The following is a postcard from Neeharika Tummala, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in India and Bangladesh, about her recent visit to Sambhali Trust.
I was super excited to visit this organization as my interaction with the founder – Govind, was so welcoming and friendly, I wanted to skip all the site visits in between and get to Jodhpur, Rajasthan directly. Unfortunately, a few days before I found out that Govind’s brother passed away and so I wasn’t sure if I would even get to visit the family. However, when I got there, despite the grief, Govind still make a site visit possible for me. Thanks to Govind, an amazing team of volunteers and staff, I got to meet the ladies and their children who benefit from the Sambhali Trust.
Sambhali is housed within a beautiful guest house that Govind runs. The NGO section is also beautiful with inspiring paintings, women learning sewing in one corner, and practicing in another corner. The best part is that the environment is really kids friendly – while mothers study, the children are free to play and stay occupied with books and games. You can see the enthusiasm for photos as they pose for my camera. By the time you leave Sambhali, you can’t help but feel really positive about the world and that good things are happening.
A major strength of Sambhali are its volunteers, who come from all over the world for extended volunteering stints. They contribute their design and organizational knowledge as well as skills and continuously improve the organization. After the training center, I went to the advanced sewing center, where women were busy fulfilling an order they had received. There they create the cutest stuffed toys which are not only sold at the Sambhali Boutique, but also go on order to other countries. These stuffed toys have great designs, thanks to ideas from the volunteers and the creativity of the women, and looked so tempting I wanted to steal a stuffed elephant and the mermaid lion, which was my personal favorite. Thank you Sambhali for the site visit and great memories! I definitely hope to be back there someday, stay at the guest house, volunteer and spread some Sambhali love!
We are very happy to announce that we have reached our goal of raising 10,000US$ for our Project: “Empowering Underprivileged Women and Girls in India”.
It has just been over 2 years since we posted this project on the Global Giving website and with the very generous support from all of you who have contributed to giving the women in our Jodhpur Empowerment Centre the opportunity for a better way of life, we have reached our original goals for this project.
We have successfully been able to maintain the Centre and give 60 women over the course of 2 years tuition in sewing and embroidery skills as well as tuition in reading and writing Hindi and English conversation classes. We have had the professional help of 2 permanent tutors, as well as many foreign volunteers who help with English conversation classes. Every week we require raw materials for the sewing classes and notebooks and stationery for the tuition classes. We have been able to provide every girl who successfully completes the course with a sewing machine that they can use at home. This means that they can make clothes for themselves, their family and also can potentially earn a living by making clothes for people in their community.
We have managed to purchase a van, which was one of our goals. This now helps with transportation of the women and girls from their homes to their respective Empowerment Centres, throughout Sambhali Trust. This is a real benefit as before we needed to rely on the local rickshaws, which proved very costly. Occasionally we are able to take the girls on visits to the local radio station, information centres, the local park for an annual picnic and we also use it for the transportation of staff and volunteers. We have also been able to hold health camps, employ the professional expertise of counsellors, dance choreographers, and the local government officers to talk on women’s rights and provide advice where to seek help in Jodhpur, as well as instruction classes on self-defence.
Sambhali is not only about learning vocational skills but developing the self-esteem and knowledge of these women and girls, who have been deprived of a good education and know little apart from the household chores that they are required to do on a daily basis. Without the ability to have labour-saving appliances, all the work needs to be done by hand from the cooking, cleaning, washing for the whole family. By giving these girls the time and space to express themselves, developing their personality through different workshops that have been held on health, nutrition, drama, photography, dance, how to use a pc, send an email etc., geography, women’s rights – all these add to their development, which in turn helps them continue in life with a different frame of mind; one that isn’t just expecting to live the same life as their mother, with girls secondary to boys, accepting verbal abuse from boys because of their gender and their caste. We hope that we are helping these girls to realise that they have a lot more to offer in life and at the very least the chance to have a better marriage, to perhaps a boy who is more educated and therefore who is able to have a more equal relationship with his wife and they are able to treat their own children whether boys or girls in the same way.
