Karuna Trust

Our vision is of a world without prejudice, in which every human being has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background or beliefs. We aim to do this by challenging the ignorance and prejudice that trap people in poverty.
Mar 12, 2013

Sisterhood and self-confidence, and Globalgiving matching campaign.

Sara (furthest on the left, in black)
Sara (furthest on the left, in black)

Dear Donors,

Thank you for supporting for this important work. Below I have again included some experiences from my recent trip, which I hope are interesting for you. Also, Globalgiving are running a matching campaign on Wednesday 13th March, which I have included some information about underneath.

In a small room, in a building adjacent to the project offices in the Vishrantwadi slums, I sit amongst the latest batch of sewing students. They range in age from 13 to mid-20s, and chat and laugh as they work, apart from when trying to pay attention to some some new technique they are being taught. The experience of leaving their homes, forming friendships and discussing things with their peers is as important for these women as the hard skills they are learning.

The atmosphere is relaxed, and there is a warmth and friendship between the women. They have only known each other for a few months at the most, but in that time they have grown very close, and seeing each other most days of the week. 

They tell me that before coming to these classes they would do nothing. Nothing. That's the word they use. When I push them a little further, it seems nothing means housework and perhaps watching some televison. They say they never thought to do anything else. Those who were unmarried would be forbid from leaving the house by their parents and brothers, and those who were married would be similarly forbidden by their husbands. In addition, they themselves were scared to leave, with almost no confidence or social skills.

Sara tells me, among other things, about how they share their joys and their pains with one another. She tells me how good it is for all of them to have found others they can talk to, others that are experiencing the same thing. I ask them if they still experience resistance from their families and their husbands. "Oh yes, some mornings we start with a lot of tears" she says laughing. The other women laugh too.

However, somehow they have all managed to get themselves to classes. Some have changed the minds of their families and partners, while others come to classes secretly and when they can. Yet others, it seems, are just having to stand their ground. They can all do this because of the support they recieve from each other, which depends on the support they recieve from you.

Thank you all for supporting these women to gain the confidence they have lacked until now.

On Wednesday 13th March, Globalgiving USA is matching all donations with a 30% contribution, up to $1,000 per donor. This is a unique opportunity to make your contribution to these activities count for even more than usual. Please do consider donating on this day, or letting people who might be interested know. The matching will begin at 9am ET. 

With gratitude and best wishes,

Keval Shah.

Feb 28, 2013

Thoughts Following a Field Visit

Typical Beneficiary Village
Typical Beneficiary Village

Dear donors,

Apologies for the delay in updates. I have just returned from a field visit to many of the villages where the project is currently operating, as well as villages which have previously benefited from the project activities. 

The villages where the project operates typify rural India - largely agrarian and poor, the women do the housework, and the children do not study. This is the same situation that one can find in most of rural India. However, these project activities are changing these few villages into special exceptions.

In the newest villages the team reminded me again and again that the project had only been running for 6 months. Still, the impact was evident. The children sit proudly in their new uniforms, it not possible to tell which children came from the more privileged families. The distribution of uniforms, bags and materials, combined with the special teacher training, and improvements to the school building has resulted in over 90% attendance.

They perform songs that they had learnt about the dangers of drinking and addiction, about the importance of hygiene. The hygiene issue is a big one here: before the project activities began, the whole village used to defecate openly by the roadside behind the school. By 7 o'clock the smell would be coming in through the windows. This has ended now, with awareness raising and toilet construction throughout the village.

The children tell me how much they enjoy going to school now. A number who are members of the 'Bal Panchayat' (the 'Child Parliament') step forwards, introduce themselves and explain their roles. Each has their area of responsibility, in the school and in the village. The Education Minister is responsible for making sure that children attend school and complete their school work. The Health Minister is responsible for making sure they wash their hands and eat nutritiously, and importantly, that they understand why they should do these things.

In another village, I sit in on a 'reading improvement programme' class. Here, children who are struggling with their studies, and especially with basic literacy, are given special attention. The project team have produced a series of cards which very cleverly allows a teacher to combine many different letter combinations producing words. The cards progress in 6 sets as the children become more proficient. Under ordinary circumstances, village children who were struggling would simply be left to fail and drop out.

Indeed, if it were not for the project activities, the vast majority of children in these villages would have little chance of completing their education. Instead, on this trip, I saw many of the 'bidi' cigarette rolling houses where they would have been working, lying closed. 

Thanks to your donations, these children have the opportunity to escape the grinding poverty they would otherwise have remained in for generations.They understand the importance of education instead of going into employment early, and their aspirations are high. 

Thank you all for funding this life changing work.

Children of the school
Children of the school
Paintings on school
Paintings on school
Reading Improvement Class study materials.
Reading Improvement Class study materials.
Feb 26, 2013

Thoughts Following Project Visit

Sewing class
Sewing class

Dear donors,

I hope this report finds you all well. Sorry there has been a slight delay in updates - I have been away from the office visiting the project, spending time with the team and meeting beneficiaries. I'd like to take this opportunity to share a few of my experiences there.

Dr Mune and her team of young women operate from a small office, tucked in the corner of a street in the Vishrantwadi area: one of the older slums of Pune. She has around her an impressive team of young women, each one dressed in a simple white sari, which seems to be something of a uniform amongst the team. Each woman has her own story of slum life, and each is now helping others who are in a situation they know all too well.

As we walk through the different slums and visit the various activities - sewing training, nutritional awareness workshops, study support classes - the degree of respect that Dr Mune and her team command is obvious. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, not least many of the old beneficiaries who come pouring out of their houses to give their thanks and invite us for tea.

The situation is largely the same of all of the girls in the slums. Their lives consist of being confined to their houses, helping their mothers with the chores until their family has found someone suitable for them to marry. But thanks to this work, that situation is changing now.

We sit in a circle and many of the girls tell me their thoughts and personal stories. Some of them have had their marriages fixed recently. Indeed, they will probably all marry at some point, it being impossible not to in this society. But they have managed to delay their marriages until they are 21 or 22. In this time they have completed their education, have knowledge of their rights, and have gained self-confidence. Some have started working and others want to continue to study. Had it not been for the project, they tell me, they would have been married at 15 and not thought anything of it.

On the floor of a house in another slum, a group of younger girls from the locality gather and tell me what they have been learning. One girl of 13 delivers a most incredible and unrehearsed speech about the importance of keeping ones important documents, and especially marriage certificate, safe. "If we don't keep our marriage certificates, our husbands might do anything - they might beat us. Then, if we went to the police they would ask us for proof of our marriage, and we would have nothing to show." The girls have all been on 'exposure visits' the police station, and know that their husbands aren't allowed to hit them. Their mothers beam proudly.

This year the project team have begun activities in 3 new slums, bringing the same benefit to the girls of new communities. All of these girls will be the confident, informed, self-reliant mothers of the next generation. Thank you all for donating to this life changing work.

Children in a slum
Children in a slum
New slum area where project activities have begun
New slum area where project activities have begun

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