Walking past this residential complex, one would believe that it is just a normal house with a family living inside. That is, until we walk in and discover that it is a home away from home for many women knitting a new life with optimism. It is a family counseling center and a short stay home for women in distress, “the NGO is a shelter for over 300 women with no other place to go,” says Saranya.
The Samiti provides shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence, rape and dowry harassment. “A lot of these women come to us in a bad condition both mentally and physically. We help them rebuild their lives and most of them have succeeded, “said Saranya.
The Samiti also runs a government school in Geddanahalli and was one of the few organizations to have a midday meal scheme even before the government introduced it. At the initial stages, few poor children in the school could not get their meals and the school had then taken the responsibility to feed these children. Initially, the ladies themselves used to cook this midday meal but logistics around it were too tedious. In the year 2002, ISKCON started helping them with midday meals at a nominal cost. The school now provides nutritious midday meals, healthcare and even tuition facilities to weak children.
With education of the girl child as the primary focus, MDS started a scholarship program in the year 2004 to help needy girl children.
Pooja, one of the beneficiaries of its scholarship scheme, is in her 3rd year of B.E from NSIT Bangalore. Her education has been sponsored by MDS for the past 8 years and she shared how she has not only developed an interest in studying but also an inner confidence because MDS constantly keeps in touch with her and guides her through her obstacles. She wants to become an IAS officer and help students like her in the near future. She believes MDS is with her all the time in her journey towards her goal.
Rameshwari, a B.Com 1st year student from MES college, who is the daughter of a single mother, is being sponsored by MDS for the past 5 years. She came across an advertisement in the newspaper and decided to apply for the same. She shared how her marks improved and how she studies without any worry about the fees. She is currently preparing for her CA exam in the month of December. She is a very diligent girl and her appreciation of Susan, the secretary of MDS, who she considers a mother-figure came through clearly. Susan was proud to learn of her latest marks, patted her on the shoulder, and encouraged her to keep at it. Susan also shared with us that she shared a similar rapport with all her students.
The transparency and commitment to the beneficiaries of this scheme demonstrate that it is more than just sponsoring money. It also provides silent support at the hour of need and provides an emotional anchor which is encouraging the students.
When new students apply, they are interviewed for their backgrounds and house visits are done to confirm the same. People hailing from financially challenged backgrounds are selected. MDS meets these students twice every year to check their progress; other than that Susan also keeps in touch with them every now and then which the beneficiaries see as a strong support.
With justifiable pride in her voice, Saranya said, “Four or five of our sponsored girls have just finished engineering and are now placed in good companies. There is one girl doing her second year MBBS and one of our girls is studying for the IAS. The only two criteria we hold for scholarships are that the girls should be really poor and she should be academically brilliant.”
Few rural areas in India can boast of adequate health care facilities. In its effort to ameliorate this problem, the Samiti has also adopted the villages in Hadonahalli Panchayat near Doddaballapur in Karnataka, for rendering healthcare services. One Sunday in a month, free medical clinics are held in Hadonahalli village with the help of volunteer doctors, members and staff. People from all the surrounding villages (some even as far as 60 kms away) come here to be attended to. Another Sunday of the month sees a free diabetic camp, which is conducted in association with Bangalore Diabetic Hospital – again at Hadonahalli. Around 100 patients are screened for blood sugar and a free supply of medicines is dispensed for diabetes and hypertension. The Samiti is able to provide this service free of cost because there are volunteer doctors, who, Sunday after Sunday willingly give their time and generous donors who regularly contribute in kind and cash.
When asked what the inspiration for MDS was, Saranya replies ”When women come to me smiling confidently and share how they want to start a life earning, also when I see the success rate of my work go up every year, I realize there is more need to help.”