Posted by: greatfoundation | April 6, 2010

Teaching them how to fish- GREAT featured

By Javid Hassan

Two organizations—one a charitable foundation in Hyderabad and the other an NGO in Pune—have embarked on two separate initiatives for the empowerment of individuals. The former seeks to achieve this goal by equipping women with technical skills and the latter through education which, as Nelson Mandela puts it, “is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

NRIs around the world could either undertake similar initiatives to help their brethren back home or support the ongoing ventures with funds and food for thought for new spin-offs. That’s the objective of—putting non-resident Indians in touch with Indians for a cross-fertilization of ideas.

Ghiasuddin Babukhan, a well-known philanthropist from Hyderabad, has sent us an email about a new initiative of the Foundation for Economic & Educational Development (FEED), of which he is the managing trustee. He explains how a small -scale entrepreneur, who had lost his livelihood following a fire accident, is back on his feet with the financial assistance extended by his Trust.

“Syed Ahmed of Nizamabad district was running an HDPE Pipe Unit in the industrial area of Sarangapur, Nizamabad, which was damaged during a fire accident,” Babukhan points out. “The machines and stock were burnt and he suffered a severe loss. To restart his factory he approached us for financial assistance under our Interest Free Micro-finance Project. We have given an amount of Rs.2 lakhs for purchase of motors which were required to restart the production. He worked hard day and night and restarted his factory.

“During our visit to the factory we noticed that his business is running well. In this factory about 30 women, some of them widows and orphans, are working. Since the factory has resumed (its operation), they could earn their livelihood which they too lost after the fire accident.”

His email concludes that Syed Ahmed has been repaying the loan installments regularly. His financial capability has improved significantly, so that he is about to purchase the shed, which he had rented for running his factory. “We are happy to inform you that some more units have been financed by us recently under our Interest -Free Micro-finance Project.”

Besides rehabilitating an entrepreneur, FEED’s initiative feeds us with other ideas. It shows, for example, that the 30 women employed in that factory also include widows and orphans—the categories of people who are eligible for zakat, or poor due. Malaysia has also floated similar ventures from zakat funds mobilized by its government in which the beneficiaries include unemployed women, widows and orphans. All of them receive on-the-job training, inspired by the motto, “when you teach a person how to fish, you feed him for a day. But when you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

Thus, in the true Islamic spirit, contributions from zakat could serve two noble purposes—feeding the hungry on the occasion of the two Muslim festivals—Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr—as well as mobilizing funds raised through zakat for setting up small-scale ventures, in which those eligible for zakat could be trained and employed. Muslim countries and Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries could consider such schemes in the interest of economic and educational advancement of the community, given that nearly one-third of Muslims in India survive on less than Rs.550 a month, according to the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER).

The Pune-based initiative is equally laudable, as it seeks to empower the impoverished youth through education. The moving spirit behind the launch of Pehel, an NGO operating from Pune since 2008, is Jaslene Bawa, a professional woman, who, along with six other volunteers, has pooled in their resources to realize their dream of educating the underprivileged sections of Indian society.

Besides Jaslene, her partners, Bhavya and Arthur, among others, are all working professionals who came together on the platform of Pehel as part of a voluntary move to teach underprivileged children in 2008.

For the trio, the turning point in their lives was when they worked together with the aged as part of their college’s NSS program. When the trio completed their formal education and were about to launch their own career, they had met casually over a cup of coffee to celebrate their newly acquired jobs. This was when they got the brainwave about Pehel. No wonder, Coffee Day, a brand name in the coffee industry, has a point: all great ideas start over a cup of coffee. “Why don’t we begin with something like teaching underprivileged children at a school or even our maid’s kids?” they thought. Thus was born Pehel under GREAT Foundation’s wing.

Bhavya, Arthur and Jaslene launched the Pehel initiative at GREAT Foundation in 2008, an NGO in Pune that has adopted six cantonment board schools with approximately 6,000 students studying in these schools. These kids, who come from an underprivileged background, study in a Marathi medium school. Adding to their plight is the fact that their teachers are ill-equipped to improve these students’ competitiveness. As a result, these students do not have a very good concept of what they learn at school. They call it a day by taking down notes, which they have to memorize without understanding.

That’s where Pehel seeks to make a difference. Its volunteers ensure that these kids do not face difficulties when they enter college due to poor knowledge of English, mathematics and computer skills, especially during their Class XII and graduation, as the medium of instruction switches over to English once they enter college. Since most of the competitive exams and courses require competency in English and mathematics, a majority of these students drop out of college and accept low-level jobs to sustain themselves.

“We began with around 120 such students in 2008. We help them prepare for competitive exams or job interviews in case they need to undertake a particular course or apply for a job. For example, Cafe Coffee Day recruits kids from underprivileged background above 18 years and pays between Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 on a monthly basis. This pay scale is better than other menial jobs where these kids are exploited and not paid well,” observes Jaslene.

Whether it is madrassas or other conservative elements of Indian society with a one-point agenda of strengthening the religious foundation of children, these examples show that broad-based education not only makes them employable in the job market but also improves their living standards. It makes them productive members of the society, whereby they can contribute to the well-being of others. This is also one of the fundamental teachings of all religions.  




  1. […] Teaching them how to fish- GREAT featured « Pehel … […]

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  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bhavya Siddappa, GreatFoundation. GreatFoundation said: Teaching them how to fish- (GREAT featured […]

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