| Children of Loreto Sealdah’s Rainbow initiative at a celebration in Raj Bhavan
When the new-age principles of management consultancy come together with one of the strongest social initiatives in the city, good things must be round the corner. A group of dedicated professionals in The Netherlands has started a funding organisation, called the Partnership Foundation, which, as of now, has only one aim in mind: to expand the Rainbow project run at Loreto Day School, Sealdah.
Coming in as a long-term partner for the programme that currently provides shelter and education to over 100 streetchildren, through the network of Loreto schools across the country, the Foundation aims to give a home to “1,000 kids by 2008 and 10,000 by 2018”.
The brainchild of Ferdinand van Koolwijk, the Partnership Foundation now intends to spread its funding wing to Loreto institutions across the country, after they had success with tying up with the Rainbow pilot project. “I was very impressed with the Loreto commitment to education. It makes things easier and more cost-effective, too, if we partner organisations that already have their infrastructure in place,” explains Ferdinand, who came aboard Sister Cyril’s initiative — operating since 1983 — in early 2002.
The expansion is already underway, with Governor Viren J. Shah inaugurating the extension of the night shelter on the Sealdah campus last Saturday. Over the past year, the number of girls taken in has already gone up from around 80 to over 100.
The Dutchman’s management consultancy deals with a number of developmental firms as well. That was when he realised that many agencies lacked a “business approach”.
In line with this, the Foundation is trying to avoid a top-down approach to funding. “The problem with most funding organisations is that they do not give a long-term commitment to a project.” Ferdinand has also found NGOs spending too much time doing paper work for their sponsors, and suffering due to the fragmented approach of “vertical donors”.
So, cutting through the red tape, Partnership Foundation has opted for a hands-on approach. The Foundation, with a board of directors and a dozen volunteers, raises funds mainly from corporations, only “two per cent” of which goes towards administrative expenses. They will extend their assistance for accounting and project management. Work will be consistently monitored, with representatives from The Netherlands paying frequent visits.
Ferdinand and Carel Klusters, one of the volunteers, are currently in Calcutta trying to garner support from various domestic agencies. They also have meetings lined up with the Loreto authorities. One of the main factors in the drive to tie-up with Loreto is “they do not try to convert the children to Christianity” before taking them in. “We are not here with any kind of neo-colonial agenda,” stresses Ferdinand.
Part of the objective over the next year is to ensure that quality is not compromised in the effort to boost quantity. They should both increase simultaneously, feels Ferdinand, who is looking at a chain of facilities. “If McDonald’s can do it, why can’t we'” he laughs.
But behind the common-sense approach is a burning idealism. “If society doesn’t invest in kids, you get problems. If you do, you get assets,” is Ferdinand’s motto.