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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.

 

Going Back to the Roots: Erasing Middlemen and Securing Farmer Livelihoods

Keeping aside issues which make living hard for farmers like the unpredictable weather patterns that destroy crops, farmer loans and lack of basic literacy, the concept of middlemen takes the lead.  He bites away a huge chunk of the farmers’ livelihood, leaving them to wither away in the heat of poverty. The middleman robs not just the farmer but the customer too.

Let that man-go.

But, how do we go about it?

Kolar, where Mango growers are faced with low income on their yield in spite of having quality mangoes, could take cues from 9 farmers supported by Holur Horticulture Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) who achieved selling of mangoes for Rs.1.87 Lacs and collectively earned profit of close to Rs.1.37 Lacs in the span of just 1 week. Farmers sold about 5.5 tonnes of different varieties of mangoes at various places and this was facilitated by United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe).

Mango Mela at a corporate premise

UWBe has been supporting Holur Horticulture Farmers Producer Company Ltd since three years now. Since the last year, Applied Materials pitched in with excellent support to strengthen the fight for the farmers’ cause.

The company’s partnership with UWBe tries to bridge the gap between the farmers and the consumers by erasing the middlemen through a structured ‘livelihood’ intervention program.

Listed under the Integrated Rural Development program, Holur FPO is the Karnataka government’s pilot initiative.

Machinery provided for mango-related processes (prepare sliced mangoes, mango pickles, dry mango powder) by UWBe, marketing training given to farmers through a Government agency called CFTRI at Mysore and FPO’s branding and marketing of the finished goods supported by Applied Materials are three crucial elements that work together in making this effort a success.

At the Mango Mela 2019, the farmers will be given a marketing platform at the Applied Materials’ company premise where they will sell their mangoes in box sizes of 1kg, 3kg and 5kg.

Farmers sold about 2.4 tonnes of mangoes in 2 days. After seeing such a big response, UWBe facilitated 2 more stalls: one at Collins Aerospace and another at Ramamurthynagar and there, farmers sold another 3 tonnes.

Mango Mela Inaugration

Finally, grass ripened mangoes shall change hands from the farmers to the consumers directly!

 

 

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Johnny’s Tale of Survival

Resilience has a name. It is Johnny.

A survivor of child trafficking, Johnny D Silva was kidnapped at the age of 10 years and forced to do backbreaking work under inhuman conditions for 8 and a half years. He was lured into leaving his home after being falsely informed that his father required him immediately for some urgent help with his vegetable cart. A few frantic steps and he blacked out.

The world that he woke up to knew no mercy. Tortured and beaten blue, he underwent grueling and never-ending days. A watchman, being a good Samaritan, gave him some money and asked him to go back to where he came from.

And he ran for his life. To never look back again.

His hometown in Tamil Nadu was the first place that flashed to his mind. His eager eyes searched for his family but found neither his father, mother or his grandfather. Fortunately, he could get in contact with his uncle who refused to believe him at first. Eight and a half years can do a lot to one’s appearance, especially in the case of a growing child. After Johnny tried to prove his identity through some of his past shared memories, his uncle was overjoyed at his discovery. He promptly called up Johnny’s grandfather who was at the same place and brought him home. Soon, his father and his mother came over. The reunion was bittersweet and he was whisked off to Bangalore to meet the rest of his family.

The story doesn’t end there.

The one and a half years that followed saw Johnny go through bouts of isolation and depression. Teased by his friends for having studied only till fifth grade, he struggled to cope. He started attending his church and also started to do small jobs such as being an electrician and also a carpenter to support his family. He was unhappy as such petty work brought in pay that was abysmal. One day, a Brother at his church asked him to go visit Father Deepak Joseph K, Director of St Joseph’s Community College, in order to get back on his two feet again. His grandfather was the one who took the pains to travel all the way from Coimbatore to take him to the Father.

Johnny with the Father

Having joined St Joseph Community College under the able guidance of Father Deepak, he took up hotel management. The lack of food during his dark days had left an impact in his psyche and had pushed him unconsciously into the field of food and cooking. Now, a proud Diploma holder in Hotel Management certified from International Institute of Hotel Management, his goal in life is to work on a cruise.

