The Telegraph
Monday , May 5 , 2014
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Top draws of philanthropy


Where in Calcutta: Headquartered in Belur, Howrah. Has 18 centres in Calcutta and 175 across the world.

Started in: Ramakrishna Math was started in 1886 and Ramakrishna Mission, a parallel institution, in 1897.

“Swami Vivekananda founded Ramakrishna Mission soon after his return to India from his first US visit. The Mission is primarily a service institution in which monks of Ramakrishna Math collaborate with lay members in carrying out social service,” said Swami Suhitananda, general secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission. “The Mission works in the fields of education, health, rural development and relief and rehabilitation after natural and man-made calamities.”

Focus areas: The Math and Mission together run 15 hospitals, 130 dispensaries and 60 mobile medical units in India.

Campaigns/projects: The Mission runs a university, seven colleges, 68 secondary and Higher Secondary schools, three Sanskrit schools, more than 100 primary and junior high schools and 125 non-formal educational centres. They also run rural development centres and women welfare programmes.

Success stories: Last year nearly 78 lakh people benefited from their medical services and 3.3 lakh students gained from educational services. Cultural services benefited 2.4 lakh children and youths.


Where: Ballygunge, Garia and Tollygunge. Runs a hospital in Joka, primary schools in Tollygunge and Diamond Harbour, a computer institute for the underprivileged and cancer care units.

Started in: 1917 by Swami Pranavananda. “It was started with the main objective of providing relief to people affected by natural calamities and rehabilitate them,” said Swami Biswatmananda, the joint secretary of Bharat Sevashram Sangha. It works for the downtrodden and backward classes.

Focus areas: A large network of monks and voluntary workers serve people affected by natural disasters. They focus on providing shelter, food, education and health relief to the affected people. “We have around five mobile medical units in the city that travel to various districts. When patients travel to the city for treatment at our hospital, we provide them free accommodation for four to five days,” adds Swami Biswatmananda. The Sangha runs 72 medical units in 12 states.

Campaigns/projects: A Leprosy Rehabilitation Promotion unit that performs surgeries. That apart, the Sangha organises regular health camps and is involved in relief projects in Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. They are involved in rehabilitation of people living along canals in the city.

Success stories: Around 30,000 individuals benefit from each centre every month. Has been visited by former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Bill Clinton met monks of the order to understand their ideals during his visit to Calcutta in 2001.


Where: Munshigunge-Watgunge areas in Kidderpore. Also active in Delhi, Bihar, Mumbai and New York.

Started in: 2002 by former journalist Ruchira Gupta with 22 women from Mumbai’s red-light district. The women were subjects of Gupta’s Emmy-winning documentary The Selling of Innocents. The movement aims to establish a world “where no woman can be bought or sold”.

Focus areas: Societal and legal change with the primary focus on human trafficking. “We organise groups of 10 women and girls who have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked. They are trained in a safe space where they go through an empowerment journey related to three fundamental rights — education, sustainable and dignified livelihood, and legal empowerment. These groups meet in safe places where they make friends and attend classes, vocational training and legal education. They are also trained in interacting with the media, politicians and the authorities. It helps build their confidence, decrease their dependence on brothels and rescue each other within the community,” explains Ruchira. The other focus areas of Apne Aap are HIV/AIDS, health, hygiene, nutrition, gender, sex and sexuality and self-defence.

Campaigns/projects: Hillary Clinton joined Apne Aap’s Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex signature campaign that highlights the role men play in fostering the sex industry. The group also organises open-mike storytelling sessions where women are encouraged to write about their experiences.

Success stories: Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who heads the advisory board of Apne Aap, steered a team of thought leaders and philanthropists, including Peter and Jennifer Buffett. The group spent time in Delhi, Calcutta and Bihar learning the Apne Aap approach. From Bill Clinton and Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi to actors Ashley Judd and Ashton Kutcher, Apne Aap has been acknowledged and honoured by a host of world leaders and celebrities. While 854 children are enrolled in formal and non-formal education programmes of Apne Aap, the organisation has supported over 10,000 women and children trapped in or at risk of prostitution in India since 2002.


Where: In Kalighat and Keoratala. It runs two safe houses — Soma Home on Moore Avenue in south Calcutta and Sonar Tori in Chanditala, on the southern fringe. Recently, it started a programme in Sonagachi and a chapter in Murshidabad.

Started in: 2000 by Urmi Basu, along with a member of the red-light community and a Kalighat resident with the purpose of rescuing and rehabilitating children of sex workers, women in prostitution and trafficking survivors.

