Seva Mandir

Seva Mandir's mission is to make real the idea of society consisting of free and equal citizens who are able to come together and solve the problems that affect them in their particular contexts. The commitment is to work for a paradigm of development and governance that is democratic and polyarchic. Seva Mandir seeks to institutionalise the idea that development and governance is not only to be left to the State and its formal bodies like the legislature and the bureaucracy, but that citizens and their associations should engage separately and jointly with the State. The mission briefly, is to construct the conditions in which citizens of plural backgrounds and perspectives can come tog...
Aug 30, 2010

Renuka got the highest marks...

girls studying under the shade of a tree
girls studying under the shade of a tree

Dear friends,

This year the monsoon has turned out quite good. Our lakes are filing up with the rain water at the moment. Though the lakes are still empty a little bit; the people in the city are happy with the amount of water received. In villages, some streams are flowing and it is very beautiful and green everywhere. Since the rains have been good this year, people hope to have a good harvest of ‘corn’. Maize is the staple diet in our region.

With this letter, we are sharing a story of one of the rural schools. As you know your contributions to our rural school program is very significant. We are running 205 rural schools in remote rural areas for children between 6-14 years old. We are reaching out to 5000 children every year.

You must have read the progress report we had posted last time. The progress report indicates that not only do children get quality education in these rural schools but a deeper discussion around quality education gets initiated within the communities. In the report you could see how the local community is taking responsibilities of running these schools and in some cases demanding quality education from the government. It is also incredible to see children performing well and learning more and more day by day in these rural schools. This has all been possible because of support from people like you. So thank you very much for all your support and contributions. We very much hope you would be able to visit us someday.

Many thanks once again. We will keep you posted on our progress.

With warm regards,

Deepti

“In Upli Sigri village there is a rural school and also a government school. Due to the inadequate number of teachers against the total number of children and also the insufficient space in the government school, most families in the village send their children to Seva Mandir supported rural school.

The instructor Ratan Lal Khekria at the rural school has completed a Masters degree in addition to a government certified teacher’s training (B.Ed) while working at the rural school. He is very motivated and teach with care and love to his students.

At this rural school, there are 65 children enrolled. The children attend the school regularly and around 15 children graduate from this rural school to the government school for higher studies every year. In order to get into the government schools, the children appear in an exam and if passed they get enrolled for higher studies.

Last year, Renuka from this rural school appeared in the exam conducted by the government school and passed with very good marks. She subsequently got admission in the coveted and prestigious residential government school “Navodaya Vidyalaya. She is now studying in class 6. It is a big honor for all of us since getting into Navodaya Vidyalaya is not an easy task. Renuka’s achievement lifted confidence of other children too in the village. Her parents too are very proud of the fact that their daughter made it and are happy for her. This year again, 4 students from Upli Sigri rural school have secured admission in the Navodaya Vidyalaya.

Links:

Jul 8, 2010

The fellows who were trained - with your support

Right - A fellow at village meeting
Right - A fellow at village meeting

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for your continuing support to this program. I am writing to provide you with a description of the progress we made in the Fellowship Program. A detailed report has also been enclosed herewith for your reference. However, in this letter, I would attempt to give you a short summary of the progress we have been making with your support in this program. Thank you so much for being with us in this journey.

As you know the Fellowship Program sponsors community members with drive for change and a desire to contribute to the community to take up leadership roles. Since they are from within the villages they are in a better position to identify development issues, aware of social norms and could facilitate a change. In this view the fellowship helps the selected fellows gain knowledge through workshops, study tours and trainings. They are paired with a mentor who provides necessary guidance, an opportunity to discuss concerns and brainstorm ideas. The meetings with other fellows and their mentors offer a platform to learn from peers about the social problems of surrounding areas. They gain an insight into different approaches their peers are adopting to handle development issues.

Each fellow receives a sum of Rs. 25,000 (USD 625) for two years in installments, upon completion and submission of progress reports to his/her mentor. The funds serve as compensation for the wages a fellow loses by giving his/her time towards leading their community, and covers basic needs, including local travel expenses

There were 64 applications received from the applicants. The 19 fellows were chosen after having been interviewed by a selection committee, consisting of five Seva Mandir staff. Mentors are assigned to each fellow to guide, support and engage in dialogue and discussion with fellows as challenges arise, as well as provide direction and training.