Johnny before his classroom

When asked to say a few words on life and to those struggling to find a way, he replies without hesitation that it is never to back down. And if we do fall, one should always get back up. And finally, he says that opportunities are always out there and it is our responsibility to grab them by their collar.

Carpe Diem!

United Way of Bengaluru has been supporting SJCC towards empowering the youth from discriminated and marginalized communities. Johnny’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

 

 

Mobile Health Clinic Cures both the Patient and the Village’s Stigma

Jayamma, a 63-year-old lady, hails from a small village Gundlahalli. Like many villages in rural India, she has lived in one such village with superstitious beliefs. She was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) at the age of 30. She lost the sensation in her limbs at the first stage of leprosy. There is a social stigma attached to this disease in many villages; Gundlahalli was no different. Due to this, she was secluded from the society and no one was willing to marry her.

Jayamma and her mother

One fine day, when the Mobile Health team visited the village, she approached them and cried out for help. The doctor checked her and the team immediately took her to Doddaballapura Government hospital. After diagnosis, she was referred to the Leprosarium at Magadi Road for further treatment. At that centre, she underwent reconstructive surgery and wax therapy. All her wounds were cleaned and dressed with antibiotics. She was also advised to take physiotherapy in order for her fingers to be restored to full health. Now, her body is responding well to the treatment.

Jayamma being treated

The impact of this small intervention is huge. People came to realize that this is not a communicable disease and is just a stage of the body. If proper treatment is given, the person concerned can be cured. Today, the people of Gundlahalli have accepted her.

 

UWBe Enrollment Campaign to Boost Anganwadi Numbers

Before we can focus on providing the right early childhood care and education, we need to first make sure that the children are at least enrolled in the programs. A lot many times, parents do not realize the significance of the 0-6 age in a child’s mental and cognitive development and thus do not send their children to the Anganwadis.

To battle this issue, United Way of Bengaluru facilitated the Enrollment campaign where our cluster managers and our implementation partner Sparsha Trust reached out to as many as households and motivated the parents to enroll their kids at their nearby Anganwadis where they would be given care, protection and education.

This campaign falls under UWBe’s project Born Learning Campaign. The parents were counselled on the benefits of Anganwadi learning and also the crucial role that the BLC project plays.

Born Learning Campaign baseline study details was employed during the process of enrolment campaign. It was kick-started on May 8th for the year 2019-20. Till now 18 out of 25 Anganwadis in Bellandur, SR Nagar and Hoodi Cluster have been covered. Door-to-door campaigning was carried out based on the details of Anganwadi beneficiary list, BLC base line children assessment and new migrants’ houses. For one Anganwadi, we reached out to nearly 200 to 400 houses within two days.

Outreach workers taking down the details of the children for the enrollment process

Interested parents’ kids were enrolled according to their age groups – 3 to 6 year children were enrolled in Anganwadis and above 6 years were referred to nearby Government schools. Posters were used to attract and educate the parents regarding the issues.

A young kid with the enrollment form

Asha workers, Anganawadi teachers and helpers and Poshak Shala members, community volunteers and Sparsha facilitators participated in this UWBe-led campaign.

 

Quality Education Begins Early: Anganwadi Teachers Leading the Path through Effective ECE

MataPitaGuruDaivam

Every Indian has come across this old Sanskrit saying. Guru features right after one’ parents. Such is the importance of one’s guru in their life. Sometimes, even gurus or teachers need the right training to produce the optimum output and this is all the more crucial in a rural setting where there is a glaring lack of infrastructure.

In rural India, children aged 0-4 spend large amounts of time at their Anganwadi centres, under the care of the teachers there. As part of the Born Learning Campaign, Anganwadi teachers are guided by United Way facilitators to impart the best early education and child care which focusses on developing the motor and cognitive faculties of the children to make them school-ready. These teachers also work alongside the children’s mothers where it is the former’s responsibility to guide the latter in doing the same but in the home environment.

