Notes from the field

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Geeta at Gala

I just returned from an inspiring three-week visit to many of our projects in India. With each field visit, I was excited and humbled by the transformational change our projects are bringing about and the road ahead. I was also looking forward to getting advice from our field partners on Social Capital Credits (SoCCs), a concept that AI launched at our annual Gala this year. Following the positive response, I was eager to see where and how SoCCs can be improved, piloted and eventually rolled out with the help of our partners. In this last past for 2013, I would like to share some of the success stories and give a glimpse of what lies ahead.

My field trip in India started at Oxigen in Delhi, a digital payment services provider. Sameer Vakil (former head of Citicards) and Amir Hassan (our adviser) facilitated discussions with Rajpal Duggal, who heads Oxigen’s corporate social responsibility (CSR). Together we visited their projects in Lonaji village and surrounding areas in Kotputli in Rajasthan. I am excited to report that SoCCs will be piloted in these areas in partnership with Oxigen before the end of 2013!

Next up was a meeting with representatives of Ahmedabad based Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a world renowned NGOs that serves 1.7 million poor women.  Rita Duggal, our Board Member and I had extensive discussions on SoCCs with the rural as well as urban area organizers, who are formulating a plan to pilot SoCCs. AI will support education and skill building for girls and women in these areas.

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The southbound journey found me in Chennai at MSSRF’s headquarters as well as at their Pondicherry based bio-center.  With Dr. Rengalakshmi, one of the Directors of MSSRF, I met the women’s self-help group, whom AI had begun supporting almost ten years ago via micro-credit loans.  I was struck by their confidence and income-generating abilities, which has grown in leaps and bounds. For 2014, in partnership with MSSRF, we are now exploring support of other critical projects in more rural areas in Southern India.

In Chennai I also met with the convener of Slum Children’s Soccer Training and Educational Development Society, a wonderful program run by a four slum dwellers. In 2014, AI will continue to support this program in provision of mid-games snacks and uniforms for the team members. I then headed north to Mumbai and met with our partners at URBZ, where a small pilot of SoCCs is underway in Dharavi, one of the largest informal settlements in India. In Mumbai, I also met with Armene Modi, President of Ashta no Kai. In 2014, we will support their life skills training through a Karate program for girls and boys.

Outside of projects in India, our program in training health workers in Bangladesh is nearing completion. In an upcoming blog, we will talk more about this project as well as the Nepal based leadership-training program for girls in their senior year of high school.

I hope that these short excerpts above show you a glimpse of AI’s work. And with that I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the friends, board members, and volunteers who are making all this possible by volunteering their time and skills and enabling us to keep our administrative cost low.  In 2013, we sent more than 95% of all money fundraised to projects in the field.

On behalf of AI, we want say a BIG thank you to all our friends, and wish you a joyous holiday season and happy new year.

With warm regards,

Geeta


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