“There are at least 31 lakh registered NGOs — more than double the number of schools in the country, 250 times the number of government hospitals, one NGO for 400 people as against one policeman for 709 people,”… says Shahid Aboobacker, Trustee, Rehab India Foundation quoting a 2015 CBI report. He highlights the impact and discusses the vision of the Foundation in an e-interaction with Arshia Khan
January 1, 2019
What has been the impact created by Rehab India Foundation since its inception?
Since 2012, Rehab’s Village Development Programmes (VDPs) has reached out to more than 75,000 people across 60 Indian villages. We have been able to empower 566 women to work together in Self Help Groups (SHGs) and more than 150 female teachers are currently teaching 8,000 children. Our educational back-to-school activities have brought back 3000 students to classes.
Our grassroots involvement with the villages also imparts counselling to change the outlook of people residing there. They have been trained on the importance of education, awareness on better hygiene practices, investment and money-saving activities, etc. These people now use logic and probe more before making any investment or accepting anything by face value.
What has been the approach in identifying the areas of service?
Rehab’s village selection process is aligned to Government of India’s district programme initiative – the ‘NITI Aayog Aspirational District Programme’. Our Foundation is focused on developing a composite ranking for bottom 20 districts – including three of the most backward districts of Bihar – Katihar, Purnea and Araria.
Rehab India Foundation tries to ensure the populace of any adopted village elicits the benefits under the VDP programme irrespective of their race, caste, religion and colour. We work at the grassroots level in the most economically and socially backward areas. These areas are stricken by hunger, diseases and illiteracy. Rehab undertakes technical surveys in the villages it aims to adopt. These surveys help shortlist the most deserving village that needs immediate rehabilitation plan. We further conduct a household level survey to gauge the socio-economic status of the villagers.
At the secondary stage, Rehab conducts – Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Interaction, Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and Self-Help Group (SHG) interactions with the villagers. To measure and understand the scalability of the Village Development Programme we undertake a ‘village impact assessment’ study with external agencies to understand the loopholes and make our programme more effective in future.
What is the long-term goal of the organization? What is the strategy adopted for achieving the goals for the foundation?
The goal of the organisation is to make an equitable and sustainable society in India where people live in peace and with dignity. We believe we can make a better tomorrow where everyone contributes towards the holistic development of the society and has equal access to education, livelihood, better health and economic opportunities. Rehab is a socially conscious organisation aligning with the national and global development priorities, ensuring we fuel and catalyse the global efforts towards achieving SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
Rehab India Foundation’s methodology revolves around village strengthening and empowering communities especially women. As we know 70-80% people of India live in villages, which in numbers would be more than 6 lakhs. The only way of addressing this problem would be reaching out to these villages and working towards their socio-economic development.
The thought process of our rural innovation started around 14 years ago. It took us a few years to conceptualise and build various prototypes to design a unique village development model based on a simple dictum of “not to give fish, but to teach fishing.” Rehab’s strategy is to take up micro projects instead of macro programmes. It is about changing mindsets, teaching basic awareness, basic education & health programmes and development of basic savings: touching and changing lives of the people living in a Rehab village, instead of building big schools, hospitals, houses or research centres. Let them confidently live, “Hum Badlenge Zamana.”
What have been the noticeable trends in each of the areas that the foundation is working in? Any remarkable difference/ thing that you would like to share with our readers?
In the initial days of our work, we observed children above six years of age being used as another source of income. These young school-aged boys were to work outside, while the girls were made to sit and do the household chores. Girls education and moving about in the society was considered as a taboo. The villagers were religiously advised away from opening bank accounts to save money.
Villages were hamlets where the knowledge of the outside world was barely felt. Government subsidies or schemes were unknown. In one of the remote villages in Kolkata we once asked a poor rickshaw puller, what is his dream for his son, and he said instantly replied his son will be a rickshaw puller too, just like his father. When asked why he can’t become an engineer, or doctor or teacher, he replied, “Hum Ghareeb hain (We are poor).”
Building a strong partner network and strengthening the partner ecosystem is our new strategy to accomplish more in community development. This method allows organizations to leverage their combined influence, resources, and connections.
Our groundbreaking initiative to start Rehab academy in MSW discipline has generated social leaders from villages. Today, we see the villages are building resilience to brave their problems, develop healthy behavioural patterns and inculcating a never seen vigour to their life.
What are the noticeable trends with respect to healthcare/ diseases that the foundation has witnessed in the areas that it is working?
In the villages that we operate in, healthcare necessity was never felt by the masses. Ever since our adoption of VDP we have started educating people on personal health, hygiene and sanitation.
Before we adopted the village, the residents of these villages did not pay heed to any medical condition – till they landed up in a hospital – probably in a situation when they were beyond cure. Things have changed remarkably since then. People are now well-informed and understand good hygiene practices and when to seek help for medical problems. We also conduct medical camps related to immunisation, eye-disorders, gastrointestinal problems, etc. regularly.
Any alliances/ associations with the Government of India in achieving the goals?
Rehab India Foundation has always believed that being part of the Nation Building process, it is helping the Government of India to support the people. Our tuition centres are only a back-up to Government Schools, or Rehab’s Medical camps are an awareness module to Government’s Primary Health Centres. We collaborate with government schools and primary health centers We bring the Jeevika (micro-financing model by the State Government of Bihar) to the villagers to empower the women-folk. Strategic alliances and associations have been made to make our programmes more efficient. In our effort to run literacy programme, Rehab has collaborated with Bihar District Literacy Mission office. During natural disasters we also collaborate with Public Health Engineering Department to provide clean drinking water and better sanitation.
What is the role played by the partners in supporting the goal of Rehab India Foundation?
According to a 2015, CBI report there are at least 31 lakh registered NGOs — more than double the number of schools in the country, 250 times the number of government hospitals, one NGO for 400 people as against one policeman for 709 people. Which translates, there are niche services on many of the aspects in social development by different NGOs with close alignment to our programmes. Hence, Rehab welcomes like-minded organisations as partners to effectively accomplish our mission.
Alone, we cannot reach to the country’s crores of people in desperate need. Rehab is open to collaboration, to improve it’s programme models, to reach out to best awareness of hygiene practices and help implement the hygiene programmes at the grassroots.
The mandatory rule to give 2% towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has brought once only money-oriented businesses closer to the social sector, by spending at least a small amount to the developmental cause.
Around Rs 50,000 crore has flowed into CSR activities in the country, though the unspent CSR fund ranges between 9-12% of the prescribed CSR. Rehab has recently started to collaborate with the biggest names in CSR as well as the like-minded social development organisations / NGOs such as Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), United Way of Mumbai, Goodera, etc.
What are various initiatives / education / awareness campaigns undertaken by the foundation under its VDP – Protecting the environment?
Rehab India Foundation has been actively involved in organising the World Environment Day (June 5th), by conducting awareness or environment-friendly programmes in each of our villages. We encourage awareness and action for the protection of our environment, campaigns to prevent pollution, avoid the use of plastic, planting tree and management/recycle of waste, etc.
Shahid Aboobacker is a Trustee of Rehab India Foundation. He has been working closely with the NGO since 2011, with his professional inputs and strategic insights to the social development cause. He was elevated as a trustee of Rehab India Foundation in 2018. He is an alumnus of College of Engineering (CET), Trivandrum. He is an Architect, Creative Director, Curator as well as Marketing consultant with an experience in the UAE, India and the Philippines. He is the founder of a creative firm based in Kochi called Zacksworth and is a director of a Mumbai based Mcomedge Private Limited, while previously co-curated projects like Philippines Dawn to Dawn and Celebrate Kerala.
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