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.
Oct 8, 2009

Thank you - an update from the field

Having just returned from India I am pleased to report that this project continues to give much needed support to women who are experiencing caste discrimination, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

It saddens me; however, to report that our project partner continues to receive many requests for assistance from young women who have been subjected to despicable sexual assaults from men of higher castes. These heinous crimes continue because there is little or no redress under a rural legal system which is largely ignored by police and local authorities.

It is for this reason that our project partner works tirelessly to bring criminals and their protectors, including police and doctors to justice.

In my last report I shared the story of Diksha Ashruba Shinde and her sister Panchshila of Shindi village, Beed District. The sisters were violently assaulted by a group of nine men in an unprovoked caste attack. Both Diksha and Panchshila were punched in the face and chest and beaten with sticks and iron rods.

Thanks to the work of this project, the doctor who refused to admit the sisters to the Kaij Rural Hospital was suspended from work and five police constables and one police inspector were suspended from work under section (4) of prevention of Atrocities Act.

The project’s team have also successful won compensation from local government for the sisters as a result of their advocacy work. The project’s publicity of the case drew the State Home Minister of Maharashtra to make an unprecedented declaration that any village accused of repeated atrocities would find its development fund frozen by government.

If there is a silver lining to this case it is that, with the help of the project, both Diksha and Panchshila, have fought to turn disaster into opportunity. Both sisters have enrolled for and been selected to attend Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work in Mumbai, where they will train in order to dedicate themselves to the empowerment and development of Dalit Women.

Thank you for your continued generous support for this project. Your generosity is giving young women like Diksha and Panchshila a voice and bringing criminals to justice.

Oct 8, 2009

Dipali's story

Having just returned from India I am pleased to share this story of one of the girls your generosity is helping to support.

Dipali Shinde’s story

Sitting on a wooden bench, dressed in her school uniform, 13 year old Dipali Shinde looks like an ordinary school girl. Away from school; however, this talented and dedicated teenager, has helped to transform her village of Pokhari into a model rural community which demonstrates good hygiene and sanitation.

Since the age of eight, Dipali has played an active role in the village Balpanchayat. This Child Parliament was formed under the supervision of Karuna project partner NISD and as Minister for Sanitation and Hygiene Dipali is responsible for protecting fellow children of the village against illness by ensuring the teaching of good hygiene practices and lobbying householders to improve sanitation.

Dipali explains a little about the group and her role.

Why are children taking responsibility for issues usually dealt with by grown ups?

If the grown ups dealt with these issues we wouldn’t have to. Our Balpanchayat is for the protection of children. We want to live in a village which is safe and clean for children. Before we started no households had toilets. People used to go to the toilet anywhere and children and adults had bad hygiene practices.

By holding rallies and teaching good hygiene practices through street plays we have made a big difference. Now all households have toilets and children know to cut their nails, to clean their hands after using the toilet and how to keep food and water clean.

What difference has that made to children’s health?

Children would often be ill with vomiting, headaches and diarrhoea. Children got illnesses like Dengi, Malaria and Typhoid. Now it is much less common.

You seem to know a lot about the effects of poor hygiene and sanitation?

Yes, I want to be a doctor when I leave school. I want to provide better health to those who are sick.

What is the biggest health risk now?

A lot of households do not have soak pits for waste water. Instead the water goes onto the ground. It then becomes stagnant which attracts mosquitoes, which carry disease.

What are you doing about the problem?

We are campaigning householders to dig soak pits. They are six feet deep and filled with broken bricks and stones. If every household does this we will have no more stagnant pools and many less mosquitoes.

What message do you have for supporters of Karuna?

We know we are very fortunate. Not many children have this opportunity. Thank you for giving us the chance to do this. If you keep giving, more children can be helped in this way.

NISD is a project partner of Karuna, committed to giving children living in poverty in 150 villages across rural Sangamner and Pimpalgaon Joge, Maharashtra the opportunity to enjoy better health, education and equal rights.

Thank you for your generous on going support.

Dipali with the child parliament
Dipali with the child parliament
Jul 19, 2009

Congratulations and thank you. All 136 Alternative Hubs established!

Thank you for your very generous support which has contributed significantly to improving the livelihood prospects of these children as well as allowing them to maintain their cultural identity in a rapidly changing world.

The past twelve months have contained significant milestones in the delivery of education to the children of this remote region. There has been a perceptible change in attitude towards education among the children attending the Alternative Learning Centres (ALHs) as well as in the surrounding local schools.

The inclusive nature of the program along with the delivery of the curricular supplements and the locally relevant courses has enhanced the value of education perceived by parents.

