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Mar 18, 2020

Protecting Shiksha Kendra Children from Covid-19


The Coronavirus has brought unprecedented challenges to the world and effected the lives of thousands of people. At the time of writing, no cases have yet been reported in Udaipur as the Government ramps up preventative measures.

As an organisation, we are responsible not just for educating our employees about preventative measures and good hygiene practices, but also those who we work with, such as children in Shiksha Kendras (Seva Mandir’s Bridge Schools).

Hygiene practices, such as washing hands, are a weapon against Coronavirus. Proper hygiene practices have been are a regular part of Shiksha Kendras, so children already have the ability to combat this virus from the outset. They are being encouraged by the Shiksha Kendra teachers to use their knowledge to protect themselves and those around them. Without your support, this may not have been possible.

The Indian Government recently shut all schools until the 31st of March, and Seva Mandir has followed their advice and closed all Shiksha Kendras. This was a major decision for the organisation, as the importance of education for these children is a priority. However, considering the severity of the ongoing situation, ensuring the children and their family are healthy is most important.

As the teachers are from the remote communities themselves, they are able to check in on the children and their families to ensure that they are ok, giving advice where needed.

Thanks to your support, you have given these children and teachers and the knowledge and tools to help prevent this virus from spreading in rural and tribal communities.

We have faith that the Rajasthan, India, and the world will be able to weather this storm as we have weathered many in the past.

Please ensure to follow your local authority’s advice on how to protect yourself and your loved ones.


Atul Lekhra and the Seva Mandir team


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Mar 2, 2020

SHGs- Giving Wings to Women

Dear Friend,

In our working area, women often have no say in decisions regarding the finances of their family. They have always worked to contribute to sustaining their family – whether in the fields or by doing work paid for by the government or by commercial employers. But they have had little or no control over where the family money goes. Women who have been deserted or forced to leave the matrimonial home commonly have nothing.

With limited income, families are forced to borrow to pay for healthcare, social obligations or investment necessary to increase or safeguard the family’s livelihood. In the area we work in, where banks are generally far away, largely unsupportive and daunting to rural people, credit is often only available through moneylenders who target rural women and offer credit at extortionate rates (frequently 60-120% p.a., with crippling monthly payments). Many women are forced to pawn their precious jewellery, which is seen as the only kind of realisable asset these rural people have. Reclaiming it is, once again, only possible at high rates of interest.

As a response to these problems, Seva Mandir has helped women to set up Self-Help Groups in the villages. These allow women to save regularly and receive credit which is controlled collectively with their friends and colleagues at a much more affordable rate (1-2% monthly). We have also introduced a number of livelihood opportunities to enable women to earn more for their families. This adds to their security, confidence, status in their own communities and financial independence.

Financial independence for women is life-changing, giving them the ability to make independent decisions for themselves and their family. Since the SHGs’ creation, over 10,000 women have been given access to affordable credit and saving schemes. As a result, SHGs have accumulated more than INR 116 million (approximately USD 1.6 million) which is available to support women further.


Sheela, mother of 5 is a homemaker and takes care of her children. Her husband works as a waiter at marriage functions in Udaipur, and has to stay away from his village for 15 or more days at a time. So, it’s the sole responsibility of Sheela to take care of her children whilst her husband works. It’s very difficult for her to manage the household work and take care of the children all alone, yet, she is managing everything.

Sheela is a member of one of the SHG groups. Once, her husband did not receive his paycheck on time and was not able to come home. It became a difficult situation for Sheela to look after her children and get food for them. The situation got bad and she ran out of sundries and food entirely. 

She went directly to the only option available to her; her SHG group. The group gave her immediate loan of Rs. 500 ($7) to buy much needed food for her hungry children. To most, this is just a small amount, but to Sheela it meant survival.

Sheela explains; ‘It’s just a small amount but it saved my children’s lives by providing help when I needed it the most.’

The SHGs empower women, even in the most dire of situations, to stay in control of their own lives, maintain their dignity, and provide for their family.


It is because of you, we at Seva Mandir were able to bring all these women together, make them aware of becoming self-sufficient and form these loan groups that can empower them. Without your support none of this would be possible, so a heartfelt thank you goes out to you for supporting our efforts in empowering women. The empowerment and autonomy of women are essential for the achievement of sustainable development.

We are also happy to share with you that our project Make Women in Rural India Financially Secure is accepted to participate in the 2020 Girl Fund Campaign by GlobalGiving. The campaign is our chance to win one of eight year-long slots in the GlobalGiving Girl Fund. The Girl Fund is made up of hundreds of donors committed to supporting GlobalGiving’s top tier organizations working to accelerate women’s equality around the world. For one year, the winning cohort will receive funding on a monthly basis from the Girl Fund. The campaign will be held from March 6-13. Fifteen organizations with the most unique donors will get a chance to enter in the final round of the Girl Fund Campaign. Please help us by spreading the word with your friends about our project.

Thank you once again and Happy International Women’s Day to you.


Atul Lekhra & the Seva Mandir Team

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Feb 11, 2020

Providing Strength to Farmers

Dear Friend,

Rohit (name changed), a farmer from the Medi village, lives with his parents, wife and children in a small but proud house situated on their modestly sized land. The surrounding region is inhabited by tribal people living in extreme poverty, earning on average less than $0.35 a day. One of the main crops here is lentils, which is what Rohit and his family have grown for generations on a small piece of land.

Compared with many others in his community, Rohit managed his finances well and he always tried to invest in good quality seeds and regular irrigation. However, despite his best efforts, his hard work never paid off; his family income remained low as he had nowhere to store the crops safely, leaving them open to encroaching animals, and he had no means of transportation.

Every time he wanted to sell some of his harvest, Rohit had three choices; he could travel to the market using local transport, which raised his costs; he could walk across arduous and difficult terrain for several miles; or he could sell his lentils through middle-men, in which case he would not receive a fair price.

Over time, the financial position of his family worsened until some were forced to leave the village in search of daily-wage labour work in the far away towns and cities. But even this radical step didn’t protect them from hunger. 

Several years ago, the solution for his family's increasingly precarious situation came when Seva Mandir’ agriculture programme reached Rohit’s area. Rohit, along with 86 others from his community were given professional support and proper training to become co-owners of a dal mill. 

The principal aims of the project are to operate along ethical lines, guarantee proper storage for the harvests and ensure fair prices to the farmers by cutting out the middle-men. The farmers who are part of the cooperative are now able to control the process of dal making and selling, they are guaranteed a fair market price for their crops and they receive a share of any future profits.        

Thanks to the generosity of Seva Mandir's supporters who made this project possible, the economic situation of Rohit's family continues to improve. As one of the farmers participating in the dal mill cooperative, he is able to support his family and provide them with a decent standard of living. 

His initial contribution to the project was 100 rupees (£1.09 or $1.40). This investment, and the support of Seva Mandir in enabling the farmers to realise the scheme, has given Rohit the assurance that his efforts will bring him appropriate rewards. Indeed, with time he will be able to cultivate a little more of the land and further ensure that his large family's finances are stable. The future is now brighter for them all.

We would like to thank you for letting us meet our commitments at the field. Every small bit, no matter how small helps us reach closer to these farmers. We do hope that you will continue to support our project.

We have been able to benefit hundreds of farmers and their families through this intervention.

Best Wishes,

Atul Lekhra & the Seva Mandir team

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