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Archive for June, 2009

Meeting Minutes, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Today’s meeting was short and simple. We discussed the following:

  1. Finding a new slum to work in.
    • Talking to other organizations in the area, and which have experience working with slums
    • Going on a trip perhaps over the next week to see nearby areas
    • Talking to government/public health officials
  2. Working in the small community opposite the former Ramavaram slum
    • Starting with a meeting in this community to understand their needs and build a relationship
    • Focus will be mainly on health education
    • Planned a trip for this Saturday, to be run by Nazneen.
  3. Discussed details of our new internal organization
    • Discussed the plans whereby international teams collaborate via internet mediums, and share their devleopment plans with the Indian-based teams.
    • Importance of researching topics and staying alert on the news affecting underprivileged communities in India.
  4. Wrote short bios for the board members to be featured on the upcoming website
    • May be shared on the blog soon!

Update: Amudha and Meena

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Thanks to the work of our Sangam India members Malar and Apoorvaa, we’ve been able to make some headway in our effort to secure the continuance of Amudha and Meena’s education. Malar and Apoorvaa were able to talk to the principal of the girls’ college, St. Thomas Higher Secondary School who generously has offered to support our cause by keeping Amudha and Meena in the schools’ girls hostel, free of charge. We are grateful for this kind gesture.

The girls have asked us for some help with some of their living expenses, since they have lost nearly all of their possessions in the recent fire at Ramavaram. We’ll be working with them over the next week to help provide for them.

Thanks to everyone for providing their support and expressing interest regarding the girls’ education.

Sangam India Registration

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

We are publicly launching our registration forms. A number of board members have already filled them out. Given the fact that many of our members live and work abroad, we’ve also developed an E-Registration form that serves the same function. We invite our supporters around the world to fill it out, especially if they are interested in participating with our team in any way.

  • Register for Sangam India to:
    • Receive news of our activities, via our monthly newsletter (you can also sign up for the newsletter without registering)
    • Help plan or lead Sangam India activities in any capacity that you desire
    • Participate in Sangam India events
    • Anybody can be a member. You can participate from anywhere in the world, and we accept members of all ages.
    • Registration is free.
    1. Fill out the Registration form online
    2. Download and print a copy of the Registration Form (pdf.)

The form should take less than 5 minutes to fill out. We hope you’ll take the time to fill it out so that we can keep up to date records of the people that are involved and how they can best help our team.

Thanks for your time and for joining the Sangam India team!

Looking Backwards and Forwards: At a Juncture

Saturday, June 27th, 2009
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Displaced by a recent fire, the residents of our pilot project in the Ramavaram slum are to be permanently relocated. This isn’t goodbye; we certainly still have plans for them and a few visits are being planned. But it’s clear that this chapter is coming to close far faster than we envisioned.


We’re here at a critical juncture in Sangam India. We look back and we see many successes, as well as several failures, in our attempts to promote self-sufficiency in the Ramavaram slum. For us, it was a tremendous learning experience, both in personal and professional ways. Personally, I will miss many of the people and I have learned much about myself from them. Professionally, we have learned about how to work with residents in underprivileged communities to better their lives. For the residents of Ramavaram as well; the experience was a positive one. The children, I’m sure, many of whom knew me and others by name, will miss our presence. They certainly appreciated the time and energy we put into our weekly visits.


Though we’re saying goodbye, we have much to look forward to as well. We have learned much over the last year about slums, the problems they face, and ways in which we can confront them to produce meaningful solutions. We look forward to implementing these ideas in new communities and producing real, lasting changes in them.


Our team is growing quickly and leadership is coming from across the globe. We have new ways of operating and planning our operations, and people from across Chennai are showing an interest in volunteering for our cause. Despite the sadness that comes from leaving one community prematurely, we remain nonetheless excited about an opportunity to form a cohesive plan, move forward, and make a difference.

Skit 7: Honesty

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Part of a series about skits produced for the Ramavaram children.

Skit 7: Honesty

(Students sitting around after school)

Narrator: The kids have been working hard on their semester exams and start to talk about how complicated school has become.

Krishnakanth: Gosh guys, I can’t remember the last time I got to play cricket with my friends.

Srikanth: Yeah man, I know what you mean. We’re always studying for these exams…

Abhiram: …And they only seem to be getting harder. Honestly, I don’t even think studying helps.

Neil: You’re totally right. I don’t think I’m going to study at all for our next exam. Who’s with me?

Krishnakanth, Srikanth, and Abhiram: I am!!

Krishnakanth: Come on guys, let’s go play cricket.

(Guys leave to go play cricket.)

(Amita and Vidhi walk out of the classroom.)

