Articles

Be the change you wish to see

Association for India’s Development (AID) is a non-profit, voluntary organization whose objective is to address grassroots issues in India. It is a movement that promotes social, equitable and just development, supporting causes that affect the most deprived and marginalized communities. Founded by Ravi Kuchimanchi (inspiration to Bollywood movie Swades) and his graduate school friends from University of Maryland in 1991, AID has grown from its humble beginnings to over 34 chapters across the US. All along its journey AID has continued to listen to the voices of communities at the grassroots and in the process, developed a greater understanding of the issues that affect their lives.

AID is energized by ardent supporters like you and hundreds of passionate volunteers. A significant portion of AID funds are raised from individual donations. Equally important are the hours of volunteer effort put into successfully coordinating projects and events. Here in the Greater Boston Area, there are two chapters – AID Boston and AID MIT, who collectively disbursed approximately $200,000 towards 15 projects over geographically diverse regions of India in 2014. AID Boston works with grassroots partners in India who work directly with the people on issues of health, mental health, agriculture, education, social justice, women’s empowerment, right to information and other human rights related issues.

One of our long term partners are Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS). JSS takes a holistic approach in working on the issues of marginalized communities (mostly tribal) in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. JSS is led by a group of dedicated health professionals committed to developing a low-cost and effective health program offering preventive and curative services for 1500 villages and 300,000 people in the tribal and rural areas of the Bilaspur district in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

To fill the nutritional gap in infants aged 6 months to 3 years, JSS has pioneered a rural crèche program which is being considered as a model by the Government of India. Around 100 crèches or “Phulwaris” have been started in 53 villages within the Bilaspur district, including some forest villages that are not easily accessible. The crèches cumulatively enroll 1200 children and are run by women of the village who have been selected by the community and trained by JSS. They provide a safe, wholesome environment for infants and toddlers, thus allowing their parents to work and enabling their older siblings to attend school. The children are provided 3 meals a day and are given additional supplements like iron to support their nutritional requirements, early education and taught hygienic practices. An independent evaluation of the Phulwari program funded by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust noted that the local response was largely positive and helped in decreasing malnutrition. Parents feel secure knowing that their children were under good care. The demand for the crèches has increased with the work provided by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). In many places, crèche timings have been adjusted around the NREGA work schedule opening at 4am. JSS also work towards implementing sustainable agriculture, which also complements their nutritional diet plan for the community. Several of our volunteers have visited and spent time in Bilaspur understanding the issues and getting to know the people.

The chapter engages with all grassroots partners through phone calls, site visits, and coordinating their visits to Boston. The projects and campaigns are financially supported by frequent engagement with donors and organizing events in the Greater Boston Area. As part of the chapter’s fundraising efforts last year, we organized a fantastic Carnatic concert by Padma Shri Mrs. Sudha Ragunathan in May, our annual donor dinner, ‘Milan’ in September and a remarkable dance concert by visually challenged artists from Articulate Ability in October. Our annual marathon program – Team AID Asha, in conjunction with Asha-Boston is in its 12th successful year, where volunteers train together,with help of coach to run half or full marathons and raise funds for the two non-profit organisations. AID Boston/MIT also hold awareness events in the Greater Boston Area to draw attention to the various issues faced by communities in India.

 

We are thankful to Foundations TV for offering a column in the monthly publication, through which we will highlight the various projects we support, our learnings from them and their impact on the lives of the most marginalized. Volunteers of AID Boston meet every Sunday from 2-4 PM at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) premises to discuss these projects, events, and campaigns. All meetings are open to the public. For more information please visit: http://www.aidboston.org. Those who wish to volunteer, contribute, learn or participate in any way please contact:  president@aidboston.org or secretary@aidboston.org.