Focus areas: The organisation runs a creche and night-shelter for children and women of red-light areas. New Light takes care of educational and nutritional needs of the children. The New Light Clinic, open five days a week, is visited by a general practitioner, a paediatrician and a gynaecologist. As part of an income-generation programme, micro credits are offered to women to help them start enterprises. “We have peer and community outreach workers who go door to door and help women access their voter ID cards and legal rights,” says Urmi, the founder trustee of New Light.

Campaigns/projects: Vaccination camps, Anchal Project (an extension of New Light’s income-generation programme), training programme for Dalit women and those engaged in sex work.

Success stories: Women and girls have been placed in various jobs, ranging from hotel management to nursing. One of the survivors managed to get her trafficker jailed for 20 years with the help of New Light and its cross-border partners. The Dalai Lama had in 2009 acknowledged New Light as Unsung Hero of Compassion. More than 5,000 women and children have benefitted from New Light since its inception. American film director Oliver Stone and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson have visited New Light centres in Calcutta.


Where in Calcutta: In Jodhpur Park. It partners 30 organisations in Southeast Asia.

Started in: 2004 by sociologist and dance activist Sohini Chakraborty, along with five others who were part of a shelter for trafficked women. The Sanved model is based on using dance as a mode of therapy for rehabilitation of victims of violence and trafficking.

Focus areas: “We train survivors of trafficking and abuse to become peer educators and to perform so they can lead a life of dignity and respect,” said Sohini. Regular Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) sessions are held with trafficking survivors and vulnerable groups at various shelters, drop-in centres and schools. Since December 2012, Kolkata Sanved has initiated the two-year Training of Trainers (TOT) programme, a scheme to create employment opportunities. HIV/AIDS sufferers, domestic workers and railway platform children figure on their priority list.

Campaigns/projects: The group has launched Transforming Steps, an international campaign at Sadler’s Wells, a performing arts venue in London, in collaboration with a UK-based organisation. The project produced a video to spread awareness on the issues the NGO is involved in. The video was screened at various venues in the UK during the 2012 London Olympics.

Success stories: Since 2004, Sanved has conducted 3,434 DMT sessions and reached 7,814 survivors of trafficking and violence. It was awarded the Beyond Sport Award for Best Health Project in 2009. In 2011, it received the DVF Award that recognises and supports women for using their resources to transform the lives of other women.


Where: Main office on Mahanirban Road; 30 other centres in Tollygunge, Kidderpore, Kalighat, Sonagachi, Bowbazar and other areas. It runs 16 drop-in centres in major red-light districts of the city and two shelters in Narendrapur and Baghajatin. It also runs offices and training centres in Delhi, Patna and New York.

Started in: 1987 by Indrani Sinha. The group was formed when a group of teachers and researchers decided to work on gender issues before shifting focus on the “rescue and reintegration” of trafficked women and those in prostitution, as well as prevention of second-generation prostitution.

Focus areas: They track missing or trafficked children and rescue them with the help of police, panchayats and NGOs. The rescued women and girls are provided medical and legal aid, shelter, counselling, vocational training and education. “We try to re-integrate them to the mainstream,” explained Indrani, the founder-director of Sanlaap. The NGO has nearly nine core programmes on legal aid (Salah), youth empowerment (Sambhav), district advocacy (Sanjonan) and psycho-social and economic rehabilitation (Sneha and Srijoni) for trafficking survivors and children.

Campaigns/projects: Youth camps on gender issues, sexuality and prostitution. Sanlaap publishes several journals and newspapers.

Success stories: In 1997 and 1998, Sanlaap received two awards from the President and the National Commission for Women. It has organised 604 awareness programmes in various districts of Bengal. More than 300 children and young adults are provided education and vocational training. Seventy-four girls have been restored to their respective families. In 2009 actress Lindsay Lohan had visited the NGO with a four-member BBC crew.


Where: Gariahat Road, Kankulia Road and Barasat

Started in: In 2006 by Bappaditya Mukherjee. The organisation promotes active citizenship as a tool for social change.

Focus areas: Prantakatha focuses on case studies. “Our idea is to sensitise and involve mainstream population and motivate them towards taking responsibilities and becoming change-makers,” explains Bappaditya. “We use online social networking platforms to connect with the youth. We also conduct seminars and symposiums at schools and colleges where we discuss case studies to inspire them to become volunteers,” said Bappaditya. The NGO works for the elderly and provides free legal support and value education to target groups. It also runs anti-trafficking programmes and campaigns against domestic violence and teasing.

Campaigns/projects: It has trained groups in India and Bangladesh and been involved in HIV/AIDS awareness programmes and anti-patent movements for life-saving drugs. Prantakatha also acts as a consultant for implementing socio-economic projects initiated by the UN, the Centre and the state government.

Success stories: The group has 500 volunteers across the state. Around 2,500 people have benefited from its various programmes.