Vidhi: Amita, I don’t know what I’m going to do anymore. Last night I studied for six hours, and I feel like I didn’t know a single thing on that test.

Amita: Maybe we should study together. We might be able to get a lot more done and understand it a lot better.

Vidhi: Okay Amita, that’s a great idea.

(Amita and Vidhi head over to Amita’s house to study for their biology exam.)

(Scene changes to the biology classroom)

(the boys are frantic as they try to look at their notes)

Krishnakanth: Why did we play cricket instead of studying for our exam?

Abhiram: I’m not sure. I wish we had studied. I can’t even remember all the body systems.

Srikanth: Now what will we do? We will definitely fail now.

Neil: Oh my gosh, this is all my fault. I never should have convinced you guys to not study.

Krishnakanth: (leans in to the other boys and speaks in a furtive voice) I have an idea. You all must promise not to tell anyone.

Neil: We won’t tell anyone. Tell us your idea.

Abhiram: Please tell us. We don’t want to fail.

Krishnakanth: We can keep our notes with us and hide them. Then when we don’t know an answer, we can look at our notes and figure it out.

Abhiram: That’s a good idea. Let’s do it.

Narrator: The kids sit down to take their exam. The four boys keep their notes with them and use them all through the exam. All of a sudden, the teacher comes to Neil’s desk and notices some papers underneath his chair. The teacher bends down to pick up the papers and sees that they are the biology notes.

Teacher: NEIL, what is this??

Neil: (stammers and hesitates) uhh ma’am, see these are uhh

Teacher: Yes Neil, keep going. Are you cheating on the exam?

Neil: No.

Teacher: What are these notes doing here?

Neil: I didn’t put them there. I don’t know how they got there.

Teacher: (sees the other kids’ notes as well) Krishnakanth! Abhiram! Srikanth! Why do you have notes out as well.

(all four look scared and worried)

Srikanth: I’m sorry madam. I’m really sorry. We didn’t study for our exam so we decided to cheat by using our notes. Please don’t punish us. Please.

Teacher: Boys do you realize that this is a form of lying. You should have taken the time to learn the material like Amita and Vidhi did. If you hadn’t studied, you should have been honest with yourselves and me, and accepted that you would do poorly on the exam. If you had been honest with me, and told me that you hadn’t studied, I might have been able to postpone the exam. But, since you boys chose to lie, I must punish you. You will all receive a bad grade on your exam. I hope this teaches you all a lesson.

Abhiram: We’re very sorry madam. We understand what we did was wrong and we promise to never cheat again.

Narrator: The boys learned their lesson that day. They all learned that cheating is also a form of lying, and one should never lie or cheat to get ahead. They realized that the consequences of lying are greater than those of telling the truth. From that day on, the boys tried their best to be as honest as they could.

Copyright © 2008-2009 Sangam India. All rights reserved

http://www.sangamindia.org


Written by: Krishnakanth Chiravuri, Srikanth Chiravuri, Vidhi Makanji, Neil Mithal, and Abhiram Gunturi.

Updates: Week of June 21st, 2009

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

A couple of updates to share:

  • Skits: Skit translation has officially started. We are working on translating the skits into colloquial Tamil. This immense task is being done by Ms. Krithika Rajaraman of Birmingham, Alabama and assisted by Mr. Ram Ramgopal from Boston Massachusetts.
  • Data Entry: A team of volunteers from the United States helped us immensely by compiling the data from our June 16th visit into an easy to use, digital format. This data will be wonderful for our follow up work with the residents of the Ramavaram community. Thanks to Aparna Bhaskara and her team: Suchitra Pakala, Krishnakanth Chiravuri, Srikanth Chiravuri, Sai Santosh, Kamalesh Donthula and Sujan Pakala for their efforts.
  • Educational Aid: Sangam India members Apoorvaa and Malar are making good headway in providing aid to allow Amudha and Meena to continue their studies. More information on this as it becomes available.
  • Registration Forms: We now have new registration forms, as we start to collect data about our members and the skills they have to offer our team. This is a step we are making towards becoming a non-profit organization. Registration forms will be made available online as well. More about this in a later post.

Sangam India Newsletter, June 2009

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Hello!

June has been one topsy-turvy month for Sangam India. Before we delve into the intricacies of this month, we must pause to express our gratitude.

The entire team of Sangam India, Chennai would like to thank everyone who came forward to help the inhabitants of the Ramavaram slum. For the uninitiated, a fire consumed the entire slum, minus its dwellers, leaving 400 people homeless.

Our efforts to tackle this challenging situation involved supplying the people with basic necessities, including food. With the clockwork efficiency of the members of the Porur Sai Samithi and the generosity of Vishranthi Trust, more food and clothes were distributed. We thank them for their timely aid and co-operation.

