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Vizag man on a skating mission for education

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Rudrapur: For 37-year-old Rana Uppalapati skating is not just a sport as he always wanted it to be a tool to raise awareness. The entrepreneur who hails from Visakhapatnam is on a 6,000-km skating expedition to raise Rs 9 crore funds for the education of 25,000 girls in 90 days. 

Starting his journey on September 5 from Bengaluru, Uppalapati reached Rudrapur on Monday covering 2,500 km in 40 days. 

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“If a girl is educated, an entire generation gets educated. Lack of education is not only a career hindrance but the girl would also be away from learning about health issues, hygiene, reproduction cycle etc.” said Uppalapati, who is a father of a six-year-old girl. 

His expedition, titled ‘Educate to Carry Her Onwards’ (ECHO), will cover the Golden Quadrilateral touching 20 major cities, including four metros.

Uppalapati and his four other team members interacted with local girls and visited many schools at the stopovers. He said, “I always wanted to do my bit for the society. In the past 40 days, we have already collected Rs 2.5 crore. During our journey, we visited many schools and made the girl students aware of good touch and bad touch.” 

Thirteen-year-old Prerna Garg, who interacted with Uppalapati, said, “This is a great initiative and with this fund raiser, many girls like me will be able to go to school. His talk was interactive and he showed us many videos to put across his point.” 

Titan corporate head NE Shridhar said, “The expedition, a corporate social responsibility initiative under the Titan Kanya campaign, will also have 6,000 awareness seminars at different places with a target audience of six lakh children and other stakeholders.” 

Article Source: Times of India

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Interesting eco-friendly move! 150-km national highway stretch to be built from waste materials

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In a step towards environment conservation, a pilot project to build approximately a 150-km of national highway using different types of waste materials such as plastic and rubber is being planned.

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As cities are running out of dumping sites, a spike in generation of plastic waste, particularly single use plastic, has become a major cause of concern for the government.

Imagine a national highway built from waste materials! If the Modi government is able to see this through, the project will be an interesting infrastructure initiative for sure! In a step towards environment conservation, a pilot project to build approximately a 150-km of national highway using different types of waste materials such as plastic and rubber is being planned. According to a TOI report, this is being done to assess whether similar projects can be implemented on a larger scale and whether the move will be effective or not.

The decision to build a stretch of national highway with different types of waste materials was taken recently at a meeting, which was chaired by Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India, Nitin Gadkari along with Union Minister of State with Independent Charge in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, the report said. The meeting was conducted in order to find out how the increasing plastic waste can be put to productive use. As cities are running out of dumping sites, a spike in generation of plastic waste, particularly single use plastic, has become a major cause of concern for the government.

According to officials from Rural Development and Urban Affairs Ministry, who were quoted in the report, there have been certain successful examples of mixing plastic and rubber waste while constructing rural roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna and city roads.

 
Article Source: Financial Express
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These 12-Year-Old Quadruplets Are Helping Kids With Special Needs In An Inspiring Way

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They’ve set up an organisation called “Together”.

Krishna, Jayashree, Lakshmi and Jayanthi are quadruplets. Krishna and Jayashree are students of Class 6 at Jamnabai Narsee School in Mumbai, and Lakshmi and Jayanthi are children with autism. The four of them found an organisation named Together for the development of children with special needs. This is the story of their journey so far, written by Krishna and Jayashree

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Around four years ago, we were playing together in our building complex—Lakshmi, Jayanthi and the both of us. Lakshmi was riding her bicycle and was laughing aloud. This was when an elderly man from the building pointed at her and called her “mad.” We felt really bad. Nobody had ever said something like this to Lakshmi before. We tried to explain to him that Lakshmi is autistic but he just wouldn’t listen.

It is an organisation meant to teach children with special needs things that they enjoy learning and doing.

Both of us were in tears while going upstairs, but Lakshmi continued laughing. She didn’t understand what had just happened and it made us feel worse.

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That night, we told our mother Sangeetha about this episode. We demanded that she go to every house in our building and explain that Lakshmi and Jayanthi are not mad… only different. But she said that we should think of something else to connect Lakshmi with others in the building and help people know her for what she can do.

And thus, “Together” was born—a unique initiative to create a community of support and recognition for children with special needs in our locality. It is an organisation meant to teach children with special needs things that they enjoy learning and doing.

The first thing we started was the cookie project that involved baking cookies and selling them.