The interview process enabled Seva Mandir to learn from the aspiring community leaders themselves what development challenges they faced. It emerged that each block (administrative unit for the area) had specific issues to tackle. In Kherwara, accusations of witchcraft (Daakan) were limiting women’s empowerment, and candidates were keen to learn more about govt schemes relevant to them, whilst in Badgaon, affiliation to the traditional caste-led village level institutions (Jati Panchayat) were an issue. Applicants from Girwa expressed concern over forestry and protection of common land, whilst in Jhadol, the government-run pre-school centres and nutrition emerged as priorities to address.

Ms. Preeti Shaktawat, a staff member who worked closely with the Fellows shares her views as follows - “The objective of the Vikas Mitra Fellowship Programme is to encourage conscientious people to assume leadership roles concerning the integrated development of their village and nearby surrounding areas. In addition, it is also intended that such leadership from the fellows will be instrumental in disseminating the values of community work within the surrounding society.

During my 19 months overseeing the fellowship programme, I was truly inspired by the thorough and determined efforts of the fellows. They proved to be strong leaders within their communities and diligently focused on pertinent issues that had emerged in their areas. To alleviate longstanding, deeply rooted issues at a grassroots level proved difficult and challenging because there is often resistance to change. Yet, with perseverance the fellows continue to bring reform to Anganwari Centres (Govt early chidcare centres), challenge local mautana (described below) issues, fight against NREGA corruption (Govt Employment Scheme), conserve the local environment and forest, and combat harmful village traditions.

With the generous support of donors like you, I have seen the Fellowship Programme empower and assist these community leaders in building the confidence, skills, and knowledge needed to successfully overcome local issues. With continued support, I truly feel the fellows can alleviate the issues of their villages and significantly change and impact their communities”.

What fellow does –

'In order to understand the following story, we need to understand a tradition of tribal community. In tribal villages, if a woman dies (un/natural death) in her husband’s village then her parents (including people from her birth village) demand for a compensation from their son-in-law and his family. Usually it becomes a matter between the two villages the bride and groom belong to. The tradition is to protect any physical violence on daughters when they get married but over the years the tradition has become an opportunity to ask for big compensations. Now-a-days, sometimes the compensation is also asked for other kinds of physical harms. The compensation is called ‘mautana’ in local language while the act in which the entire village comes in a mob to ask for the compensation is called ‘chadotra’. Chadotra often includes the mob breaking the houses to pieces, setting fire and cause physical harm to the members of the opposite party'.

“Somi (changed name) was born in an ordinary family in one of the villages in Kotda block. She was one of the five children. She never went to school but looked after the house and farms. After her marriage with Ladu she was happily living until her husband became an alcoholic. She persuaded her husband to give up on alcohol but to no avail. Gradually, their arguments became quarrels and her husband started accusing her of having extra-marital affairs. Somi left her husband twice to live with her parents but every time Ladu would bring her back convincing her of improving his behavior from now on. In late 2009, one day Ladu was drunk when he came home. Somi has a fight with him and he killed her. Ladu took her dead body to a nearby jungle and hung her to a tree. He sent a word about her death to her parents.

When her parents saw signs of physical violence on Somi’s dead body they refused to cremate the dead body. Their entire village came to his village (chadotra) in anger and asked for Rs 5 lac (USD 11,000). The Fellow Heera Lal along with other village leaders in Sada village brought Police to intervene. They tried to encourage the daughter’s parents to bring down their ‘demand’ and requested not to cause physical harm to anyone. Heera Lal successfully persuaded Somi’s parents. The compensation (mautana) was finally fixed at Rs. 1.75 lacks (USD 3889). On the spot Ladu’s family gave them Rs. 5000 and Somi’s dead body was cremated peacefully.

Heera Lal has been educating people in his region about the pros and cons of this tradition. He chose this issue for this Fellowship because he considers this is a big social problem of his region. He has done very good work in solving such cases and spreading awareness about such issues and involving the Police to resolve these issues”.

