If you have a roof over your head, a bed to tuck in peacefully at night, friends and a family that loves you unconditionally, then you are among some of the most privileged people on the planet.
Not everyone is blessed with such privileges. For millions in India, such ‘luxuries’ are a distant dream. For them, every passing day is a struggle for survival through begging, sleeping on pavements and depending on someone else for food.
But not all hope is lost. There have been countless initiatives spearheaded by individuals and organisations across India, who have been incessantly working towards the betterment of the underprivileged sections and helping them rise with dignity from a life of abject poverty and disparity.
The ‘Happy Furniture Projects’ is an effort by The Better India, in partnership with Pepperfry, to showcase and lend a hand to the outstanding work done by such virtuous individuals and establishments. Together we identify these organisations, understand how we can aid them in their efforts, and deliver help – in the form of furniture that makes their efforts easier.
In this article, we bring you some of the organisations that are being aided through the Happy Furniture Projects program:
1. Miracle Manna
25 years ago, Shivaji and Prema moved to Bengaluru from Tamil Nadu in search of a better livelihood. While Shivaji was recruited as a driver, Prema soon got a job in a BPO and shortly after, their daughter Gracy came into the world and completed their small world.
However, in 1997, Shivaji’s cousin abandoned his wife and three small children. With no place to go, these children were spending their days on the road with their mother. When Shivaji learnt about this, he brought the children home and the couple decided to take care of them like their own.
While all the four kids were growing up, a thought that often gnawed Prema was the state of other children who were forced to live on streets. Ten years passed by and but the thought continued to persist to the extent that she thought if they could do it for four, they could do it for many more!
And that’s how, the Miracle Manna Children’s Home came into existence in 2010, when Prema and Shivaji converted their three-room rented house into a children’s home. Eight years down the line, Prema and Shivaji are parents to 23 children, who all stay in the same rented house with three rooms together.
Coming from homes ridden with poverty, violence and abuse in the darkest of slums in the nation’s capital, Sonal Kapoor believed that art and colours could help these young girls heal and went on to found Protsahan, a social enterprise that uses creative education and art innovation to empower street children and young adolescent girls in 2010.
It all started when the 24-year-old Sonal was shooting a film for a corporate. She came across a pregnant woman who had six daughters and was expecting her seventh child. As the conversation continued, Sonal heard this woman utter words that would change the trajectory of her own life.
The woman was living in poverty and obviously struggling to take care of her children. So unfortunate was their condition that she was already planning on sending one of her daughters, 8-year-old Julie, to a brothel to bring in money that would, in turn, feed the rest of the family.
These words not only scarred Sonal for life but also opened her eyes to the grim realities of life. She decided she wanted to change the lives of girls like Julie and three weeks later, Protsahan started as a one-room creative art and design school in a dark slum in Delhi.
With the goal of empowering every at-risk adolescent girl with creative education and entrepreneurial skills training so that she can break the extreme cycle of poverty and abuse, Protsahan achieves this with the help of the ‘5-pillars of creativity model’, which includes design, art, digital stories, photography, technology and cinema.
Today, Protsahan, which has been lauded with several awards and recognitions, is growing one child at a time with numerous projects and campaigns that are transforming lives.
Kansaharia is a village located about 100 km away from Varanasi, where quality education for children was an unaffordable, distant dream. But when 32-year-old Surya Sen Singh decided to do something to resolve this disparity for children in his hometown, one could say things finally began to look up for them.
One of the lucky kids in the village who could move to Lucknow for higher studies after Class 10, Surya went on to become an engineer and is currently working in Mumbai. But the boy who left still had his heart in the village and whatever he did in life, Surya always knew that giving back to his community and its children was his duty.
In April 2015, Surya founded a school named Ajivam in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh for children from nearby villages. With classes from lower kindergarten to Class 5, the CBSE-affiliated school runs with permission from district-level authorities. Close to 30-35 per cent of students come from underprivileged backgrounds, whose monthly fees vary between Rs 200 and Rs 500, depending on their financial situation at home.
Taking forward his philanthropic initiative, Surya has now opened a public library in Ghazipur, through which he aims to serve local communities by providing free and easy access to a broad range of knowledge resources, information and training. Another key objective for Surya is to promote the idea of higher education of girls and self-dependence through better employment for the villagers.
4. Urmi Foundation
Based in Mumbai, Urmi Foundation works with children with developmental disabilities who are from low-income households. This basically means working on the educational and social needs of children who are living with autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and other such conditions.
In its six-year long journey, the organisation has dedicated ample resources and policy support to integrate this section of the Mumbai population with mainstream society and has lightened the lives of many children across the city.
Founded by Sonalee Shyamsundar, the foundation researched 18 special schools located in different suburbs of Mumbai, operating under the city’s civic ambits, before developing a model that could serve their needs better. The foundation then began its work by assessing the needs of the schools they have adopted and the special children they are helping.
Alongside children, the team also works closely with parents, who are often ashamed of their children, unsure about how society will treat them, and also some who do not wish to invest anything in the education of a child who might not help them in any way once he/she grows up.
Through counselling on special education and its importance, the team members try and convince the parents to enrol their kids in school, while even going the extra mile by helping them with the admission process.
The motivation to start such an organisation had taken form in Sonalee after returning from a vacation in Sri Lanka where she saw the people treat special children with tremendous love and care. This made her think of the situation back home in India where the stigma attached to any kind of developmental disability is so huge that it is cruel and often dangerous.