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It began with the four of us, our teacher Rinku, our mother Sangeetha, father V. Chakrapani and Kiran Khalap, founder of Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy. Kiran uncle helped us a lot—he came up with the name Together, wrote our story, encouraged us to write our own blogs and told us that Together belongs to all children. We call him the head boy of Together.

With the cookie project, we are looking at imparting meaningful learning in baking as well as learning to learn/work in a professional environment. Eventually, we hope to set up a full-fledged vocational centre for people to be able to spend more time engaged in learning and earning. Slowly, orders started coming in and in a few months we organised a baking and diya-painting party for all the children in our building. There were 40 children and so many orders by the end of it that we started a WhatsApp group only for the cookie project. After that, we felt the need for a commercial oven because we could not manage so many orders with a microwave oven. Our mother went to an organisation called Puratos and asked for help in buying a suitable oven. But when they heard our story, they invited us to their head office and to bake in their bakery every Saturday.

We then became a group of 10 children—a group of special and not-so-special children. Some of us talk and some don’t. Some of us bake cookies and some of us help. We all study at different schools and meet to learn at Together.

Whenever we talk about the future, and we do that very often, we wonder what children like Lakshmi and Jayanthi will do. We used to ask this question frequently and our mother told us that we have to help them live independently i.e. to support themselves but in an environment that also provides support.

That is how we thought about starting a life skills centre.

Founded with a team of parents, professionals and special educators, this centre helps students with special needs learn many things—getting ready for meals, helping in the kitchen, serving food, clearing and washing, meaningful use of leisure time, grooming, learning to make phone calls, etc. They learn skills like baking, crafts and computers too. Today, we have many teachers, parents and friends, who call themselves our co-workers. We want Together Life Skills Centre to become very popular. The children of Together should be known for their achievements and they should get the honour and respect they deserve.

Things we’ve learnt at Together:

1. Special children, particularly those with autism, don’t talk to us but they definitely enjoy our company. So it is important to be inclusive for them to be happy.

2. Sometimes, they do things they should not be doing in order to get our attention. So, it is important to teach them nice things, even if they are small things, and give them attention for those.

3. They take time to process things so when they become older, they may face lots of problems. So we have to teach them all those things that we may find very simple but it will help them enormously.

4. It’s important to have fun—to laugh at them and at ourselves too. That is not wrong. But it’s important to be gentle and to accept each other with all our heart.

—Krishna and Jayashree

At The Better India, we are constantly in search for people, projects and organisations that are making a positive impact to the lives of others. Read about many similar change-makers who are on a quest to make Better Days a reality.

Article Source: HuffingtonPost

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Guwahati Refinery initiates CSR programmes for Darrang’s development

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Guwahati Refinery has come forward to provide fund for construction of 20 school toilet blocks, presents garbage bins, garbage disposal vans

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The Darrang district, which has failed to get significant support from any Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes over the years, it has now managed to draw attention of the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) following the Central Government’s instructions.

The instructions from the central Government came after Darrang along with six other districts of the State had been declared as “Aspirational districts” requiring support for infrastructural developments especially in the health , education , drinking water and sanitation sectors.

As part of this initiative, the Guwahati Refinery of IOCL for the first time has come forward to provide fund for construction of 20 school toilet blocks with drinking water facility and construction of a maternity ward in Garukhuti Mini Primary Health Centre under Sipajhar LAC.

In addition to these infrastructure development, the PSU under its CSR has also distributed two garbage disposal vans – one each for two civic bodies of the district – besides few garbage bins involving a total fund just over Rs 70 lakh.

In this connection, a public inaugural function was organized by the Darrang district administration at the district library auditorium, Mangaldai on Sunday afternoon where Mangaldai Lok Sabha MP Ramen Deka was present as the Chief Guest.

Addressing a gathering of several hundred people including teachers, Government officials, students, media persons, MP Deka described how the northern part of the State including Darrang have been lagging behind in development and the PSUs have also been ignoring these areas.

He further stated that it’s only because of the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi following discussion with a delegation of a parliamentary committee including himself that the IOCL has come forward to undertake CSR programmes in Darrang which has already been declared as an ‘Aspirational district’ with special focus of the district’s overall development.

“It’s the outcome of the discussion of a few parliamentarians including me with the Prime Minister where development of the aspirational districts through CSR programmes of the PSUs found place,” MP Deka said.