There are a number of cases like above whereby the Fellows have identified the social problems on their own and have attempted to bring a change in the society. In this process they themselves have learnt a lot about these issues and their enthusiasm encouraged us too. As we look at the future, we are exploring the possibility of extending application to the Fellowship Program to everyone and anyone in the region, not just those working directly with Seva Mandir. With your help, we want to keep supporting enthusiastic and driven individuals give their communities the leadership and help they deserve.

This progress would have not been possible if you were not with us all this time. We would like to extend our gratitude to your support and faith in this program. Please have a look at the report enclosed herewith; it will give you an idea of the overall program and future plans of this program. We hope you will enjoy reading this update.

Thank you once again for all your significant support. We truly are grateful to you for all your investments and support to us.

With warm regards,

Deepti

Links:


Attachments:
Jul 6, 2010

Supported 5000 farmers for food security

The surplus is sold in the local market
The surplus is sold in the local market

Dear Friends, First of all, many thanks for your continuing support to this program. I am writing to provide you with a brief description of what we have been doing all this while in this project you are supporting. I will attempt to give you a brief overview of the progress we have made in this covering letter however; a detailed report on the same is enclosed herewith for your reference.

We have been working with 5000 farmers for improving their food and income security. The farmers we work with are mainly dependant on agriculture and animal husbandry. These tribal farmers own very small pieces of land i.e. less than 1 ha. Udaipur is a dry and drought prone area with an average annual rainfall of 625 mm. There are many challenges with farming, as we all know. In view of the harsh geographical and climatic condition of our region compounded with low productivity of natural resources, our response has been mainly two fold. On one hand we focus on improving the overall productivity of the natural resources (land and water) and on the other hand we address the immediate needs of a farmer in terms of improving the agriculture productivity and training the farmers to make optimum use of available resources.

Therefore, the programs that focus on the long term gains are – water and soil conservation, planting trees and growing grasses, ground water and moisture retention activities as well as water harvesting programs. These programs together add up to improving the overall quality of the land and soil (in terms of nutrients and moisture) and also help recharge ground water tables.

In the meanwhile we focus on improving the agriculture production for food and income security. It is done through 3 main activities as-

1) producing and using organic manure to help increase the agriculture production; 2) planting fruit trees for income generation and self subsistence and 3) cultivating vegetables as cash-crops and self subsistence

These activities allow farmers to utilize their resources like land, water, labor and time to their full potential. In addition, the increased production is useful for their own subsistence, improving their nutritional inputs and earns them more cash. The population we work with is very poor and their nutritional levels are also very low. Therefore even a small increase in their income can help them go a long way. “According to a survey conducted by the Poverty Action Lab (of MIT) in 2007, the monthly per capita consumption (MPCC, the total value of all goods and services consumed by an individual in the course of a month) of the population in Seva Mandir's work area stands at Rs.578.2, (USD 13) equivalent to less than Rs.20 a day. On average 70% of MPCC is composed of food, fuel and lighting”. The report enclosed gives a full picture of these various programs and also explain how your support to this program is benefitting hundreds of farmers.

Following are some snapshots of this program from 2008 to 2010– • 10,507 fruit trees have been planted with 591 farmers • In the current year we will be planting 13,000 fruit trees. • 677 families have been supported with vegetable cultivation program, earning from USD 5 to 16 per week for a couple of months. This income was additional to what they usually earn. • 235 farmers have adopted vermin-composting practices

The following story is very inspiring –

“In village Kojo ka Guda we are working with 41 farmers, of which we supported 9 farmers with vegetable cultivation program who have access to marginal irrigation. These 9 farmers were given seeds of Okra, Eggplants and Bottle guard. They cultivated these seeds on a piece of land around 0.05 ha. These farmers were able to produce adequate vegetables. After their own consumption they sold the surplus in the local market earning Rs.200 (USD 5) per week for two months. Dholaram and Gangaram from the same village planted vegetables in 0.10 ha of area and earned Rs.750/- (USD 16) per week. The results have boosted confidence and all farmers are very positive about the vegetable cultivation program”.

This progress is a result of your continued support to this program. We would like to extend our gratitude to your support and faith in this program. We very much hope that the enclosed report will provide you with some more details, figures and stories. We are very excited to share with you these details because with your support we have made progress to this far. A very big thanks to you once again.

Please do share your thoughts on this We hope that you would be able to visit us someday. Thank you for all your significant support.

With warm regards,

Deepti

Links:


Attachments:

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