We describe an initiative to encourage sportsmanship
Sometime in the 1980s, two girls paid for their sleeper-class train tickets from Karnataka to Delhi to participate in an athletics meet. This was to avoid travelling unreserved because of the government's poor planning. The two girls were Olympian Vandana Rao and Reeth Abraham. Since they were employed in a bank, they were able to pay their way through. The situation remains the same even today. Paying for their own reservations is only one of the travails of an Indian athlete; the amenities and living conditions are equally pathetic.
Three decades later, Ms Rao and Ms Abraham joined BVP Rao and other top athletes to set up a non-governmental body called Clean Sports India (CSI), to do something about the sad state of Indian sports. Although CSI was conceptualised five years ago by Mr Rao, a national equestrian player, it was launched just two months ago. Mr Rao realised that the only way to change the system was to get sportsmen involved in administration, instead of giving them honorary positions on sports bodies. He has plenty of administrative experience working with a United Nations Mission to help develop self-governing institutions in Kosovo after the war. Interestingly, when Mr Rao called friends from the sporting fraternity, they were apprehensive about a possible conflict with powerful politicians. But, by 23 June 2010, he managed to get the support of 10 sportspersons and CSI was launched on International Olympic Day.
The controversy and corruption allegations regarding the CWG, which are to start on 3 October 2010, have given impetus to CSI's activities. It hopes to participate in the governance and management of various sports federations in the country to create an environment for clean, corruption-free sports in the country and hold seminars and meetings to increase awareness on issues pertaining to Indian sports. This, CSI believes, will happen when former athletes are in charge of Olympic sports federations, associations and clubs. "We want sportsmen to be part of the federation as they understand the difficulties sportsmen face," says Reeth Abraham, CSI's joint convener.
Another major objective is to help reduce the use of steroids by sportspersons.
CSI's conveners realise they have a tough job attracting public interest. After all, India is a cricket-crazy nation, where cricketers alone are treated like demigods. Cricket's dominance leads to jealousy among other sportspersons and also results in lack of encouragement for other sports, absence of a sporting culture and shortage of infrastructure and resources at the grassroots level. "We are not a sporting nation. Champions have emerged and will continue to emerge more by chance and not out of choice," says Ashwini Nachappa, a former runner and CSI's vice president.
CSI has made a start by holding awareness meetings at Bengaluru and Mumbai. In September, a public discussion on various sports-related issues is planned. It is currently asking sportspersons to become members of CSI by paying a fee of Rs100. If you wish to support their activities, you can join CSI by paying an annual fee of Rs500; companies that share its objectives can become associate members by paying a Rs5,000 annual fee.
All of us lament about India's poor performance in international sporting events that requires government support in the form of training and infrastructure. Well, here is your chance to help change the environment for sports. CSI desperately needs funds to take its activities forward. At the moment, its members have invested their own funds to get it going. But, as ace athlete Ashwini Nachappa says, "An absolute necessity for challenging the present order are conviction and funding. For now, we sportspersons have been putting in our resources but we seek corporate and institutional support to carry this movement forward." CSI doesn't even have office space or administrative support and infrastructure. All they have is a post-box address and could do with your support to grow.
Clean Sports India
The Moneylife Team looks at Vandrevala Foundation that deals with mental health
In a crowded city like Mumbai, it is not uncommon to see someone suffering from dyslexia or a mental health disorder. But most people know little about mental health issues unless a close friend or family member suffers from a disorder. Do you know that there are 43 mental health hospitals in India, all set up before 1947? A National Human Rights Commission study says: There are only two kinds of hospitals. The first are ‘dumping grounds’ for families to abandon their mentally ill member, for either economic reasons or a lack of understanding and awareness of mental illness. The second type of hospitals provides basic living amenities but the treatment focuses on managing patients rather than enhancing their living skills. In addition, there is the stigma associated with mental illnesses and, often, a refusal to acknowledge a problem. Yet, “a massive 8%-10% of the population apparently suffers from major or minor mental illness,” says Dr Arun John, executive vice president of the Vandrevala Foundation.
“When we started out with a mission to improve mental health in India over a year ago, we were hoping to write cheques to a couple of non-government organisations (NGOs), be able to review their results four times a year and pat ourselves on the back for making a difference. What ensued was a discovery of the dark corners of disease, the discrimination and the realisation that we had no idea about what we were trying to achieve, let alone how to do it,” says Priya Hiranandani Vandrevala, chief executive officer of Hirco PLC, a real-estate investment company.
Founded and fully funded by Priya and Cyrus Vandrevala, the Vandrevala Foundation began operations on 3 August 2009 by launching ‘The Mental Health Initiative’. As a first step, it launched a 24x7 mental health helpline. Its mission is to create community-based mental health services, increase awareness of mental health, provide access to improved treatment to every individual irrespective of economic status and enable patients and their families the opportunity for recovery and reintegration into society.