He also hinted at bringing more such CSR programmes to Darrang and Udalguri from other PSUs operating in the State.

The objective was explained by Deputy Commissioner, Darrang, Ashok Kr Barman.

The programme was addressed by Jogen Barpujari, Executive Director (Guwahati Refinery), MLAs from Mangaldai and Sipajhar Gurujyoti Das and Binanda Kr Saikia respectively, chairman of Mangaldai Municipal Board Pratap Bordoloi and ADC Narnarayan Nath among others.

An MoU was also signed between IOCL and the Darrang district administration. Later Chief Guest Ramen Deka handed over the keys of the vans to the chairpersons of Mangaldai Municipal Board and Kharupetia Town Committee .

Article Source: NorthEast Now

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Making Change: Here’s How 5000 Villages Were Transformed by One Organisation

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Since its inception in 1997, Srinivasan Services Trust’s presence has been central in aiding rural communities in areas ranging from economic development and infrastructure to healthcare and education.

“Most of us barely even had an identity beyond the peripheries of our households. Forget using a mobile phone, things like bank transactions, government schemes or even using an ATM were things that we couldn’t comprehend,” says Mohammed Peer Banu, the leader of Bismi, a self-help group in Eruvadi hamlet in Thirukkurungudi.

Bismi is just one example amongst thousands of SHGs and income generation groups (IGGs) supported by Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social arm of TVS Motor Company and Sundaram Clayton, where they work with communities and governments in tandem to empower India’s rural poor through awareness, skills and training programs.

What had started out as an in-house tailoring outlet by Banu in 2010 soon paved the way for other women in the community to join hands. Today, Bismi has a workforce of 14 tailors – each one of whom is no longer financially dependent on their fathers or husbands.

Even more, they now make optimal utilisation of their earnings, thanks to bank-related interventions by SST.

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“Following mentoring and guidance from SST officials, we are now equipped with basic banking and ATM literacy and have maintained a joint account under Bismi to deposit our savings. We also regularly take loans for our personal requirements that have speedy procurement, thanks to SST. Today, we feel proud of ourselves for not only being able to contribute to our households but also stand on our own feet through our hard work and skills,” adds Banu.

Thirukkurungudi is just one amongst the thousands of rural sites identified across the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh by SST.

Since its inception in 1997, the organisation’s presence has been central in aiding rural communities in areas ranging from economic development and infrastructure to healthcare and education. It finds solutions that are sustainable by mobilising the necessary resources and encouraging residents to take ownership of the changes that bring about lasting development.

Another example of such change is Dhanalakshmi Fireworks, run by the women of Gandhinagar colony in Arasanarkulam village in Thirunelveli district, where serial bulb setting business is run by 15 functionaries.

Teaming up to form their own SHG, Gandhi, they got financial aid and assistance through SST’s intervention to establish a fully fledged business (year). Today, they get orders from not just Tamil Nadu, but from Kerala and Karnataka as well.

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“Initially, we were able to make monthly earnings of ₹15,000-20,000 since we could only supply in and around Thirukkurungudi or Thirunelveli at most. After being sanctioned an initial loan of ₹3 lakh through SST, which we invested in materials and transportation, and another loan of ₹5 lakh for setting up the business, today we earn close to ₹50,000 every month and have been able to send our kids to schools and colleges,” says Dhanalakshmi, the co-owner of the serial light company.

The organisation’s social impact driven initiatives aren’t just limited to empowering SHGs or IGGs only. A large part of their on-field interventions focus on rural education and particularly, mobilising sanitary facilities to government schools.

The best example amongst these initiatives is that of the government girls higher secondary school in Eruvadi village, Tamil Nadu, which until recently just had one toilet.

To understand the scale of the issue, consider that the school has roughly 1020 wards and that toilets breaks were only possible during the recess. “Not only were the girls suffering from a lack of toilets they also end up missing their meals by spending the entire break in queues to the toilet,” says Ida, a teacher at the school.

Once the issue came under the notice of SST, Ida was identified as an Education Development Facilitator (EDF) by the organisation, whose responsibilities require her being an interface between the school authorities and the former. To resolve this grave issue of sanitation, SST decided to intervene in three ways: collate public support, accumulate funding and lobby with concerned government officials to put in place proper sanitary facilities in the school premises.

