By Charu Agarwal
As most of you are aware, MAD recently relocated to India, which is why you would have noticed we’ve been pretty quiet on the social media front. It’s been a hectic 2 months settling into life in India and meeting various non-profit organisations based here in Bhopal. When most people hear the name Bhopal, they immediately relate it to the 1984 gas tragedy which claimed thousands of lives. However, unless you venture into Old Bhopal and drive past the now abandoned but still intact Union Carbide factory, there is hardly anything to indicate this city was once the centre of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
We’ve met some really amazing non-profit organisations working on the grassroots level and have spent time learning about what they do and how we could help them create further impact.
We want to highlight 3 organisations we feel are creating a lot of impact and are in need of support. If any of you would like to volunteer with these organisations, make a financial contribution, learn more or get involved in any capacity, please get in touch with us and we’ll help guide you with advice and information.
Muskaan has been in operation since 1998 and works with the most vulnerable groups of people living in the slums of Bhopal on issues of child education and community empowerment. They operate a registered day school for 130 children, a residential learning camp for 30 children, and 7 alternative learning centres, 9 early childhood education centres and 8 libraries which are spread across the 21 slums Muskaan currently works in. Muskaan’s primary focus is on the education of children who are unable to access mainstream education due to their backgrounds and to curb violence in these communities caused by alcohol and gender inequality. Most of the children Muskaan works with are those who are forced to waste-pick to support their families and those from from tribal groups who are discriminated against by the authorities and others.
We were amazed at how well the children at Muskaan were able to read and understand English. They were also some of the most loving, intelligent and confident children we have met. A few of them tried to teach us how to read Hindi and when we complained of the difficulty, they laughed and said, “That’s how English feels for us!”
Sambhavna Clinic was established in 1996 to provide free medical treatment to survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. While there are about 150,000 survivors today who are chronically ill, Sambhavna has managed to support about 45,000 people. As corporate negligence was central to the tragedy, victims are yet to be compensated properly and the toxic waste remains on site of the now abandoned factory, Sambhavna as a policy does not accept any corporate funding or support. It also has no government, political or religious affiliations. More than half of Sambhavna’s dedicated staff members are gas survivors themselves.
Sambhavna is an oasis in heart of the gas-affected area of Bhopal, just 500 metres from the dilapidated Union Carbide factory. It is surrounded by a one acre medicinal herb garden and feels more of a tranquil ashram than a clinic. Their library is a one-stop resource centre for everything you may want to know about the Bhopal gas tragedy and their staff are always eager to help answer any questions.
Aham Bhumika works on income generation projects for rural women living in the outskirts of Bhopal. These women come from some of the lowest income communities and are often prohibited from leaving their homes in search of work. Aham Bhumika has trained 30 women on hand embroidery and supports them by providing them with materials and designs and guarantees to buy the finished products from the women regardless of whether Aham Bhumika is able to sell it to the public. The women work from home and use their earnings to improve their quality of living, access healthcare and send their children to schools. All profits generated from the sale of the embroidery work is reinvested to train and help more women become independent with a regular source of income.
The quality of the work produced by these women is on par to what one might purchase in shops outside. Aham Bhumika’s top priority is the welfare of the women. As such, they encourage the women to work at their own pace and will.