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NGOs in India are doing valuable work in the field, but need the right support to become strong and sustainable.
By Bronwyn McBride
As of 2008, there were over 66,000 registered NGOs in Mumbai. In India, the ratio of NGOS to people is 1 for every 400. However, social issues abound across the country. Can you imagine what India would look like if each of those NGOs was strong and sustainable, and effectively attaining their vision and mission?
Atma is an organisation which believes that with the right support and resources, NGOs have the ability to address some of India’s most daunting social issues and create real change in the lives of their beneficiaries. One individual whose life has been impacted by an effective NGO is nineteen year old Kavita from Dharavi.
Kavita is nineteen, and the second youngest of five children. Her family is originally from Uttar Pradesh. In Dharavi, her father is a company manager and her mother is a housewife, as every other woman in her family has been.
After graduating from class ten, Kavita began to stay home to do housework. Her parents intended to arrange Kavita’s marriage as soon as possible. Two years ago though, Kavita heard about the Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP), a course run by an NGO called Reality Gives. The Reality Gives YEP is a fifteen week course where young people from Dharavi can learn computer basics, English and life skills thus improving their chances of finding employment.
Why NGOs need more than passion
Atma has been associated with Reality Gives since their founding in 2009. Reality Gives had the vision of providing quality educational programs to children and youth in Dharavi. However, vision and passion aren’t enough to build and sustain a strong organisation that truly makes a change. Atma understands that NGO visionary leaders need support, guidance and resources, and creates partnerships with high-potential organisations to help them reach their goals.
Atma understands that NGO visionary leaders need support, guidance and resources, and creates partnerships with high-potential organisations to help them reach their goals.
“Reality Gives’ strength is their connection to the Dharavi community,” said Atma Partnerships Director Summer Starr*. “Because of that connection, Reality Gives had identified the need for a community centre and skills programs for young adults.”
When Reality Gives decided to create a program to give youth from Dharavi access to better employment opportunities, Atma supported the creation of the Youth Empowerment Program. Based on feedback from the community, they chose three courses to be part of the YEP- Spoken English, Life Skills & Computer basics.
Atma placed six skilled volunteers with Reality Gives to work on the Youth Empowerment Program. Each of these volunteers have helped shape the YEP through curriculum development and teacher training. Atma’s support, combined with Reality Gives’ incredible vision is what made the YEP the powerful educational program that it is today.
One skilled woman = A domino effect
Initially Kavita was uncertain about whether she’d be able to learn computers and English, as English isn’t spoken in her home, but was encouraged to give it a shot. She completed the entire course.
The YEP is just one of Reality Gives’ projects. They also support local Bombay Municipal Corporation schools to build strong English language foundations for students in Dharavi. Almost immediately after finishing the YEP course, Kavita began to work with Reality Gives education projects as a teacher in training.
Considering Kavita was doing only housework before her involvement with Reality Gives, she now has a lot of responsibilities. On top of her teacher training program, she also manages the library at the computer centre, and tutors other students who are currently taking the YEP course.
“I want to be a full teacher,” Kavita said smilingly, when asked about her teacher training.
Everyone in the community has noticed the changes in Kavita; in her initiative and her hard work, but also just in the way that she carries herself.
Everyone in the community has noticed the changes in Kavita; in her initiative and her hard work, but also just in the way that she carries herself. She is confident and no longer uncomfortable outside of her immediate neighbourhood. Through Atma Partner Reality Gives, Kavita has gained valuable skills that she is proud to share with others.
“It’s been incredible to watch the change in Kavita,” says Chris Way, who founded Reality Gives three years ago.
“I would say that maybe 80% of our success, in terms of volunteer projects, in-kind donations and other support, has been because of Atma’s partnership,” said Chris about Atma’s involvement.
Atma is an NGO that strengthens organisations to impact education. We partner with dynamic organisations that work in educational development in Mumbai, India. Each Atma Partnership is an intensive three year collaborative process, where Atma addresses capacity needs and helps NGOs to create and execute growth plans.
Combining consultancy, training, advocacy and skilled volunteers, the Atma Model allows Atma Partners to look beyond their day to day resource constraints and maximise their impacts in the educational sector. This impact reaches beyond educational organisations, and makes a difference in the lives of individuals: people like Kavita.
You can read more about Atma’s work with our current partners on our website, blog or Facebook page.
*Summer Starr has since moved on from Atma to become the Executive Director of Reality Gives.
*Photo credit: Jacek Reszko.
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