Our member, Ms S. De, lived in Kharagpur. Her husband was a professor at Kharagpur IIT. Along with a few like-minded ladies, she started a charitable
organisation for the underprivileged families, working as sweepers or office hands at IIT. Once their husbands left for work and the children for their schools, the ladies would have an adda, session.
It was during one such session that the idea for social impact organisation was born. 'Charity begins at home' was the motto. The ladies put together their little savings and visited the homes of the hired hands and class IV staff quarters. The idea was to ensure that their children got educated. They realised that male alcoholism was rampant and it was a tough task to convince them about the importance of education to bring their children into the mainstream of society and make good lives for themselves.
So great was the resentment that even the otherwise polite people, "who worked for us as helpers, got abusive in their inebriated states. Sometimes their wives would signal to us to leave once their husbands were back home". The ladies became activists at heart and and finally managed to extricate some children from their environment and started to teach them.
The resentment persisted though. "We often found the books and clothes that we gave them were shredded and even burnt. Over time, the mothers were convinced and it became easier to get more children into a small classroom". The local priest was so happy with the endeavour that he gave them a big room behind the temple.
The second phase was to engage the women in some productive activity to generate additional income for the family. Classes for sewing, stitching and making
handicrafts followed, with assistance for buying material and marketing the products. Many women got interested but resistance came from an unexpected
source. Some professors got upset because their hired hands were getting more interested in stitching than household work!
Funding remained a problem and the ladies collected funds and donations from traders and business groups. "It all paid off though when some of our students went for higher studies. Nothing could give us greater pleasure and satisfaction."
(As told to Support Elders by our member.)
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