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Economic Mobility for Transgender Community through Dairy Farming

United Way of Bengaluru strongly believes in creating sustainable communities. In looking at long-term development, it is crucial that we build skilled people who can take care of themselves in the long run. Keeping this in mind, we realized the need to look at a much-ignored section of the society, the transgender community. Stigma towards transgender community still survive, even more strongly in rural regions. Already strife with superstitions and backward thinking, taboos are more difficult to break when there is lack of education.

Most of the times, given the social stigma, the transgender community finds it difficult to find employment. So, we decided to build sustainable employment to doubly marginalized rural transgender community through dairy farming. On one hand, they are socially stigmatized and on the other, chances to make a living for themselves are fewer in rural areas where ignorance is higher when it comes to being gender sensitive.

As part of the program, we gave them a new lease on life by providing them with dairy farming training and equipment, 2 cows and a buffalo for the farm’s setting up. Since milking machines were given to them as dairy farm equipment, there was a necessity to train them in dairy farming, naturally.

                     

 

So, we trained them in dairy farming, built a cow shed, provided them with milk cans, animal health check-ups, medicines, fans inside the cow shed, cow food and cow shed mats.

This entire process reverses urbanization! It will not only ease the weight of population concentrated in urban cities by slowing down people from rushing to cities for employment but also strengthen the rural regions economically.

Student Mini Grants for Rural Development: Youth making it count

With the coming of rapid urbanization, most native practices that can keep the villages healthy and running are lost to time. Moreover, rural areas often are not given enough attention with regard to basic amenities and infrastructure. The new age technology and infrastructure are not low-cost and therefore the rural areas are subjected to sloppily-created amenities or none at all.

What does this tell us?

It is time that we went back to our indigenous ways of conserving natural resources and group the villagers themselves into a force that can help themselves and stand on their own feet.

United Way Bengaluru’s student mini grants helps people do exactly that. These UWBe funded project grants are student-driven in nature where a student leads a group that also consists of the panchayat development officer, a representative from the gram panchayat members (president/ vice-president/ members), a school teacher, elders, youth, women.

These mini-grant projects will focus on areas such as restoration of mini-water bodies such as Kalyani, open well or smaller lakes, revival of a mini-forest areas such as Gundu Topu with plantations, protection of heritage trees or already established commons such as Gomala (social forests). They can set up common nutrition garden that benefits the community or work towards conserving any endangered species of plants or crop species. They can also focus on repairing of the basic infrastructure that benefits the larger community like a community hall or just about any other innovative ideas that can help solve the day-to-day problems of the rural population.

Wells to be recharged

A Kalyani being restored

Bamboo and Jackfruit plantation taking place

Recently, one such student mini grant was used to restore native water conservation systems like a mini Kalyani and three open wells. It was also used to desilt an inlet drainage to improve inflow of water to the local lake and finally the plantation of Bamboo and Jackfruit saplings for elephants which is still in progress.

 

 

Seedballing Greener Futures at Kudlu Dodda Lake

The sun was burning hot in the middle of the afternoon around 1:30 pm and the Kudlu Dodda Lake, where the seedballing activity was going to take place, was clear and still. Throughout the path lining the lakeside, we find concrete seating arrangements set up by the Wells Fargo company.

The raw ingredients for the corporate volunteering activity of seedballing – fresh mud pressed into balls, water cans and the seeds – was prepared much before the slated time of the event, 2 pm. The seeds chosen for the seedballing are native to the Karnataka state such as Ala, Arali, Gliciridia, Burega and Hunase. Twenty seven corporate volunteers from Wells Fargo and three school-going student interns joined us soon for the activity. There were some local community helpers also to aid the event in checking the quality of the finished seed balls.

Native seeds

All of them were asked to gather in a shaded space and they were prepped with the details of the composition of the seed balls, how to make them and where the finished seed balls will be dispersed.  The goal for the event was to make 3,000 seed balls in roughly 1.5 hours.

How were the seed balls made?

The mud balls prepared beforehand was a mixture of fresh mud and organic manure (cow dung and bird poop). They are meant to be organically rich in composition so that it aids in critical seed growth when they are finally dispersed into the forests near the foothills of Nandi hills and nearby areas during the monsoon season.

