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Amritha Pillay profiles ‘The Hub’, a common platform for NGO start-ups in Mumbai
A number of NGOs working for different causes from one common platform to save costs—if this is what you are looking for, your search would end at ‘The Hub’. Perched near the steps of the famous Mt Mary Church of Mumbai is an ordinary-looking building. On its fourth floor is The Hub which literally vibrates with positivity. You could even call it a melting pot of Mumbai’s NGOs.
Just a few months old, the Hub provides an office and address to around 30 social-sector start-ups. These include groups working for senior citizens, women’s rights, sexually abused children, the blind and others. “We wanted to ensure there are groups working for various causes rather than having a number of groups working for the same cause,” says Pooja Warier, who co-founded UnLtd India (along with Richard Alderson) which supports the Hub and funds other social start-ups in the city.
“When we first started work for UnLtd India, we realised there was no common place that we could work from, like ‘The Hub’ in London,” said Pooja. This, coupled with frequent requests for space from social start-ups supported by UnLtd India, led to the creation of The Hub. While, The Hub is focused on supporting social start-ups, professionals such as designers, writers, job-recruiters and film-makers who are willing to help these NGOs with their expertise, are also welcome here. “The job recruiter with us helps NGOs working from The Hub to find people at subsidised rates or no charges,” says Pooja.
The Hub is run with contributions from the members, which range from Rs1,000-Rs11,000 per month, based on the duration of use, the space occupied and what they can afford. The same arrangement applies to workshop space.
A lot of thought has gone into planning the space. “We chose Bandra because it is ideally positioned and The Hub is also not very far from the railway station,” says Pooja. Its bright, cheerful and well-lit interiors too get a thumbs-up. It is also designed in a way that an open space can be created in 15 minutes flat.
The 1,500 sq ft Hub accommodates 24 work-stations and can host up to 100 people or more for events. This space is used for workshops and conferences for the NGOs working at the Hub. This amiable workspace is equipped with free facilities like coffee-vending machines and water purifiers.
To make The Hub its office space, an NGO must talk to the directors and fill an application form. If they are genuine and have been working in their field for a while, the application is accepted. As the space is meant to help start-ups, NGOs will have to leave the place once they become self-sustaining.
Pooja believes that the best thing about The Hub is the people involved with it. “At no point of time did we have a single person who thought that formation of the Hub was a bad or stupid idea,” she adds; “and they even help to take care of it.” The Hub in Mumbai is a one-of-its kind institution in India. However, Pooja and Richard wish to support formation of similar hubs in various cities across the country. “We would be very happy to share our experience and learning with those who wish to form similar hubs in other Indian cities,” says Pooja.
The Hub started just a few months back and needs to be supported with donations and funds. “The Hub aims to be self-sustainable and run on contributions from members. With our current projections, we will break even in our third year of operations. Until then, we will need a certain amount of grants to cover running costs, develop tools that can be shared by The Hub members (for instance, a start-up kit) and support some members who are unable to afford our fees,” says Pooja. In future, it also plans to provide more value-added services.
Candelar Building, 4th Floor,
26 St John Baptist Road,
Near Mount Mary Steps,
Bandra (W), Mumbai 400 050
Tel: +91 22 32163287
Email: [email protected]
Amritha Pillay reports on an NGO that is dedicated to helping senior citizens live and die with dignity
Sailesh Mishra personifies social activism; he gave up a well-paid marketing job to work for Dignity Foundation, an NGO that works with senior citizens (previously featured in these pages). He later set up the Silver Innings Foundation, which he financed and founded a year-and-a-half...
A spate of recent suicides among students and the ongoing worry about this mind-numbing phenomenon is a cause of national concern. Over 100,000 Indians commit suicide every year, and the number has only risen over the past two decades, say experts. Worse, over 71% of suicides are by people below the age of 44. While suicides are attributed to acute mental agony, the trauma on those who are left behind is not less. Savita Narayan profiles a Pune-based NGO called Connecting… which helps people cope with the effect of suicide on the survivors
“We had forgotten to smile. The joy had gone out of our lives,” says Arnavaz Damania, a survivor affected by the suicide of a relative. The impact of the event made her realise the need for counselling not just for a survivor but also the larger circle of family and friends. “We felt lost and were just going from day to day, automatically doing our chores. I’ve always been a positive person and so I began to look for ways to improve the situation. I had to help even if it was the one family," says Ms. Damania.
She surfed the Internet, seeking people or institutions to approach. AFSP, the American Federation of Suicide Prevention, put her in touch with Dr Aruna Jha in Chicago who runs the Asian-American Suicide Prevention Initiative. Dr Jha conducted a seminar in Pune on awareness creation which led to the forming of a group.
India, China and Japan account for 30% of worldwide suicides according to the World Health Organisation—and the numbers are increasing yearly. Indian society has changed dramatically over the past decade. Increased pressure for good performance at students' exams, maintaining peak results at the workplace, loosening of family ties and lack of good interpersonal relationships are some reasons.
In 2005, Ms Damania set up Connecting... at Pune, with trained volunteers to offer counselling, suicide prevention and facilitation programmes to create awareness of coping strategies and healthy outlets for intense emotions such as anger and frustration. The entity also interacts with survivors and counsels families of suicide victims to manage the trauma.
A suicide attempt is the reaction of a person unable to cope with unbearable psychological pain. Before reaching this juncture, the person usually explores ways to make the pain more bearable but does not find a solution on his own. He lacks both inner resources to cope as well as a perspective on how to approach the problematic issue. Often, he undergoes long periods of suffering in isolation before giving indirect indications to near and dear that he's reached the end of his tether. Connecting... is a neutral point of contact for the suicidal; the help lines offer empathy that is usually unavailable to him. The initial contact is from the suicidal caller or a sympathetic well-wisher. Treatment is possible only when the initiative comes from him. Connecting... offers trained and skilful counselling, ensuring that the person, at the first instance, is calmed and that the immediate crisis of peak vulnerability is deflected. In subsequent contact sessions, through empathy and positive reinforcement, the caller realises on his own accord that life is worth living and that workable solutions to his problems can be found.
Support for survivors is also essential to prevent the recurrence of an attempt. Survivors usually harbour feelings of guilt. The stigma of societal judgement makes them opt for empathetic counselling on a one-on-one basis. Group sessions are useful for victims' families encouraging the sharing of experiences, of healing together to start the grieving process. The discussion is led by the facilitator.
Workshops are conducted for the police and hospital workers to modify their approach and improve interactions with victims, the affected families and survivors. Connecting... is actively engaged in sensitising the general public towards stress and interpersonal relationships. These programmes take place in schools, housing societies, corporate offices—any group of people who want healthier interactions in their daily lives. The sessions are very impactful and tailor-made, taking the form of role-playing and demonstrations. Music and Art therapy is also offered.
Connecting... has the immediate need to expand its existing helpline facility from 6 hours to 24 hours with more phone lines, trained counsellors and media exposure; setting up a media watchdog to monitor and ensure empathetic and factual reporting of suicides; the setting up of emergency cells in hospitals which sensitively handle incoming cases, the subsequent legal aspects and documentation.
Connecting... helps the suicidal and their families in and around Pune. There are still hundreds of others in India who need their reassuring touch.
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