Sambhali Trust now incorporates 11 projects in total and we are constantly supporting more and more women and children in both Jodhpur and in the village area of Setrawa 100km away. We have been able to help educate girls in our Scholarship project through direct sponsorship on an annual basis to go to a good private school, (we have 81 children in school in total) and our Self-Help Group Project in Setrawa, is helping presently 96 women where they are able to start up their own small businesses, such as buying a goat or cow to sell the milk, buying a flour-grinding machine, or starting a small shop. Both these projects have been running for the last 6 and 3 years respectively and are proving very successful. As Sambhali has become more well-known in the Jodhpur area we have been approached by individuals to help them fight a divorce case and have applied for legal aid through Sambhali as well as a few individuals such as a woman called Dakhu from the Setrawa area, who was in need of acute psychiatric medication due to suffering (two) miscarriages and has suffered with post-natal psychosis. We wouldn’t be able to help these women if it wasn’t for the generosity of so many people. Their families would be suffering as to how to care for them with no help from the government and for many women it has given them hope and financial support in a time of great need.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us reach out to these women and girls, and giving them hope for a better life. Sambhali Trust has been running for 6 years now in total and the number of projects has grown to include 4 Empowerment Centres, 2 Self-Help Group Programmes, Shelter Home, Educational Project, the Graduates’ Sewing Centre, Sambhali Boutique and a Scholarship Programme. To help continue our work with all these projects and helping individual women in urban and rural areas, we will post another project on the Global Giving website to incorporate the different needs that have arisen.
In a time when India is fighting for the justice of women, then you can be assured that your generosity has served to develop these women and girls into stronger and more assertive women of the future....
In our Jodhpur Empowerment Centre we now have 28 students aged between 12 and 40 years old. About 10 students have recently joined Sambhali from the local communities in Jodhpur. Dilkush the English teacher is now helped by up to 4 volunteers at one time, so that they are able to divide the class up into 3 groups of different abilities. The Advanced group are now able to speak English quite well and introduce themselves. They are able to say a little about who they are and what they have been learning whilst coming to Sambhali. Dilkush has used role-play in some of the groups, where they have a conversation with a doctor/shopkeeper and they are able to practise their bargaining skills! They have worked on English grammar including comparisons – eg good, better, best. The new students at the Centre cannot write nor hold a pencil, so the tutor has spent a lot of time taking it very slowly and teaching them one letter of the alphabet per day.
One volunteer was interested in teaching some of the girls computer skills and so over the period of 2 months that she was here, Claudia taught 6 girls how to start the PC from scratch, search on the Internet, obtain an email ID, send mail and open Word sheets and type basic English on the keyboard. The girls have been very enthusiastic to learn this and now can send emails back to the previous volunteers!
Eight of the girls have now been attending the course for at least one year and so they took it upon themselves to apply for government jobs at the Municipality of Jodhpur. Sambhali was helping them make their applications and approach the right people. They met the Honorable Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Respected Mayor and also helped very much by the Vice Mayor. We wait to hear with fingers crossed, the outcome..
In the Arts and Crafts sessions the new students are starting to compile a file of embroidery stitches and all the girls have been making various items influenced by the workshops that the volunteers have been taking. They have learnt knitting, so have made teddy bears, caps and water bottle holders. A couple of them are learning to knit sweaters. They have made very pretty embroidered samplers and have been preparing some macramé bracelets which are for a potential order from Canada.
A couple of the volunteers in the last few months have done some theatre workshops with the girls and put on a wonderful shadow theatre performance which had a theme on the role of newly married women in the household. They have since performed this with some choreographed dance at 3 venues in and around Jodhpur. Theatre has really helped to develop the girls’ self-esteem and confidence to be themselves and realise their own abilities. The volunteers also have given a series of team-building workshops which incorporated trust exercises and speaking in front of the group and also camera workshops.
A couple of parent/teachers meetings have been held; one where a psychologist attended who talked to the parents about the various issues that had cropped up about teenage girls wanting to take their own decisions about who they wanted to marry. The psychologist was able to talk them through the difficulties they were having and how to discuss this with their daughters.
Sambhali Trust also helps individuals in need. We received a call from a friend working in the media about a girl roaming around by herself at the railway station in Jodhpur and so we went to find her a refuge. We found out that she was brought to Jodhpur by a “Job Placement agency based in Delhi” for being a domestic help from Jharkhand in East India. She was not treated well at this house she worked for, and after a month decided to run away from there. With the help of the Child Welfare Committee we helped her to get to the Shelter Home in the care of the Social Justice and Empowerment Department.
The Sambhali Sheerni Educational Programme was started in July 2012 to help provide 15 girls from the village of Setrawa (100km to the west of Jodhpur) and outlying areas with the chance of a good education in Jodhpur. Some of these girls had been attending our Empowerment Centre in the village and now had the opportunity to go to a good private school and receive bed and board with a local family.
Virendra and his wife Nirmala, put in a lot of work and preparation to make these girls feel at home. They installed bunk beds in the girls’ room and together with six volunteers from Sambhali the girls gradually established a routine in the morning to get washed and dressed and have breakfast. Some health and dental checks were done, their weight recorded and arm measurements taken, because these girls were mostly malnourished and we hope that after some time in their new home, the girls will gradually gain weight by having the nutritious meals that Nirmala is cooking for them. The plan is to document these measurements each month so that we can do a follow up and monitor the improvements.