The Wells Fargo volunteers divided themselves into groups containing 3 to 6 members and they enthusiastically got to work. There was a lot of laughter and chatter in the air while they made the seed balls in joint and cheerful effort.

Getting dirty for better future

Every group was provided with one big organic mud ball. Each individual volunteer picked small amounts of mud and placed the native seeds inside it and then rolled it into small round balls. These were placed onto biodegradable plates and they were moved by the school student volunteers to an area under the sun for drying. The shaded space where the seedballing activity was being carried out, overlooked the lake with various birds perched on the tree located in the middle of the lake. Some of the birds one could spot in the lake premise are ducks, herons and migratory birds.

The last lap

The seedballing activity picked up speed towards the end with no sign of exhaustion from the volunteers’ side.

By 3:40 pm, we had prepared around 3,130 seed balls, surpassing the set goal! Thrilled with the results, we decided to wrap it up for the day. The seed balls were then stored in the shaded space safely for dispersal in the coming months.

Before setting out, we asked few of the volunteers to express their thoughts on today’s activity. From their positive feedback and the huge number of seed balls that we managed to produce, the whole event spelled success.

Corporate Volunteering is a force to reckon with. Each of the volunteer is an educated, contributing member of the society and we you put together multiple hands, they collectively become massive change makers. With more similar initiatives, we can pave way for greener futures and ensure a more sustainable existence.

Ramaiah’s Journey to Good Health

He was rejected by his children and made to sit outside the house. A patient of chronic asthma, his condition worsened to a point that he could barely breathe. The dumping grounds is one of the primary reasons for his condition. Every hospital where he sought help did nothing. The doctors had told his family that he will die sooner or later and that there is barely any hope.

So, his children chucked him out of the house.

Ramaiah expresses his happiness of the massive change he has found in his health conditions

When the MHC stumbled upon this patient, they immediately took up his case. The MHC doctor examined him only to find that his chronic asthma had become a bigger monster – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease. It is also known as Chronic Obstructive Airway disease. His pulmonary lungs were blocked and the lower part of his lungs was clogged with water. This was causing his breathlessness and suffocation.

As a farmer, he had been allergic to dust and cold weather. It simply got worse over time. Now that he was taken care of by the MHC, he is now better and finally has a roof over his head too. The MHC doctor had also spoken to his family about the disease and they have realized their mistake. It is never too late to seek healthcare. Death should not see an inevitable cause for every small issue; it is the family’s duty to never quit on their member.

‘PLOG RUN’ – a sport promoting Greener Cities and a Greener Nation!

The cleaner the city the healthier and happier it is! On a Sunday morning 30th of June, Continental in partnership with United Way of Bengaluru organized a Plog Run in 4 locations across India as part of their employee volunteering activity.

In a 3 hours event, about 700+ volunteers from all the four locations participated in the plog run and picked up about 486 gunny bags of recyclable waste. This event was held at Bengaluru, Pune, Gurugram and Modipuram on the same day between 7.30 am and 10 am simultaneously.

Bengaluru city saw 220 people picking up about 250 bags of trash around the Agara Lake Trail, HSR Layout. Despite an early morning shower, 125 Pune volunteers jogged on District Centre Spine Road to pick up 37 bags of waste and Gurgaon bought 200 volunteers picking up 156 bags of recyclable materials thrown around Leisure Valley Park, sector 29. Modipuram edition of the event bought 70 employees to run around the factory premises of Continental and picked up 55 bags of trash.

Getting down and dirty for a good cause!

The event in Bengaluru kick-started with an oath to reduce the use of plastic not only in one’s life. The jingle move saying “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Remove, Rejoice”, was a treat to watch.

“We as responsible corporates, this is the least that we could do in terms of giving back to society. Day in and day out we draw a lot of resources from the community. It is our responsibility to keep it clean. We along with our employees intend to make this responsibility more of fun so that over a period of time we can reduce the unnecessary trash in the society and promote greener, healthier place around us”, says Mr Prashanth Doreswamy, Managing Director, Continental.