Training of Anganwadi workers and helpers

In such a situation, it is a no brainer to figure out the significance of training and empowering the Anganwadi teachers and helpers through focused and well-defined capacity building programme throughout the year.

Under the ECE Training of Anganwadi Workers and Facilitator, the facilitator visits every Anganwadi once per week and focus on on-the-job support to the Anganwadi teacher.

The training is divided into different cycles with sufficient gap of at least two months between each cycle. The idea is that the participants get sufficient time to practice and apply what they learn in the training. Every training has a component of a workshop and a field practice where the participants have to demonstrate what they have learnt and they are given very specific feedback.

Regular training session of the Anganwadi teachers and helpers

The training is followed by practice on the field which is observed closely by the facilitator with on-the-job support and mentoring.

Some of the main topics covered in the training are the sensitive periods in the 0-6 years age bracket, importance of Early Stimulation, child-centered approach, developing developmentally appropriate activities for children across domains and low cost play material, concept of free play and role of anganwadi teacher and how to set them up for different domains of development such as dramatic play corner, hand-eye coordination corner, story/literacy corner, puzzles corner and creativity corner.

Joint sessions with Anganwadi workers and facilitators

Some of the positive results are Anganwadi teachers spending more quality time on pre-school learning activities, increased support by the community to the Anganwadis visible through their significant contributions in terms of infrastructure and other materials, better perception in the minds of parents and community about Anganwadis and finally better knowledge, skills and attitude of the Anganwadi teachers.

 

Bangalore University Sets an Example with a Comprehensive Rainwater Harvesting System

Cribbing about the water crisis is not going to get us anywhere. The rapidly decreasing availability of drinking water demands better management of water by us citizens.

Water is most precious and a limited commodity, with only 2.5% of the total amount on Earth being Fresh Water and at the same time lesser that 1% of the same portable water recharges the underground aquifer, which are depleting by the day due to over exploitation, by mankind.

United Way Bengaluru, a non-governmental organization, took a conscious decision to address this concern in a big way by proposing the “Construction of Proposed Rainwater Harvesting Structures” at Bangalore University, under the Corporate Social Responsibility Banner. They had initiated it a year earlier. UTC Aerospace System sponsored the construction of proposed rainwater harvesting structures such as Boulder Checks, Recharge pits, Water Pool, Check Dam in the bio-park of Jnana Bharati Campus.

The bio-park in itself was constructed as part of this project and in the process, the students have acquired experience in land management for social forestry. Additionally, they also decided to fund the repair work of existing rain water harvesting structures across the natural nala (sewer drain) in the year 2017-2018.

The comprehensive rainwater harvesting system was conceived in a holistic manner to not only save millions of gallons of water each year but also touch upon allied areas of concern such as reduction of soil erosion and extending the green cover.

The above image shows the construction of the water pool which will serve as an excellent rain water container

Nevertheless, the project is broken into certain chief touch points such as using rain water harvesting systems to reduce the use of potable water for non-potable-water needs, increasing availability of naturally pure/soft water (No dissolved harmful metals/chemicals), reducing the runoff to maintain flood control, reducing the frequent drainage congestion and improving the quality of ground water through dilution and making it mineral inclusive.

This image shows the repair work of existing check dam embankment

All these lead to increase in soil moisture content during non-monsoon season also which will be helpful for trees growth, thriving of Flora & Fauna, higher migration rate of birds and better populations of insect species. It would then create a sanctum sanctorum for biodiversity to thrive.

“The integrated watershed at Bangalore University was guided by Dr Yellappa Reddy who is also instrumental in setting up the Bio-Park.  The project was funded by Collins Aerospace Systems who believed in making the Bangalore University campus more bio-diverse. We are excited to see the increase in the green cover that is now a natural habitat for peacocks, butterflies, birds and several other wildlife” says David Kumar, Project Head, Rural Development and Lakes.

It may also be noted that the encouragement and engagement of the University Staff and students, lead to Positive Environmental Performance and further paved way for increased voluntary work to reduce the stress on our dependence on our ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

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