How it began at Chaithanya Educational and Rural Development Society

Mr. Narra Srinivasa Rao is a simple man from an agricultural background. When you see his work, his involvement with his projects, and the office he maintains, it is impressive how one individual can get so many things done. Clearly, all one needs is a strong desire to create social change.

Married with two kids, Mr. Rao hails from Suravarapupalle,a village in Yaddanapudi mandal in Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. He is a graduate in Journalism and Communication, and holds an M.A. in Sociology (from Nagarjuna University). Both his higher education courses exposed him to social science, and this is where the seeds of his interest in welfare work were sown.

His agrarian background makes him a walking library about rural life around Chilakaluripeta and the communities that live here. From my interaction with him over two days, I learnt alot about the different kinds of backward castes and tribes that inhabit the villages as well as the little “habitations” that border these villages.

Through Chaitanya Educational and Rural Development Society (CERDS), his brainchild, he and a few of his relatives work with the hamlets and villages around Chilakaluripeta to solve problems of the poor. The organization’s work ranges from general welfare activities to disaster support.

After his post-graduation, Mr. Rao worked in a media outlet in Hyderabad for a while, and then moved to Chilakaluripeta, where he joined an NGO as an employee. He worked there upto 2008.

But meanwhile, he started voluntary social service on his own, in the villages nearby. CERDS was founded in 1996 (according to the founder, “Chaitanyam” which means “awareness” in Telugu, is as important to social service as money; and hence the name).

Its first activities were awareness programmes on water conservation and management, women’s malnutrition and women’s rights, and sometimes on helping SHGs link up with government programs. These programs were conducted along with an uncle of his, some volunteers from the local MDOs (Mandal Development Offices), and a few people known to him.

These activities continued for a decade. In 2008, when he came out of the NGO where he worked, he decided to plunge into CERDS work full-time. Mr. Rao says that his family was initially concerned about his choice, and that they advised him to look for a stable, high-paying job on par with his qualifications.However, he had made up his mind, and CERDS had a new lease of life.

In 2007-08, CERDS trained youth in computer skills, in collaboration with the government. Also, sports material were distributed to youth in 5 villages.

In 2008-09, a number of activities, some quite interesting, were taken up:

  • Two drinking water wells drilled in coastal areas
  • Exposure visits on rabbit-rearing conducted for 20 tribals from Chirala; they were taken to Jonnathali near Matur (Prakasam district)
  • Awareness sessions on water usage, management and conservation, conducted in villages in collaboration with local bodies like sarpanches and village level committees
  • Awareness sessions on sustainable agricultural practicesconducted in villages
  • Awareness sessions for Self-Help Groups conducted, to help them link with government schemes
  • Uniforms and bags,supplied by Centre For Rural Development, a private NGO, distributed to kids
  • Field survey conducted, commissioned by Centre For Rural Development, on the socio-economic status of 6 villages affected by what is now known as the VANPIC project – in Prakasam and Guntur (including Chirala and Chinnaganjem)

Mr. Srinivasa Rao says he learnt much from the survey mentioned above about the social issues faced in rural areas.The rapport that CERDS built with the villagershelped him work with them later on. He notes that many of themare daily wage earners, depending on fishing for their livelihood, and have no civic amenities.

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