Plastic trash, our environment’s arch enemy

“Social change can happen more effectively when we citizens come forward and take the initiative. We need to educate the common public on the rights practices of lifestyle to fight against the odds of the environment. Through such events, we not only create a buzz but also trigger that sense of responsibility in every participant to change that one habit that harms nature – segregation of waste. It is high time. We are cautioned about the crisis that we will soon encounter if Mother Earth is not healed. We are glad to join hands with Continental in this wonderful initiative”, said Mr. Rajesh Krishnan, Executive Director, United Way Bengaluru.

Getting creative!

United Way Bengaluru aims to engage many corporates in such events and see larger participation from the communities towards its green goal.

“Plastic free Sompura” campaign by LM Volunteers picking up speed

Facilitated by UWBe, LM volunteers have tried to create awareness at the weekly market at Sompura about the environmental and health hazards of using plastic, especially single use plastic.

Their aim was to motivate the public for positive behavior change through selected activities carried for an extended period of time. The first week focused was on spreading awareness using the public announcement system which was continued for the next four weeks and so on. However, the first week also consisted of planting tree species in the market area and lake bund by market vendors and LM volunteers. The vendors were also asked to take responsibility of taking care of the plants planted by them. The third activity was the distribution of paper bags to customers to reduce the usage of plastic bags.

Paper-cut’ing the plastic thumb of environmental pollution

LM Windpower corporate volunteers handing out newspaper bags

The next weeks were slated to have similar awareness sessions. However, instead of cloth bags, paper bags were distributed in all the other weeks. Both these are ongoing activities. Positive results were observed such as vendors using the paper bags for packing the vegetables and grocery, the happy disposition of the vendors as they happily greeted the LM volunteers and most importantly, the public showing interest to shift from plastic to alternate.

The most unique point of this story was that this event had inspired an old villager to take up this cause and fight for a plastic-free Sompura. He had patiently kept watch for few days to catch the ones who brought the plastic into the village red-handed. He also volunteered to make paper bags for free for the well-being of his village. This shows the importance of setting an example for the people to follow. Once we set the action in motion, there will be people to take it up and continue the domino effect.

More power to corporate volunteering!

 

 

 

 

 

360 Degree Intervention at Nandi Grama

Why Nandi?

One of the last vestiges of our precious Heritage, Nandi boasts of a rich History, ecology, bio-diversity and water bodies, which is currently fast disappearing.  If we wish to save this legacy of Bengaluru, the time to intervene is now.

In such a situation, we need a 360-degree intervention into the village development. United Way of Bengaluru is facilitating this very same process in terms of its own three main projects – Wake the Lake, Integrated Rural Development and Born Learning.

Currently, we have carried out lake rejuvenation, Kalyani restoration, Gunduthopu, roof top rainwater harvesting units, government school refurbishment, organic farming (farm pond), Gokatte creation, plantation, solid waste management and dustbins.

Revived Nandi lake

Some of these are native concepts. Kalyani is a traditional rainwater harvesting structure. Gunduthopus are woodlots that nothing but green spaces capable of small-scale production of forest products including wood fuel and serve as points for bird watching. These used to be integral to rural landscapes in the past and nowadays are found less in numbers.

Kalyani Revival at Nandi Grama

Gundu Thoppu

Meanwhile, the new set of interventions are additional to the earlier list which include pottery house refurbishment, student scholarships for the kids of the village, women livelihood support, sanitation, Anganwadi refurbishment and open well rejuvenation.

Apart from the Nandi village, we had covered one more region from the Chikkaballapur district – Sulthanpet. At the Sulthanpet tank, we carried out levelling of the lake bed, cleaning of the feeder canals, building of the lake bund embankment, plantation of saplings across the lake premise etc.

The lake clean up included freeing the lake from toxic non bio-degradable dump, providing the required civil amenities along with continuous maintenance, building of children’s play area, gazebo, toilets, STP and a walk path creation around the lake. The plantation near the lake was also to increase the bio diversity and making of thematic Gardens, butterfly gardens and moolikavana (planting in the shape of human bodies), etc.

