Small Steps Big Leaps



A chance walk down forbidden lanes in south Kolkata left Urmi Basu disturbed about the gloomy life that sex workers’ children lead. Looked down upon as detestable, humiliated and stigmatised, these children more often than not are trafficked and exploited. As circumstances would have it, they suffer at the hands of their own mothers. Deeply disturbed by their condition, Basu started a public charitable trust, New Light, to protect and provide for them. Urmi, now 52, has been working with dedication for the past 15 years in Kalighat, Kolkata’s red light district. Started with a meagre sum of Rs10,000, the Trust now has 250 children under its care. New Lights provides a healthy environment for the children to grow and learn, financially aiding them through high school and helping them find jobs.


“Call us if you find someone suffering,” reads the Agal Foundation website. Founded by SM Venkatesh, Agal Dal works to rescue people suffering on the streets, including abandoned children and old and mentally disadvantaged people. Joining the cause, a number of NGOs have collaborated with Venkatesh to help. Help Age India, an organisation for disadvantaged elderly persons, has appointed Venkatesh as one of its official volunteers. Till date, he has helped rescue about 300-400 old people. The NGOs help him with transport costs and he dutifully responds to all the late-night rescue calls along with helping the needy connect with the organisation and avail required assistance. Thinking innovatively, he has in fact formed a team with auto drivers to optimise rescue tasks. In addition to taking road accident victims to hospitals and helping the homeless, Venkatesh has re-united several mentally ill patients with their families.

smal412,000 SQUARE MEALS

distressed about thousands of people going without food every day, a 23-year-old’s initiative to start a food bank came as a big bonanza for the hungry. Sneha Mohandos, who studied visual communications in Chennai, has taken up the task of feeding the less fortunate. The concept is a simple one: Sneha and her team prepare extra food when they prepare their own meals. The home-cooked food is packed and distributed to beneficiaries in different areas. Started in July this year, the initiative saw Sneha and her volunteers distributing around 55 packets per day in the first month to the hungry and homeless in T Nagar. Impressed by their sincerity, others have followed the model in many other areas in Chennai including Nungambakkam, Adyar, Saidapet, West Mabalam and Chetpet. So far, Sneha and her volunteers have distributed more than 12,000 packets in the city that obviously has a heart.


Constantly haunted by a failed attempt to save a girl from an incestuous crime, Renu Singh, 51, dedicated her life to creating a violence-free environment for women and children. With her grandmother’s support, Renu started a small group of like-minded people to rescue women subjected to violence. Her group Samadhan, later registered as an NGO, has rescued an impressive number of 3,800 victims of violence so far. Some of the rescued girls are now working as activists with the organisation and some are on their way to become lawyers. Herself a lawyer by profession, Singh notes that the conviction rate in India is a scanty 13.7 percent when it comes to crimes against women while the cases taken up by Samadhan account for an impressive 97 percent rate. With its recent initiative —the Samadhan Mobile Legal Clinic — it aims to empower women to protect themselves, with some of the survivors doubling up as para-legal volunteers. Sweet, indeed, are the uses of adversity.


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