is currently the largest development program undertaken by AID at this time.

Balaji joined AID as a volunteer for AID-College park when AID was still a local organization. Over the next few years, along with other volunteers, he built AID into a large nation-wide organization with chapters in several cities/universities. He was also instrumental in developing the vision statement for AID and getting it registered as a non-profit organization. Since his return to India in 1997, he almost single-handedly started the AID-Chennai chapter and mentored the new volunteers by organizing joint programs with the TNSF.

Balaji initially started working with TNSF in their model health program called Arogiya Iyakkam as well as in assisting them in their community education, literacy and computer training programs. He also helped them organize village libraries, savings groups and information centers. In 2001, at the end of the model program period, he helped analyze the impact of Arogiya Iyakkam in local communities and proved the success of this type of intervention. Based on the results, the UN judged this program one of the top ten programs in the world. His efforts culminated in his joining the People's Health Assembly (PHA) where he became a national coordinator. In 2002 and 2003, he started the Makkal Palli Iyakkam - a community intervention program to improve the quality of primary and science education in rural India that was based on inputs from Dr. Ramanujam of the TNSF.

In recognition of his efforts, AID decided to make him their first Jeevansaathi (lifetime associate). He is currently touring the US with his wife Kalpana Karunakaran.

Further Readings:
1. My work report from August 1997-August 1999
2. Science and technology for social empowerment
3. In a hurry. But to where ?
4. Hundred Block Plan - my personal comments
5. Almost Ten Years...
6. The Tamilnadu Science Forum on India Together

Kalpana Karunakaran
Kalpana Karunakaran is a key figure in rural development and empowerment associated with the Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF) and All India People's Science Network (AIPSN). She specializes in community health, micro-credit and women's issues. She has extensive field experience on different facets of these key development areas and serves as a reviewer and resource-person to several organizations and programs in the regard.

As District Coordinator of the Mahalir Association of Literacy, Awareness and Rights (MALAR) movement in Kanyakumari district, Tamilnadu between 1997 and 1998, she was instrumental in starting self-help-groups (SHGs) among rural women, troubleshooting the program and training rural women coordinators in running the associated savings and credit programs. The program has since become a model for large-scale women's empowerment programs across India. Her experiences in this regard are summed in the trainer's manual "United We Stand" which is used by the AIPSN to develop similar programs. In 1999, she also became involved with the Arogiya Iyakkam (Health Movement) - a grass-roots community health and malnutrition monitoring program. As a coordinator for this program, she was responsible for training village and block health activists and developing health-education material for teenage women. The program was chosen as one the 10 best programs in the world by the UN in 2001. She then went on to take up the responsibility of State Coordinator for the People's Health Assembly (PHA) - a wide-ranging international campaign to deliver on the promise of "Health For All" by the year 2000.

As State Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF), she continues to be actively involved with their community health, micro-credit and women's empowerment programs. She is currently also in the process of obtaining her Ph.D. on 'Gender and Poverty issues in Micro Credit' at the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai. She is touring the US with her husband Balaji Sampath - an AID Jeevansaathi (Lifetime associate).

Poornima said...

Hi GP,
I have had the wonderful opportunity to interact with Vinayakji on behalf of CHYK, Kolkata. We had invited Vinayakji to be the Chief Guest in a State level quiz that we had conducted as a part of one of our projects which we conducted post-AITI. Some of our Chyksters have even visited his ashram. It has indeed been a humbling experience each time that we've interacted with Vinayakji. Ofcourse we cherish our association with his inititative, and intend to sustain it.