Selfless Service for NGOs
We live in an age of such cynicism and negativity that most of us would admit to a twinge of doubt when we wish to give back to society through a financial contribution. Many find it hard to believe that there are people out there who have devoted their lives to a cause or to alleviate the suffering or exploitation of others. How do we distinguish between those doing genuine work from the ones who have made NGO-work their publicity vehicle?
 
Arusha Creations, led by Eknath Satpurkar, its founder, has done the job for us. It took the form of a tele-serial called Tapasya, which show-cased 52 carefully selected NGOs that are doing selfless work. The NGOs featured in this series had no government or foreign funding, nor had they won any major awards then. But each episode was a gift of love, which gave the NGO a professionally created profile, without fake glorification or needless understatement. Tapasya been telecast by Doordarshan’s Sahyadri channel and was re-telecast by ZEE24Taas.  
 
Mr Satpurkar says that the series was entirely self-funded (about Rs1.10 crore, some of which they recovered through advertising during the telecast) by his company. He believes that it is “our duty to bring to light such selfless services to the society, so that the society also can contribute to the cause in any form physical or financial.” He also managed to get some famous personalities from the Marathi film and literary world to anchor various episodes or compose the theme song. 
 
To ensure ongoing reach and support, the Tapsaya series has now been made available as a set of DVDs plus a booklet of information about the NGOs covered in the series. You can buy the set at the address below. 
 
Mr Satpurkar says that a Mumbai builder was so impressed with the Tapasya series that he presented the DVD sets to homebuyers while handing over the keys of their flats. Latur-based Samvedna Cerebral Palsy Vikasan Kendra, run by Suresh and Deepa Patil, a simple couple, was stunned by a phone call from an overseas Indian, who was so impressed with their work, that he funded a two-acre plot of land and a three-storey building to help the organisation expand its work.
  
“The Speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly also bought DVD sets of Tapasya and distributed it among members of legislative assembly (MLAs) requesting them to spend their funds on such NGOs instead of routine, road, water and sanitation works,” Mr Satpurkar says.He shared a touching story on how these people behind the NGOs think. He said, “I invited Sunil Deshpande of Sampoorna Bamboo Kendra to Mumbai. But he flatly rejected my invitation. When asked about the reason, Mr Deshpande told me, it would cost him around Rs2,000 to visit Mumbai; instead he would use the money as yearly expenses for an Adivasi child’s education.”
 
The first set of DVDs contains 26 episodes on NGOs like Samvedna, Udyog Vardhini from Solapur, Sampoorna Bamboo Kendra from Melghat area which has generated livelihood in the malnourished region by training artisans in bamboo handicraft. Then there is Bhatke Vimukta Vikas Pratishthan (BVVP) from Osmanabad which works at education and self-employment of neglected tribes like Paradhi, Bhill and Vaidu. Samtol Foundation (from Mumbai) and Chaitanya Mahila Mandal (from Pune) also feature in the first DVD set, among others. 
 
The second set provides information about 26 other NGOs that are working relentlessly across Maharashtra to help the society. These include: Manohar Dole Foundation from Narayangaon (in Pune district), Aatpadi, Sangli-based Sheti Pariwar Kalyan Sanstha, Palawi-Prabha-Hira Pratishthan (from Pandharpur) that provides shelter and care for children affected by AIDS. Gramvikas Samiti (from Baripada in Dhule district) and, Satkarma Shraddhshray (from Panvel) that runs several service centres for tribals, Parivartan Mahila Sanstha (from Titwala), which focuses on women empowerment, Vijaya Pariwar (from Nagpur) and Aadhaarteerth Aadhrashram (from Trimbakeshwar, Nashik), among others. 
 
If you are an individual, buy the DVD and check out the work being done by India’s unsung heroes. If you are a corporate house or a charitable organisation, you have a fantastic database of genuine organisations that deserve your support.
 
Aurusha Creations
2, Laxmi-Narayan Baug, 
Bal-Govinddas Rd,
Mahim, Mumbai - 400 016
Tel: (022) 24305392, Mobile: (91) 98203 25061 / 94239 72450
 

 

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Upcycling Plastic Waste
Concerned citizens work at sustainability in a variety of ways. But it is the intrepid social entrepreneur who manages to create a win-win situation for all—artisans, themselves and mother earth. Aarohana EcoSocial Developments, founded three years ago, stands for the ascending scale of music in Indian classical music. In this context, it connotes rise in sustainable development. Aarohana believes that sustainable development can be achieved only if it is ‘EcoSocial’, i.e., taking care of the environment and engaging the society to its fullest! 
 
Aarohana’s core areas of work, namely, enabling rural livelihoods and conserving our environment and heritage are geared to achieve this goal. Over the past few years, Aarohana has been delivering services to companies and non-profit organisations in designing, implementing, monitoring and measuring impact of such projects through its projects—Aarohana EcoSocial Services and Aarohana’s EcoSocialProducts’.This includes ‘needs’ and ‘impact’ assessment, training, workshops and participation as well as project implementation in association with technology and community partners across various states.  
 
Founded by Amita Deshpande and Nandan Bhat, Aarohana sees itself as a catalyst for sustainable development. They started their journey in the social sector after working with multinational companies in India and the United States of America for over a decade. Being long-time friends and nature-lovers, Amita and Nandan enjoyed hiking in the Himalayas and hills of Sahyadris. While walking across these beautiful locales they invariably encountered heaps of garbage, especially non-biodegradable plastic. 
 
