Beyond Money
A Smile is Worth a Million Diamonds
A family in the jewellery business brings some glitter into the lives of the poor and differently-abled in myriad ways
 
About two decades ago, Mahendra Mehta, a well- known businessman and international Rotarian, set up Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust by pooling resources from his family and friends. Antwerp-born Mahendra Mehta’s mission was to transform the lives of children, helping them to reach their full potential, even if they came from the worst possible financial conditions.
 
A registered charity, Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust, was established and continues to be headed by the family, including trustees Asha Mehta and Rajiv Mehta. Over the decades, its projects cover a wide range of activities and initiatives, not just in India but international locations as well. The Mehtas are the owners of Surat Diamonds. 
 
Rajiv Mehta, in particular, is passionate about this work and personally presides over the mobility camps for the physically-disabled and the hearing-impaired that the Trust conducts every few months. 
 
These camps distribute aids, such as callipers for polio-affected children, prosthetic limbs (especially the Jaipur foot, which is light, reasonable and easy to fabricate and adopted by the disabled), wheelchairs and tricycles. The Trust also provides hearing aids and conducts audiology tests for the hearing impaired. All these are provided free of cost. 
 
The Trust has already conducted several camps in Mumbai this year; at each of these camps 40 to 60 persons were fitted with Jaipur foot or provided orthopaedic or hearing aids and wheelchairs. It has also set up a permanent Jaipur foot centre at Mahalaxmi (central Mumbai). The Trust held a three-day mobility camp at Dakor (Gujarat) in February where 1,365 appliances were distributed to people in need. The joy, says Rajiv Mehta, is in transforming lives and watching how the ability to walk independently increases people’s self-esteem. 
 
Apart from the Jaipur foot, Ratna Nidhi works with Shuruat Mobility Business, a project launched in Mumbai in collaboration with Shuruat Ltd (www.shuruat.com). This is an international firm that incubates innovative products and solutions for those at the bottom of the pyramid. One of its goals is to enable the physically-challenged to earn a steady income by running successful street-vending businesses on tricycles. These tricycles enable people to sell food, drinks and packaged goods while sitting on the tricycles. 
 
The project also provides initial financing, support and guidance to help them build successful micro-businesses. This effort was motivated by the realisation that a significant number of physically-challenged individuals—victims of polio, spinal deformation and amputation—are young adults. Poverty, illiteracy and unemployment rates are very high in this segment and they struggle to achieve financial independence.  
Another activity is the ‘Food for Education’ programme where it partners with NGOs like Masoom, Sujaya Foundation, Sunrise, Children’s Aid Society, Gharkool and Buniyaad, to provide mid-day meals. The Trust offers education sponsorships to children of terror victims in Mumbai, donates books and gives vocational training to the underprivileged. 
 
According to a recent report on its website, 800 street children and children from remand homes were taught not only to make craft-based products but to manage the entire process—from buying raw materiasl to marketing the finished products. It also ran a 16-day intensive home management training programme for 100 slum girls who were taught skills such as cooking, child-care, caring for the aged, hygiene, cleanliness and grooming. 
 
You can help Ratna Nidhi’s work by donating to the Trust, by telling the needy disabled about its donation programmes, or by donating educational books, garments, used computers and toys for re-distribution. You can also volunteer to offer vocational training. Money donated to the Trust is eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act.
 
Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust
5th Floor Vasant Vilas
31, DD Sathye Marg, 
Mumbai - 400004 India
Ph: + 91 226 150 6435 / 23898930

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Sosva: Ngo For NGos

An organisation in Mumbai that  provides services and volunteers to other NGOs,


In 1984, a group of visionaries, led by V Srinivasan (IAS, retired), felt the need to build a strong voluntary sector that would work to help the poor and underprivileged to participate effectively in social development. They thought this would be best done by facilitating voluntary initiatives by NGOs and people.

It took formal shape as the Society for Service to Voluntary Agencies (SOSVA) which is now headed by Dr Vasant Talwalkar as its president. To meet its objectives, Sosva has undertaken multifarious initiatives, such as promoting volunteering, training and development, as well as supporting projects like safe drinking water, providing livelihoods and teaching English, etc.

Volunteerism Action (Volact) was started in 1995 by registering volunteers from all walks of life to match their skills and interests and placing them with voluntary agencies that need such support. Since inception, it has placed 5,990 volunteers with 215 NGOs; as many as 1,393 volunteers were placed with 52 NGOs only in the last financial year. “SOSVA is the first Indian NGO to promote systematic volunteering through this programme,” says Radha Vedantam, chief executive of SOSVA.

The volunteers offer their services across a wide range of activities such as teaching swimming to special children, conducting workshops on puppet-making, teaching conversational English to orphan children, teaching yoga, arts and crafts, etc.

SOSVA’s Training and Promotion Institute (STAPI) is now a full-fledged institution for capacity building, training and imparting skills to NGOs across a wide range of health and development activities. While STAPI started out as a part of Sosva, it has now been hived off into an independent entity.