As we were not able to get rid of the lice of the girls with normal lice shampoo and some of the girls had some skin rashes we went to see a dermatologist. Two girls with a specific skin disease got a prescription, a profound lice and worm treatment was started and the skin rashes were being taken care of with medicine. Two of the girls complained about bad vision especially in bad light. The physician suspected nightblindness because of Vitamin A deficiency and prescribed medication and all the girls started a multivitamin/iron supplement medication once the worm treatment was finished. We are sure that all signs of undernourishment will stop after a few months of a good diet- signs like very low weight, skin and vision problems, growth of thin hair on arms and legs (symptoms that are in the Western world are only seen in anorexic or bulimic girls). We also all paid a visit to the Shared Vision Centre in Jodhpur which assesses eyesight and the need for wearing glasses. Five girls were provided with glasses.
It took a few days to establish new methods of hygiene and good eating habits; the volunteers slept at the boarding house overnight to help with any initial homesickness and helping early in the morning to establish a routine; preparing new clothes to wear for home and school, books, backpacks and food to take to school.
The 15 girls ranging in age from 7-12 years now attend Galaxy Sr Secondary School in Jodhpur which is 5 mins walk away from their house. Ten days after moving from their rural way of life to living in Jodhpur, they started to attend school. Gradually the girls are changing from being reserved and shy to joining in group activities, smiling and showing how much their self-confidence is growing. School is from 7.30am-12.30pm and after that 2 volunteers go 6 days a week, from 3.30-6.00pm to help them with their homework and do some creative and fun activities with them.
We are happy that this project has started so well, after some initial problems at the beginning and now we hope that we can continue to fund this programme for at least the next five years, so that the girls can receive a good education and give them the best possible start in life to help themselves and in turn their families.
Last month we managed at last to buy our own minivan for the girls to be transported in, instead of the need for rickshaws. As I realized the other day, it needs to be slim, to go down the narrow streets in Jodhpur and in their communities, weaving in and out of the traffic and in between the cows, carts etc! We had hoped for this for a long time and thanks to your support, finally we’ve managed to get it. It means now we can transport the girls to and from the Empowerment Center; the Graduates to the Sewing Center, the teachers to our new Empowerment Center, “Sambhali Sisters for Sisters Project” which is about 11km on the outskirts of Jodhpur in a shelter home for orphaned girls. All the girls love it and it’s so useful it’s used all day long!
1st June saw the opening of our new Boutique in the town center, near the Clocktower in Jodhpur. We decided to move to a different site, which is now on the pathway route up to the Mehrangarh Fort, the main tourist attraction in Jodhpur, so it is easily visible. It has taken us a month to fit it out and we are now very happy with the result. We have employed Monica who has been a student of Sambhali since the beginning, was then sponsored to go to school and has been one of the best students in her class. Her father died a couple of months ago and the income of her family is relied upon through her sister who works in the Graduates’ Sewing Center and herself, as her mother is unable to work now. Monica is so happy to be working in the boutique and we haven’t forgotten her studies, so we are making sure that she has private tuition at the same time, so that she can resume her education when she wants to. We feel that the experience she will get working in the boutique will also help to increase her self-confidence and her ability to manage the sales, stock etc. We have high hopes of Monica doing really well in the future, because of her all-round ability, adaptability and enthusiasm to do everything and her interest in women’s empowerment.
The girls in the Jodhpur Empowerment Center have been working hard on learning how to make garments (salwaars and kurtas) and also doing quilting techniques and products including making shoulder bags. We have had a couple of volunteers, one of whom returned to do a theater workshop for a month. They developed a performance which demonstrated examples of the type of problems that women face in Rajasthan including verbal and physical abuse. The girls developed their drama skills and really enjoyed giving performances in both Jodhpur and Jaipur for International Women’s Day. We’ve had many volunteers helping with English tuition and Arts and Crafts classes as well giving different workshops including family-planning workshops which were given by Carlotta, a professional volunteer we were lucky enough to have from Germany .
The graduates have fulfilled making an order of soft toys including cats and monkeys, elephants and camels for an organization in the US. We had a little good-bye party to a volunteer who had been with us for 3 months, Marlies Schmid, who has taught the women how to make western-style garments – trousers, tops, skirts and dresses. The women have been so keen and committed to learn and they have had daily tuition from Marlies for the last 12 weeks. We have found a supplier of printed cotton in Jodhpur and now we are making these clothes out of printed cotton together with some linen trousers for the Boutique. All the women went down to the Boutique a couple of days after it opened again, to see all the things they have been making displayed in the shop. It was lovely to see how much it meant to them. So now we are able to produce garments and welcome any orders! We are developing samples for potential orders at the moment after the women have been working hard for a month stocking up the boutique.
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