Where: Headquartered on Prince Anwar Shah Road; has branches in Delhi and Bihar

Started in: May 2000 by Amitava Bhattacharya, with the aim of using theatre-based models to empower backward sections. “We wanted to communicate with rural India and the urban poor using art, culture and folk forms in order to address issues related to human trafficking, livelihood generation, health and education,” explained Bhattacharya, the founder-director of Banglanatak Dot Com.

Focus areas: The group works on sensitising masses through Theatre in Development (TiD) methodologies — such as “interactive, forum and invisible theatre” — to educate people on diverse social issues and promote community participation. “We train service providers at the grass-roots level and also resource groups, including constables and health workers,” said Bhattacharya.

Campaigns/projects: Art for Life (AFL), which was started in 2004. The project aims to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion by engaging folk artistes.

Success stories: The organisation has covered more than 90,000 villages across 23 states and 4,000 folk artistes. Unesco had in 2010 granted the status of “global advisor” to Banglanatak Dot Com.


Where in Calcutta: Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Joka and Golpark

Started in: CINI was started in 1974 as a small child health clinic by Dr Samir Chaudhuri in a Calcutta slum. It focuses on health care, nutrition and treatment of severely malnourished children in rural and urban areas. CINI ASHA, the urban unit of CINI, was started in 1988. It helps deprived urban children access their rights.

Focus areas: Providing protection to and development of children living on the streets, and in slums and red-light areas. “CINI is involved in training mothers in accessing health care at the first sign of illness and improving their immune response. Each trained health worker at CINI has around 150 such children and families under his/her direct supervision,” said Sujata Basu, a senior programme officer at CINI. It also runs reproductive and sexual health clinics, shelter houses, sick bays and halfway houses.

Campaigns/projects: It is working for deprived urban communities through various projects. CINI was part of the Working Group on Children involved in preparing India’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).

Success stories: CINI reaches out to around 10,000 children across Calcutta and other districts in Bengal. Has won the National Award for Child Welfare in 1985 and 2004, the award for Outstanding Contributions in Mother and Child Care in Genoa in 1992 and the Feinstein Hunger Award by the Brown University in 1993.


Where: Purbachal in Calcutta. Has offices in Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Karur, Imphal and the US.

Started in: February 2000, Saathii stands for Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India. They started their Calcutta operations in 2002. It was aimed at capacity-building of community-based organisations, NGOs and social workers.

Focus areas: “We focus on strengthening the response to the HIV epidemic in India through capacity-building measures, such as training, research, advocacy, networking and information dissemination. We work on building the capacity of government, civil society and private sector agencies and individuals, who in turn serve vulnerable communities like women, children, youth, MSM, transgenders, Hijras and those infected by HIV,” said Pawan Dhall, the director of Saathii’s Calcutta office.

Campaigns/projects: A project funded by EGPAF reached 200,000 women across four states. Their coalition-based advocacy project focuses on bringing together HIV and sexual minorities for joint advocacy with the government and other stakeholders on their health, development and legal rights concerns.

Success stories: Saathii is part of the International AIDS Society panel and was one of the representatives at the Commonwealth Secretariat HR panel discussion in London in 2010. Has reached 25,000 people living with HIV and sexual minorities in Odisha and Bengal.


Where: Office in Ballygunge Place East and a shelter called Nijoloy in Madhyamgram

Started in: 1990, WIF has been trying to combat domestic and cross-border trafficking with particular attention to rescue, recovery and rehabilitation of the victims. “Our objective is to mainstream vulnerable women and children who are under-privileged and are victims of social injustice and sexual exploitation and make them self-reliant,” said Aloka Mitra, the chairperson and founder of WIF.

Focus areas: Interventions to combat domestic and cross-border trafficking. Creation of women’s self-help groups for access to credit and micro enterprise development.

Campaigns/projects: Nabadisha, a project to provide quality education to children of crime-prone areas and minimise the number of school dropouts. “Sponsor A Granny” programme was started in collaboration with HelpAge India to rehabilitate 50 aged women from the Kalighat and Sonagachi red-light areas.

Success stories: Supported by The Prince Andrew Charitable Trust, the girls of the organisation has found a platform for their creations in Top Shop, a popular British multinational fashion brand.


Where: Deodar Street

Started in: 1995 as a women’s rights organisation committed to ending violence against women and children

What they do: Provide direct support to victims through counselling, follow-ups with police, legal advice and aid, health care support, career counselling and employment.

Campaigns/projects: Swayam conducts research in violence against women and other related issues and uses the findings to campaign and lobby for social change.

Success stories: The Swayam theatre group has come a long way since its first performance in 1997. Now, they are regularly invited to perform alongside professional groups at theatre festivals and other events.