We also took part in forming and strengthening the lake welfare associations. Awareness was given to the villagers on lake conservation & water literacy. We had also conducted certain community festivals related to the natural water bodies in the villages such as Kere Deepotsava, Kere Habba and Kere Sankranti. These were done so that the villagers can be intertwined with the welfare of Nature through celebration and happiness.

All these activities were carried out by corporate volunteers from Wells Fargo, UBL, community members who were facilitated by United Way of Bengaluru.

 

 

Mothering Dreams

A nation’s development always begins at grass root level.

As part of the Day of Action initiative of United Way Worldwide, Bengaluru chapter’s “Mothering Dreams” tried to highlight the importance of showing young children, who are our future, the road to foster sustainable development in a noteworthy manner.

Anganwadi. Mothers. Recycling. These were the three cornerstones of our Day of Action.

Anganwadi is a type of rural child care center in India. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition. Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages.

Culturally and psychologically unique, United Way Bengaluru attempted to mobilize the rural mothers of Anganwadi children to engage in recycling activities where they recycled indigenous recyclable child safe materials into objects of learning and play for the kids. These were later used by the children themselves.

During the activities, the children had keenly observed their mothers in action and tried to mimic them. They also learnt the significance of green principles in life from their mothers as children in the 0-4 age bracket are at a highly impressionable age. Psychologically speaking, the mother-child bond enabled a better learning environment and it also drove home the crucial role of a mother being a child’s first teacher. In fact, it reiterated the core objective of Born Learning Campaign which cannot emphasize enough the role of a mother in a child’s early childhood education and care. The BLC campaign has been mothering rural Anganwadi dreams since some time now and this event underscored it.

“A Mother, being a first teacher in a child’s life has a key influencing role; formal and informal. ‘Mothering Dreams’ is a recognition of the fact that child’s learning ability can be greatly enhanced if the Mother is given a chance to enter the classroom set up and make learning aids with a touch of love and affection. We had reached out to over 100 Anganwadis and saw the mother of every child take part with fun and excitement”, says Smita Sharma, Program Head – Education, United Way Bengaluru.

The concept does not end here. The targeted Anganwadis were already a part of UWBe’s Born Learning project where the Day of Action went hand-in-hand with the campaign’s goal of strengthening pre-school children’s cognitive and motor abilities. The activities carried out involved creating items which required concentration and skill. The Day of Action aimed to affect learning through 5 developmental aspects – motor skills, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, cognitive thinking and speech and language development.

A educational pulley system created from play items

This program was rolled out in 100 Anganwadis simultaneously across the city of Bengaluru with volunteers and extended team of UWBe extending support. While United Way Bengaluru provided them items such as glue, scissors and other stationary materials, the mothers were requested to bring items like newspapers, old cloths, tires and seeds such that they would be available at no cost in their communities. Most of the materials used were recyclable indigenous materials.

Children used eco-friendly clay to make moulds

The teachers of Anganwadis helped the mothers to understand the requirements of educational aids at the centres and the same were prepared by them from the recyclable materials they had brought with them. About 2035 mothers and 3500 children participated in this program. In this two-hour program held at multiple locations across the city, we were able to make 3300 educational aids that were in line with Chilipili curriculum followed in Anganwadi schools in the city of Bengaluru.

Play item made from used bottle caps

Chilipili is a theme of education or a curriculum followed in the courtyard shelters. This curriculum is in line with Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy developed by Government of India. This policy caters to all children under 6 years of age and commits to universal access to quality early childhood education.

“The objective is to get the mothers in the underprivileged community to come together and prepare child-friendly play materials using reusable and eco-friendly products. We are keen that through this initiative, children should not be deprived of their innocence but kindle their curiosity and encourage mothers to be invested in the growth of their children. Non-availability of funds should never be a deterrent and we need to show case alternate possibilities for these community members” says, Mr Rajesh Krishnan, Executive Director, United Way Bengaluru.

The key highlight of this campaign was the participation of the transgender community and the backward slums in their own premises. About 10 people from the transgender community and mothers from the backward slums took part by preparing creative learning materials at their respective homes.