Like most NGOs doing ground-breaking work, Sosva’s biggest challenge is to raise resources for its efforts. “We are in the grip of a vicious circle of lack of funds and staff. We need to break free from this to move the institution to a different trajectory of growth and self–sufficiency,” says Ms Vedandam. She explains that SOSVA’s presence is limited only to Mumbai because of lack of funds.  

SOSVA runs a project called MEDIGIFT to provide free medical supplies to hospitals that need such support.

Ms Vedantam says, “Under an Indo-US bilateral agreement, SOSVA receives medical supplies from US donor agencies and distributes these to charitable and needy hospitals in India. Until now, 17 shipments of supplies, valued at Rs27 crore, have been distributed to 38 hospitals.”

SOSVA has been the nodal agency for Family Health International’s programme funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for minimising the risk of AIDS/HIV in Mumbai and Thane districts, through a network of seven partner NGOs.

It is also involved in of volunteer-run activities, such as the Safe Water-Save Water project, to build awareness about water crisis among children in 27 schools. Sosva has initiated a project to enhance reading skills of 8th and 9th standard students in English- and Urdu-medium schools at Dharavi (a Mumbai slum). This too is run by volunteers since March 2012 and is set for extension to two more centres. The spoken English programme for 5th standard students at three different centres.

SOSVA has started a solar light project to install these lamps and bring sunlight into houses in slum communities which are completely dark during the day. These include the Raoli Camp, Cheetah Camp and Aarey Colony. In association with ISS Integrated Facilities Services, Sosva has started a project for livelihood generation. It finds jobs in house-keeping and security services to underprivileged youth.

You can support Sosva’s activities through donations or by registering to volunteer.
Sosva has 80G tax exemption (donation by cash or cheque/DD). You can also donate in kind (books, clothes, and toys for children, computer accessories, electronics and food, etc.)

SOSVA
Room No. 5, 6 & 7, 1st Floor,
Bhimabai Rane Municipal School,
R Roy Marg, Opposite Central
Plaza Cinema, Girgaon,
Mumbai 400 004,
Telephone: +91 022 2291 4630
Email: volact@sosva.org.in
Website: http://www.sosva.org/

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Share the Light with Others!
A little love and compassion goes a long way to make the world a better place. Light of Life Trust is doing exactly that
 
Set up in 2002 by spiritual healer Villy Doctor, Light of Life Trust (LOLT) is a non-government organisation that follows the 3E rule—educate, empower and employ—to transform lives of the underprivileged in rural India. It all started with a ‘spiritual message’ says Ms Doctor, who quit the market research company, Ormax Consultants, which she had started with her husband, to pursue her passion of helping the underprivileged. Over the past 12 years, she has helped reach her transformational work to 321 villages. 
 
LOLT believes that its holistic approach is the way forward to develop rural communities. Education empowers people to earn an independent living. It also helps the destitute and those who are old or severely ill. LOLT’s journey began with the project ‘Anando’ at Karjat, near Mumbai, with just 25 children. Over time, it reached out to 3,413 children; now, it operates from 33 centres. 
 
Ms Doctor and her team discovered that the number of school drop-outs increase in the seventh or eighth grade. This is because parents of children in their mid-teens expect them to start earning and free education provided by the government also comes to a halt at this stage. Absence of competent teachers in government schools also makes learning a bigger challenge for underprivileged students who have no one to guide them at home. LOLT decided to change this. They started visiting homes to convince villagers to allow their children to continue their education. “This was the biggest challenge we faced,” recollects Ms Doctor. After they managed to breakthrough parents’ resistance, they started student friendly supplementary education programme (SFSEP) which covers free tutoring, distribution of education-linked supplements, mahachurcha and sphurti programme to strengthen preparedness of students right up to the 10th standard. They also conduct meditation camps, health camps, eye check-ups, etc, and other initiatives to brighten up their lives. LOLT provides career guidance and personality development programmes to empower these children by helping overcome shyness and insecurity. “Parents have now become our biggest spokespersons,” says Ms Doctor happily. 
 
To improve its efficiency and serve better, LOLT has partnered with several international organisations such as Flowering Tree (a Singapore- and USA-based NGO) to provide arts and music education, while Children’s Hope India (USA-based NGO) helps LOLT by providing medical vans; another NGO Chance of Life collaborates on empowering the girl-child.
 
LOLT plans to launch another project ‘Aangan’—a holistic hospice for the terminally ill. It also plans to set up a senior citizen's home, medical diagnostic centre, mobile medical unit and a children’s home in the coming years and to extend its activities beyond Maharashtra. It has made a small beginning in Gujarat already.
 
LOLT requires volunteers and donations to sustain its work. “We require people to participate either by sharing their knowledge and love or help with funds. Participation and collaboration is required to make this world a better place to live in,” says Ms Doctor. LOLT meticulously publishes its financial reports on its website as it is emphatic about ensuring transparency and honesty in its operations and use of funds. LOLT is among the few NGOs which enjoys a 100% tax exemption on donations to its activities under 35AC of the Income-tax Act.
 
Light of Life Trust
181, Digital Planet, Hill Road, Opp Vodafone showroom, 
Next to Abhyudaya Bank, Bandra, Mumbai: 400050. 
Tel: +91-98202 39000, +91-22-2655 7792 

 

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