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Social workers are faith workers of a different kind. They aim to right the accident of birth - like helping slum children not having access to education or clean drinking water. Seen ragpickers rummaging through dustbins for their food? Well, this is reality at its worst for some children, almost the minute their born but there is hope, because some noble people keep them going.
Faith Foundation is an organization that has given young ragpickers a glimmer of hope. Started by Reshma Ghosh, a full-time PR consultant and two other colleagues, the foundation is trying to organise enthusiastic professionals to work part-time for the cause of these street children.
This foundation has just completed three years and has seen the attendance of street kids rise from 7 to over 75. Apart from the three founders, there are other volunteers who come in on the weekend to teach these young children basic English and mathematics. Time is also spent on other recreational activities like painting and playing group games.
Reshma, along with her team have now come up with two specialized projects for these street children - the midday meal and clothes & water project. This ensures the children get one meal a day, clean water to drink and a free medical check up. But what keeps this team going? In one word, Reshma told CNBC-TV18, "Patience." And although, it is a completely self-funded venture, help from donors is always welcome.
For more information: http://faithindia.org/contacts.htm
Another man who is doing important work of this kind is Rahul Nainwal of iVolunteer. iVolunteer is the forum where those who mean it, do it. The brainchild of 33 year-old Rahul Nainwal, iVolunteer is a web portal that connects social volunteers with prospective NGOs to facilitate social change.
The process is simple, volunteers just log on and Rahul and his team get them placed with NGOs in need of human resources. What started in November 2000, in an ICICI bank branch, placing 30 volunteers a month is now pan-India. iVolunteer is today being financially supported by ICICI, the Ratan Tata Trust and Voluntary Services Oversees and has now placed over 5,000 volunteers with over 150 NGOs in India and 40 organisations abroad. He says, "School and college children are contributing and we're tying up with other NGOs."
A small centre at Delhi's upbeat Khan market is one such example. Four volunteers drop in here every week and spend time with street children and impart lessons through innovative games. The centre also doubles up as an old age learning school for disabled veterans, and with whom, Rahul's volunteers spends time.
iVolunteer also runs a special exchange programme with NGOs based abroad, by sending Indian volunteers to places such as Kenya, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Philippines, South Africa and Nigeria. Poonam Sharma an experienced social worker, was part of this campaign and has just returned from an assignment to Uganda. Rahul claims he might not have the biggest car in his colony, but he sure has the biggest bike and he's on the road to reach newer destinations with iVolunteer.
For more information: http://www.ivoindia.org/Index.htm
Which is also where he is likely to run into Rishi Aggarwal of Mumbai Environmental Social Network - an NGO that tries to protect the voiceless trees, plants and mangroves and the very air we breathe. In 1998, prime land in Mumbai was home to 10,000 acres of mangroves. Today that's been reduced to 4,000 acres.
Environmentalists are fighting tooth and nail to prevent these trees from vanishing. Rishi Aggarwal has been one of the most active. Born in Mussorie, Rishi has always loved nature and cared for the environment. But it was the mangroves issue that first galvanized him into action.
Founder & Executive Director, MESN, Rishi Aggarwal explains, "I came to know that 3,000 trucks of debris had been dumped into the area to systematically cut off a large number of mangroves from seawater and I immediately sprung into action. I wrote letters to the collector, the secretary of environment. I mobilized local groups and local citizens and the best thing I did was inform the media and immediately the next day, there was a full-page news story on this issue and immediately these people stopped."
But he's not the only one whose heart bleeds for trees and the environment. When the tree-lined LBS Marg was being stripped of its green cover last year, as the Mumbai Metro Regional Development Authority, MMRDA, wanted to lay sewage pipes. Local citizens like Vivenne Choudhury protested, the MMRDA was quick to flash the permit letter. Vivienne then contacted Rishi who is now an old hand at this and managed to get a court stay order on the felling.
Vivenne Choudhury says, "Rishi and his organistion filed a public interest litigation, PIL, in the high court. So, we took the next step and because of this, MMRDA who are responsible for the cutting of the trees, stopped cutting them immediately."
Rishi is always proactive when it comes to doing something for the environment and he is now trying to sell young executives, the idea of a Koolpool. He says it's India's first organized carpooling system, that will help reduce pollution and traffic congestion.
Rishi who dropped out of his masters course, to pursue a more active role in environment related issues, has found financial support in retired professional Ashok Dattar and NRI Chetan Temkar.
Co-Founder/Trustee, MESN, Ashok Dattar says, "I met him at Bombay First and I thought he was a different person - a man who combines a business approach to social issues." Another co-Founder/Trustee, MESN, Chetan Temkar adds, "I met him through a friend. They told me that this is a guy, who is trying to fight this battle on his own - trying to save mangroves in Mumbai. He fights these cases on his own and even wins them, why don't we help him. That's how I met Rishi."
Rishi is trying to build MESN like a library and knowledge bank of all environment-related issues. While, resources will remain a nagging factor, he believes that more often than not, all it takes is will. He says, "People can do simple things like segregate dry and wet garbage. If millions of people try and do small things, then the impact it will have will be unbelievable."
So, in his persistent manner, he is committed to doing his bit to make Mumbai a better city - for both you and me. Along with the mangroves and the ragpickers of the city, we should also be rooting for these people.
For more information on MESN: http://www.mesn.org/aboutus.html
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