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.
Apr 15, 2013

Rani's House

Rani
Rani's house

Dear Donors,

When working with grassroot projects such as this, you regularly come across situations so moving, they make you stop and reconsider your life. This happens quite a lot actually.

I have always known that Dr Mune's team of women come from the same slum communities as the young girls which they are helping, though I had not always appreciated what this meant. This puts them in the best position to help for many reasons. They themselves have had to go through the same discrimination and lack of opportunity, and therefore are perfect role models. They also live amongst the girls, in the very same neighbourhoods, and so both can see the reality of each others' life on a regular basis. 

Rani is one such woman. She has been working for the team and the project for 3 years or so, and is responsible for co-ordinating many of the project activities. Her father having died, she overcame a lot to earn complete her education, find employment and support her mother. She now earns a living through helping to empower girls in the slums.

As we walk around the neighbourhood, someone points out that this is Rani's house. I am amazed. The haphazard arrangement of brick and corrugated iron is among the poorest of the houses which we see (of which there are many). We go inside, where Rani's mother is delighted to receive us. 

She tells me how proud she is of her daughter, and how difficult things have been in the years since Rani's father passed away. She's especially happy because this year they have saved enough to repair the roof. I ask her what she means and she points to a corner of the house. The roofing has come away from the brickwork and for the last 2 years when it rains, water has come flooding into the house. The house itself is tiny anyway - basically one room, separated into 2 - a small kitchen and a living/sleeping area. 

Through working for the project, Rani can not only support her mother, but has also been able to save for the costly roof repairs. This flies in the face of everything girls here are told they are capable of.

This project is empowering not only the beneficiaries - the slums girls - but also the staff themselves. Women like Rani, who are the first generation of informed and independent young women to emerge from the slums, are the real changemakers you are supporting with your donations. Thank you.

Where the water comes in
Where the water comes in
Mar 13, 2013

Education, Sanitation, and Globalgiving donation matching

Beneficiaries in front of toilet
Beneficiaries in front of toilet

Dear Donors,

Globalgiving are running a matching campaign on Wednesday 13th March. I have included some information at the end of the update. I hope it is of interest to some of you.

One of the main focusses of this integrated child rights project is health, and specifically sanitation. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand why sanitation awareness and toilet construction, are so important.

In the villages where these projects operate, there is almost no knowledge of basic hygeiene and sanitation amongst the people. Food is left uncovered where it can be infected, people do not use soap, and open defacation is rampant. One can imagine effect on the health and standard of living of all in the village, including the children.

The first school I visited on my trip, the children and teachers showed me, from the window, the area where most people from the village would openly deficate every morning. By the time the children came into class, the stench would be coming through the windows of all the main classrooms.

With so few toilet facilities, this was a common practice for most households in the village. The health risks from such a practice are twofold: Firstly there are the obvious dangers of disease from the exposed excretia; however, people also suffer illnesses regularly as a consequence of not being able to go to the toilet when they need to.

As one woman explained to me, "we have to go either early in the morning or late at night, so that people don't see us. I had to go to the doctor recently. It costs a lot to go to the doctor, and we have to travel very far. And when we women go, someone [another woman] has to come with us. He told me the problem was due to my not going to the toilet when I needed to." This story was not uncommon for the people, and especially the women, of many of the villages. 

In addition, not using soap, and poor hygeine around food preparation and storage, mean illness was common in the village.

Through the projects activties, campaigning, awareness raising and education, sanitation is improving. Across 50 villages, 2,350 families are being encouraged and assisted in constructing toilets, which is very significant. The woman to whom I spoke has recently built a toilet (pictured below). The children are learning about the importance of such things from an early age, and in many cases are imparting this knowledge to their parents in the home.

Healthier, cleaner, home and school environments make a big difference to the lives of these children, and their ability to study. This can be seen in that first classroom, where there is no more stench from the road. They can now study happily and safely, and sing songs they have learnt about the importance of not spitting, not defacating openly, washing their hands before they eat.

Thank you for helping to empower a community to create a healthy environment for their children. 

If you are able to donate again, 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.

Sanitation poster
Sanitation poster
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.

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