A turning point was the Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh disaster in June 2103 when Amita was rescued after five days from Kinnuar while she was on one of her hiking expeditions. Deeply affected by the disaster, she, with an enthusiastic volunteer from France, Simon Valdenaire, headed back to Uttarakhand to work with the people affected by the natural disaster. This experience helped Amita partner with Nandan Bhat, also from Pune(Maharashtra), to start Aarohana EcoSocial Developments.  
 
The project for ‘upcycling’ plastic is part of its EcoSocial Product development. Disturbed by the large quantities of plastic waste in garbage dumps of cities; choking aquatic life in streams and rivers and releasing carcinogenic gases at our landfills, Aarohana’s founders were determined to work at reducing plastic waste. 
 
“While researching and experimenting several solutions which could work towards reducing the impact of plastic waste on the environment as well as enabling rural livelihoods, we finally found an answer to this through an innovative process of using plastic waste to produce handicraft,” says Amita. Aarohana started handcrafting bags, pouches, office products and home décor items through a unique process of weaving plastic carry bags using a traditional charkha and handlooms. Aarohana works with craftsmen in some villages across Gujarat and Maharashtra to clean, cut, roll and weave plastic waste into fabric and, finally, manufactures products in Pune. Thus, Aarohana’s eco-social products were born out of what the founders hated the most, ‘plastic garbage’.
 
Local artisans are supplied discarded plastic bags gathered by waste-pickers from dumpsters and other locations. They are washed, cut into strips and rolled using the traditional charkha. These are then skilfully woven into a fabric using a handloom to make beautiful, sturdy, upmarket bags. These bright bags and pouches with snazzy designs have a ready market among eco-conscious individuals, corporates, NGOs and even government organisations. It puts information on these bags and products on its website along with exact details of how much plastic waste has gone into each of them, fostering a sense of participation in the conservation effort. 
 
Amita claims proudly, “Aarohana measures its impact and, till today, has removed over 50,000 plastic carry-bags from going into the landfill and has provided thousands of hours of work to our rural artisans. We want to drastically increase both these numbers to create an ‘eco-social’ impact!”
 
Aarohana EcoSocial Developments
Amita Deshpande’s Mobile: 91-8275175567, 
Nandan Bhat’s Mobile: 91-9702422111, 

 

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Lord Ganesha Loves His Mother Earth!
Watching The Inconvenient Truth, a movie produced by former US vice-president Al Gore, was a turning point for Mana Chatterjee. The year was 2009 and the message about the impending global climate crisis impelled her to dig deeper into the subject. Mana spent a year researching various things that she could do in the ‘green’ field and so Green Practices was born! “People like us who live in a city and want to live a more sustainable lifestyle would like to do our bit, but we just don’t know how,” she says. So her online store which started in 2011, offers products that do not harm our planet or our skin. 
 
The products are sourced from various manufacturers, while Green Practices Pvt Ltd, takes responsibility for quality control, inventory management, customised production and on-time supply. The products are sold worldwide and the company takes pride in following ethical business practices. 
 
One of its most popular products is the eco-friendly lord Ganesh which she promotes with the tag line “Because Lord Ganesha loves his Mother Earth…”. Instead of toxic colours and plaster of Paris used in regular Ganesh idols, which end up killing fish and polluting waters, the eco-Ganesh idols are made from mud and coloured with natural colours of haldi, kumkum and multani mitti. When immersed (after the festival), the idols dissolve in 20 minutes and no harm will come to our planet. Remember, Lord Ganesha’s Mother is our Mother. Mana jokes, “The way I see it, respect His (Ganesha’s) mom and you will gain His blessing too.”
 
Green Practices offers a range of beautiful eco-friendly Ganesha idols that can be bought online. It also has  beautiful looking home and community organic waste composters, organic Holi colours made with vegetables and plants, bio-degradable plastic bags and eco-friendly, disposable tableware made out of palm leaves. Mana also promotes organic farmers and feminine hygiene products that will reduce the pile up of non-biodegradable waste. 
 
Mumbai generates 8,000 tonnes of garbage every single day. The waste is dumped in landfills which release methane gas that hovers over the vast dumping grounds of our cities. Landfills all over the world are responsible for 25% of greenhouse gases leading to global warming. “How long can we ignore this issue? Our future generations will suffer! What kind of planet are we leaving for them?” asks Mana passionately.
 
Green Practices’ daily dump composters are a fuss-free, smell-free, easy solution to convert this organic waste into compost. These are available for homes, schools, hospitals, factories, anywhere where food is cooked. 
 
Traditionally, in India, we used to play Holi with natural colours made from flowers like tesu and palash which made our skin glow. Now, we end up with noxious industrial chemicals that do not wash off even a week after the Holi festival is celebrated. Chemical-based colours are usually made of asbestos (a known carcinogen even in minute quantities) and silica which can dry the skin intensively. Colourants used in gulal comprise heavy metals like lead, chromium, cadmium, nickel, mercury, zinc, iron. They are bad for our health as well as the environment. Holi is a way of celebrating triumph of good over evil and should be the best time to introduce green practices and colours in our lives.
 
The eco-friendly colours offered by Mana are made from plants and vegetables like rice, beet root, indigo flowers, turmeric and use 50% less water to wash off.
 
Mana is working on this project as a social enterprise. She welcomes donations but there is no income-tax exemption available to donors. Readers are welcome to donate and to try these products out for their own families and to help sustain mother earth.
 
Green Practices
Plot No 39/44, Scheme 6, Road 2, 
Sion East, Mumbai 400022
Mobile: 91-9930224454

 

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