After raising public awareness and finding support from local citizens, raising funds wasn’t a problem. A total of ₹15 lakh was subsequently pooled through individual donations as well as funding from SST.

Today, girls no longer line up for toilet breaks or miss their lunch as a well-maintained sanitary complex with 12 toilets stand in the school’s premises.

Also, two educational institutions under SST’s ambit of operations proudly flaunt the distinction of having ISO certification—a rare feat for government schools across the country. One is a model Anganwadi located in Moolakaraipatti village, which is amongst only four ISO certified rural childcare centres in Tamil Nadu. The other establishment is a higher secondary school in Kariyandi.

Whether it was adopting a local crèche or providing monetary support to equipping a school with smart facilities to provide holistic learning growth for students, SST has dedicatedly invested and allocated its functionaries and resources to such institutions with the goal of helping children from rural areas not miss out on learning opportunities.

This coupled with sincere efforts of the local teaching staff has helped make these schools model examples for even private schools.

SST has also worked extensively towards empowering farmers in areas under its focus and Thirukkurungudi is no exception. An exceptional project has been its de-silting initiatives across many villages in the region. Let’s focus on Veppankulam as our example.

Many ponds surround vast stretches of farmlands here, but they dry up entirely during the summers – only replenished during the monsoons.

Recent years had seen an acute shortage of water, that was pulling down the already burdened shoulders of farmers in the area.

Following many deliberations with SST, a comprehensive plan to de-silt these water bodies and build localised bunds using the same de-silted soil was chalked up by experienced engineers.

The ingenuity behind this simple scheme also increased the water capacity of the ponds, allowing the to irrigate farms even in peak summer, while the bunds would ensure there was no displacement of soil.

From a capacity of 2.79 Million Cubic feet, the identified water body, which is the only irrigation source in Veppankulam site, now has an increased capacity of 3.04 Million Cubic feet after de-silting. The pond collects rainwater from the Northwest monsoon lashing in the village from October to November and has benefitted about 200 farmers from Muthulapuram, Puthukulam, Retti Veppankulam and Meenatchinathapuam villages.

“Though the area once only catered to plantain farming, the increasing irrigation capacity has given us farmers the opportunity to try a hand at paddy, cotton and black gram cultivation as well,” says Rani, one of the woman farmers from Veppankulam.

Venturing further into agriculture and especially towards sustainability, SST has also helped various farmer groups to embrace organic ways of farming in order to bring down the damage that harmful fertilisers and pesticides were inflicting on the environment.

This was easier said than done though. It took a lot of involvement and convincing on Samudra Lingam’s part, who is the Village Development Officer (VDO) instated by SST, to bring the paddy farmers in and around Melasevval village on board.

Most farmers in the region were used to normal modes of farming – powered by chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This changed with SST’s intervention about four years ago. Starting with educating them about the hazards of chemical usage to the perks of organic farming, the farmers were also told that the shift to organic was a gradual process with results emerging at a slower pace and one had to be patient.

These farmers were intensively trained on making their own organic fertilisers like Panchagavya and Jeevamrutham and pest repellent sprays that were made out of natural ingredients such as ginger, garlic and green chillies.

“The initial two years were hard but the farmers could slowly see a significant transformation in their crop quality as well as soil fertility. Making their own natural fertilisers and pesticides has saved the farmers from routing huge amounts of money to procure their chemical equivalents, leaving them with better savings for their family. Today, they are able to earn about ₹8-10,000 per acre with an increased yield of about 50 per cent in comparison with their earlier days,” says Samudra Lingam, who is physically disabled. But that doesn’t slow him down!

Also, a drastic improvement in their expenditure came with the inclusion of the wonder weed, Azolla—an aquatic fern – as fodder for livestock. Something that can be easily grown with seed procurement being the only initial investment, Azolla is quite nutritious for cattle in comparison to hay and worked wonders for both parties.

The organisation also helped needy farmers easily avail equipment support like mechanized planters and power tillers that were supplied by the government at subsidised rates.

Over the last 21 years, SST has made it possible for the common people to dream and turn these into reality. From two villages in Tamil Nadu to 5000 villages covering 31.4 lakh people across five states in India today, the organisation is carrying forward the torch of hope for underprivileged people with better livelihoods and whose children are now able to avail better education and employment opportunities.

To know more about Srinivasan Services Trust and their initiatives, you can check out their website here.

(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)

Article Source: The Better India

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