Dr John says, “We are looking for strategic partners —corporates, like-minded individuals or NGOs with the same goals to help us in our endeavour.” Interestingly, the Vandrevala Foundation says it is a not-for-profit that works like a ‘for-profit’ organisation, but for social profits, not economic gains.
“Preventive action is possible and necessary for physical illness, but there is no such thing for mental illness,” says Dr John. So the Foundation runs a 24x7 helpline (022-2570 6000) to counsel people in need. It also has senior psychiatrists available for acute psychiatric emergency or complex issues. It helps arrange free ambulance services; helps arrange admissions to mental-care facilities; and follows up to track the status of mentally-ill persons to ensure that they stick to treatment. It arranges meetings with psychiatrists. The idea behind the helpline is the realisation that often people know they need help, but don’t know who to turn to.
The Vandrevala Foundation also supports entrepreneurial, social-sector start-ups which local governments are unable, or unwilling, to fund. The Foundation plans to expand its helplines to Pune, Nashik and Nagpur. “The ultimate goal is a pan-India presence,” says Dr John. Currently, the Foundation has 12 clinical psychologists as well as five mid-level and four senior psychiatrists on its rolls.
It also has a network of 70 psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors all over Mumbai who support the cause. It has students who can communicate in English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati manning the helplines. It has two tiers of psychiatrists who look into mental illness cases, depending on the severity of affliction. It also plans to set up crisis management face-to-face counselling and support groups and to upgrade mental hospitals in Maharashtra.
If you know of someone who needs help, you can call or email the Vandrevala Foundation.
VandrevalaFoundation:Sigma, 6th floor, Central Avenue,
Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai 400 076
Telephone: +91-22-2570 6000
In early 1990, when the legendary late HT Parekh was looking to set up an endowment with the specific purpose of improving the quality of life in Bombay by harnessing people’s initiatives (for which he had asked me to research in those pre-Internet days), a community chest appeared to be the most appropriate model to work with. The term community chest was a US coinage in 1913 although the concept—cooperative collection, for charitable purposes, for area-specific civic problems—had originated in the UK in the 1870s.
The Bombay Community Public Trust (BCPT) was registered as a trust with corporate and individual financial contributions in 1991. At the launch of BCPT, HT Parekh wrote: “I do not entertain any grandiose vision… I take a positive view of life and encourage all genuine efforts to improve things. I like to extend a helping hand to every kind of development activity…” Two decades later, BCPT has been able to live up to his dream—of being an aggregator of funds and lending ‘a helping hand’ to a variety of NGOs and activist groups that are engaged in tackling the myriad problems that Mumbai faces.
Says Harsha Parekh, executive trustee, BCPT: “We cannot hope to solve Mumbai’s problems, but at least we can financially help the many, many people who are trying to mitigate them in their own little ways.”
A community chest or foundation, by definition, is not an implementation agency. It is a funding institution—a facilitator and catalyst—with specific features like: working in a defined geographic area; not concerned with any one activity or cause; permanent endowment; uses contributions and investment earnings to provide grants to charities, non-profit organisations and community groups; and brings together a community’s problem-solvers, activists and citizens. Being an agency with local roots, a community chest quickly identifies local needs and responds with alacrity to any crisis. This was witnessed especially in BCPT’s response to several Mumbai disasters like the 27/8 bomb blasts; 26/7 floods or the train blasts of 11/7 and even the terrorist attacks of 26/11. For these disaster mitigation causes, BCPT has disbursed total grants of Rs3.48 crore to some 1,200 beneficiaries till date.
The major issues that BCPT has identified for support are: education, senior citizens, environment and other child-related interventions. Cumulatively, nearly 51% of its funds went into educational and child-related activities, 5% to take care of senior citizens; 3% to environment-related causes and 15% for miscellaneous projects. Till date, 458 projects have been assisted; BCPT provides scholarships to 150 students each year with a special focus on the girl child—67% (100 students) of the scholarships are for girls compared to 33% (50 students) for boys. Besides supporting formal education programmes, BCPT has been encouraging initiatives that foster reading as well as non-formal learning.
The strength of BCPT lies in its due diligence—though no formal and qualification-based appraisal techniques are applied for grant-making, it carefully whets the credibility of the organisations it supports. Grants are spread over instalments with clearly laid down deliverables. And there is constant monitoring of each project until its completion. It has, therefore, been able to attract management responsibility of several private trusts and foundations who feel that their ‘earmarked funds’ will be efficiently delivered to the target beneficiaries and properly monitored.
It is strange that the concept of community chests has not yet caught on in India. Even more surprising is the fact that, despite BCPT’s pedigree, payroll contributions—the widely prevalent way of funding of community chests the world over—has not even made a beginning in Mumbai.
Community Public Trust
Earnest House, 7th Floor,
Mumbai 400 021
Phone: (+91) 22 2284 5928