Slum mothers and children also joined in the activities

Transgender community involved in the activities

Joy and happiness radiated from the delighted faces of little chubby-faced children at their ‘mother-made’ materials which spelled the real success of this campaign.

In learning from their mothers on how to recycle waste into articles that matter to them like educational aids and playthings, UWBe attempted to simultaneously empower the women, children and the environment for a more sustainable future. Mothering the dreams of the little required an extended effort that included but was not limited to the mother alone. It was aided by the able helping hands of the local community and United Way Bengaluru.

Anganwadi is a type of rural child care center in India. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition. Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages.

 

Wells Fargo Employees Create Miyawaki Forests at Dodda Kudlu Lake

Miyawaki forests, named after the Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki, is a method of afforestation with natural vegetation being restored onto degraded land.

One can create these mini forests even in their backyards with many native species intermingling and co-existing in harmony.

As part of United Way Bengaluru’s Wake the Lake campaign, Corporate Volunteering project facilitated the volunteering of Wells Fargo employees on June 7th to clean up Dodda Kudlu Lake and create Miyawaki forest in the lake premise.

A much enthusiastic participant!

Kudlu Lake is located near Silvery county road at Parapana Agrahara. A thriving water body, Dodda Kudlu lake supports a diverse range of important endemic flora and fauna including a variety of birds, butterflies, insects and aquatic life.

Some of the shrubs that were planted on that day were Ekka, Vasaka, Lakki, Vishamadari, Night Queen and more. Meanwhile some of the tree species that were planted along with the shrubs were Arali, Basari, Goni, Kokum, Ranjal, Ankole, Mahagani etc.

Corporate Volunteers posing with their planted saplings

We had 107 volunteers who enthusiastically put in 321 hours and worked towards greening the lake premise. A 1000 square feet Miyawaki forest was created with 1000 saplings being planted and to top it off, 300 metres of land diligently de-weeded.

Full grown Miyawaki Forest

UWBe Hand-In-Hand with MILANA to Fight and Improve Lives of PLHIV

India’s NACP-IV has made the elimination of stigma and discrimination a major focus. In 2018, implementation on the HIV AIDS (prevention and control) Act began. The law criminalizes discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS, including within employment, healthcare, education, public facilities and public office, as well as protecting property and insurance rights. Despite this, people living with HIV continue to experience high levels of discrimination.

MILANA strives to provide family support network for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) located in Bangalore, India.  They also provide medical, nutrition and educational support for HIV infected children. They believe in helping PLHIV fight against the society’s stigma towards them.

United Way funds MILANA to carry on their crucial work for the well-being of the PLHIV community in every way possible.

Staying physically healthy is only one aspect of managing life with HIV. Maintaining one’s mental and emotional health is just as important. People who are newly diagnosed with HIV are at higher risk for some mental health conditions, such as depression. For depression or anxiety, talk to doctor or counselor.  Support groups can help making new friendships with other people who understand what it’s like to live with HIV.

MILANA, under its care and support program, they provide three main forms of support to the HIV patients. The first one is through home visit and care center visit where the outreach workers enquire about their well-being, create confidence among families, counsel those who are unwell and also educate the families on healthy nutritional practices while supporting few cases who require attention by visiting hospitals and care canters.

Outreach workers carrying out home visits

Their second form of support is through nutrition. MILANA in the form of monthly rations provided Supplementary Nutrition to 60 families infected and affected with HIV/AIDS. High Protein Mix, Soya and pulses were also given to all the members to improve on their nutritional status. Milk powder, Mega mass & Egg were given for suffering adolescent & youth.

And finally, we have counselling which is essential to the mental health of the PLHIV.

Effective and crucial, counselling is important to shield the PLHIV as family members, medical fraternity, employers and society in general take a harsh view of HIV positive status of a person.

Counselling session

Family counselling has helped in bringing family members and partners together. Many phone calls are received time to time from youth who do not have right information on sexual health. This being an age of experimentation and exposure, youth tend to get confused that causes them into getting involved with risky practices and reckless lifestyles. Guidance in utmost necessary in such cases.

 

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