The Government plans to relocate all 110 families to Perungulathur, 25 km from Ramavaram. The idea of parting with all the friends we have made over these months has been debated, denied and finally accepted. Though distance plays devil, we still hope to visit them to implement a few more plans such as health education, malnutrition management and perhaps even a health camp for men, women and children. Two girls, Amudha and Meena, will be accommodated in a hostel in Porur, to ensure a hassle free year of academics.

Our interaction with the inhabitants of Ramavaram has taught us a great deal, perhaps even beyond what we imagined. Armed with experience and good will we now venture into another community – to teach, to learn and empower to excel.

In other news, Sangam India is now on Twitter! Follow us for updates on our work and on other news of interest at http://twitter.com/sangamindia.

Thank you for your time and support.

Rifa Khan

Sangam India.

To join our mailing list and get monthly updates into your inbox, please visit http://list.sangamindia.org.

Meeting Minutes, June 23 2009

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Today’s meeting covered:

  1. A review of Sunday’s visit
  2. Amudha and Meena’s Education
    • Apoorvaa and Malar are in charge of this effort.
  3. Plans with the Ramavaram Community
    • Health Education Plans, being developed by Dr. Gayatri and Dr. Anita
    • Merit-based scholarships
    • Deworming
    • Periodic health camps
    • Partnering with another NGO
  4. Finding a New Slum
    • Developing an action plan
    • Acting as a bridge organization with other NGOs
    • Developing a Calendar
    • Going on a visit sometime this week to prospective areas and developing requirements for such an area.
  5. Legal
  6. Registration Forms
    • Board members filled out membership forms
    • To be discussed in a future blog post

Educational Aid for Amudha and Meena

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

About a year ago, Sangam India sponsored the higher education of two students, Amudha and Meena. These sisters, residents of the former Ramavaram slum, have shown great potential and their parents are very supportive of their dreams and aspirations.

Unfortunately, due to the tragic fire at the Ramavaram slum, their family is going to be relocated to a new settlement; quite far from their school. Having finished half of their education, it would be difficult or impossible for them to continue their studies in their new residence.

Not wanting their education to falter, and with the support of their parents, we’re looking for ways to keep Amudha and Meena in Chennai, preferably near the Porur area, for them to continue their +2 education. Two of our members are researching hostels in the area that will suit them. We’ll help to take care of their needs, including with uniforms and a monthly stipend, while they are here. If you can provide us with any information about where we can accommodate them, please let us know.

Please check back for updates on this story. We aren’t sure how much it will cost, but we’ll find out and report here. If you’re interested in sponsoring these girls specifically, please let us know.


Left to Right: Nivedita (Sangam India,) Lakshmi (the girls’ elder sister,)
Malar (Sangam India,) Amudha and Meena

Visit to Ramavaram and Clothing Donation

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Also see: Fire at Ramavaram, A Summary, and Plans for the Future.

Today we made a somewhat impromptu visit to the Ramavaram area to visit the residents of our community and to assist in a clothing donation project. The donation project involved three organizations: the Sai Samithi of Porur, Vishranthi Charitable Trust, and Sangam India. We played a very small role in the project but were nonetheless grateful for our chance to be a part of it and to interact with our community members in Ramavaram.

Clothes to be donated were generously given by Vishranthi, an organization based in Alwarpet, Chennai. The clothes were delivered by truck to the Sai Samithi in Porur a few days ago. Members of the Sai Samithi diligently categorized the clothing based on sex and age. In addition, members of the Samithi went to the community on Saturday, contacted its head, and gathered information about each of the families in the community that were affected by the disaster. They then gave each family a token with a number that corresponded to their own data. This systematic collection of information and the use of tokens allowed the operation today to proceed without problem. In addition to clothing, a packet of rice was also given to each family as well.

A small group of Sangam India members came today to assist, in some small way, with this operation. We spoke to the members of the Sai Samithi and we learned much about how to organize and run distribution projects. It was very impressive to see the dedication in their work. In addition, we were happy to have with us a doctor, Dr. Usha, who saw a several medical cases, giving advice and treatment to them. Finally, a number of our members came simply to spend time with the children.

As we were leaving, a number of large trucks came and many of the group elders boarded them. They will be going to their new location to inspect the area, and if all goes as planned, the entire group will be moving to the new area sometime tomorrow. As we conclude our work here with these people, we feel a little sad to be parting with friends, but hope that this will be a start to a good life for them.

A heartful thanks to the Sai Samithi of Porur for running this project and to Ms Sundari Jayaraman and Ms Savithri Vaithi of Vishranthi for providing the clothes.