The opening of 13 Resource Centers and wider exposure opportunities offered through various competitions, debates and socially relevant activities are also reflected in the willingness and commitment of the parents to encourage participation.

All 87 ALHs planned to be set up during the year have been established, bringing the total to 136 and activities are in full swing throughout them all.

The entire set of 12 different courses comprising computers, book-keeping, personality development, basic enterprise skills and eco-tourism, photography, electronics & crafts and ecology, health & sanitation and first aid have been developed and rolled out.

The vocational courses on Photography, electronics, crafts and Eco-tourism have been very well received by the target audience and the demand for these courses alone has enabled 228 individual students to benefit.

The three Eco-Tourism centres set up last year at Joshimath, Tawang and Nubra have gradually strengthened in their services of promoting and enabling the uptake of ecotourism as a potential vocation in the area, and have opened avenues for the youth to explore this set as a career option. 4 new centres have been established this year at Leh, Kinnaur, Kaza and Keylong. Tourism and vocational information have been provided at these centres, making them a hub of community interest and tourist interaction.

The remoteness of the villages still creates a significant challenge to deliver activities especially in winter months and the out migration of educated community members, including much needed teachers are an ongoing obstacle to be overcome. In spite of this, significant progress has been made and the fact that the local communities are embracing and taking ownership of the initiative gives us confidence that the project is both essential and sustainable. Key Achievements

87 new Alternative Learning Hubs (ALHs) established, brings total to 136.

1467 girls and 1589 boys now benefitting from project.

All ALHs are operating for 2 hours each day throughout the year.

136 Village Education Committees formed.

304 teachers trained including 35 government teachers.

25% increase in boys of remote villages attending school.

35% increase in girls of remote villages attending school.

Case Study

Classroom in the clouds At 17,000 feet an encampment of rough woollen tents huddled together on an arid, windswept plain surrounded by mountain peaks is home to a nomadic tribe known as the Korzokpas. The tribe lives by grazing their herds of goats and yaks on the high-altitude pasturelands of the Chantang Plateau.

This community of 700 men, women and children move camp 14 times a year, making it extremely difficult for the children to receive an education.

Until a few years ago there was a government school five km away in the town of Korzok, but in winter the whole area is completely snow-bound and the school was forced to close down because the Government couldn’t find teachers willing to work in such extreme conditions. Now the older children go to a boarding school more than 60km away, while the younger children travel with their parents – helping to tend livestock as they move from place to place in an annual cycle, across an area covering more than 60sq kms.

For the past two years our project partner, Pragya has worked with several of these nomadic communities to provide primary education for the younger children.

Pragya have developed mobile learning centers: simple primary schools staffed by members of the nomadic communities that provide basic education for the children as they migrate with their parents from place to place.

These learning centers are housed in large canvas tents and equipped with books, wall charts, chalkboards and educational toys and games that can all be folded, stowed away and carried on the back of yaks to the next grazing ground.

The whole school collapses down into robust, red plastic crates, which also serve the children as desks. During the summer months classes are held at 17,000 feet – making this perhaps the highest school in the world.

The classes run for two hours every morning, giving the children enough time to help their parents with milking and shearing the animals in the early morning and late afternoon.

The children love the classes because the mobile center has a range of toys and games designed to enable them to learn through play – bright-colored jigsaws, board-games, puzzles, counting boards and skittles.

Thondup Tsering is the main teacher in this mobile school. He has lived with this community all his life and is passionate about ensuring the children gain as good a start as possible, helping to safeguard the future of this community and its traditional nomadic lifestyle. “These children are our future. It’s crucial they get an education, that they can read and write a little bit and have at least basic numeracy. Otherwise they’ll spend the rest of their lives being exploited by traders from other communities and end up picking up other people’s rubbish.”

“I love teaching here. It’s wonderful to see the children playing with these toys; you can see how keen they are to learn! I feel a great sense of satisfaction that I’m able to contribute to the future of my community in this way. I only wish it was possible for me to do more.”

But Thondup is realistic about the future for his people. The nomadic lifestyle has continued here for thousands of years – maintaining a delicate balance with this most extraordinary of environments. But it is now slowly dying out, as people increasingly drift to the cities in search of a more stable income and more tolerable living conditions.

‘It may be that our nomadic culture won’t survive more than another generation. But without an education what alternative would these children have? We are giving them an education so that at least they will have some opportunities. The future belongs to them; they should be able to make a free choice about how they want to live.”

You are a valuable and appreciated stakeholder in this project. Please do give us any feedback you think will help you or the beneficiaries. Perhaps tell us why this project is important to you and what drives you to give.

Thank you for your generous on going support.

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