Mrs. Aruna, a native of Khammam, has been working for social causes since 1991. An energetic, strong-willed lady whose father educated her well and brought her up to be independent, even in the days when women were not very independent, she took to being a social worker because that was her calling. She founded Priyadarshini Seva Mandali (PSM) in 1991 in Khammam, having named her organization after Indira Gandhi. Like-minded people also joined the board of PSM. Currently, the operations of the various projects of PSM are handled by her, her son Vamshi, and board member Uma Rani (she handles the Khammam projects), all of whom are very hands-on with the needs of their beneficiaries.
1991-1995: Vocational Training
When PSM was founded in 1991, it started out by providing vocational training to underprivileged women. In the first four years of its journey, about 150 women were trained in various skills – tailoring, embroidery, basket weaving and making glass articles.
2000-06: Agricultural Programs
After a break from 1995 to 2000, PSM restarted its social work, this time collaborating with the government in training farmers in agricultural practices. With 150-200 farmers per mandal, around 2,000 farmers were trained in this program from 2000 to 2006.
One of the practices that were taught was the use of natural pesticides (for example, the use of a paste of chillies and onions; and interestingly enough, the spraying of soft drinks like Sprite on crops!).
2005-08: Domestic Violence
Khammam had a role to play in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. One of the Act’s strongest proponents was Renuka Chowdhury, the MP from Khammam. After the Act was brought into force by the Indian government in 2006, PSM started working for victims of domestic violence, and helped raised awareness about the Act.
2005-11: HIV/AIDS – Work with Clinton Foundation
In 2005, Clinton Foundation, as part of its HIV/AIDS initiative, conducted a survey of children affected by HIV/AIDS in Andhra Pradesh. PSM partnered with Clinton Foundation to conduct the survey in Khammam, and the 150 kids thus identified were given nutrition support. The number tapered down to 50 in a few years, with an improvement in the children’s health.
2008: HIV/AIDS – Work with YRG Care
Y R G Care, a Chennai-based organization also working with people with HIV and AIDS, was PSM’s next partner. As part of the next project, pregnant women in Khammam affected by HIV/AIDS were given care and treatment before and after childbirth. With PSM’s effort, 18 beneficiaries from Khammam underwent successful delivery.
2008: Mid-day Meal
This was also the year when Priyadarshini Seva Mandali started its program of feeding one meal a day to about 30-35 destitute old people. The beneficiaries are those that have no family and live in abject poverty.
2009: Old Age Home
With all their experience in the field of HIV/AIDS, Mrs. Aruna wanted to work in Hyderabad for the same cause, and set out to conduct a survey there to identify HIV-affected persons. However, she felt a greater need to serve the cause of destitute elderly citizens. This is when the seeds of PSM’s old age home were sown. The organization has two old-age homes in Hyderabad – one in Kapra, which was established first, and the other in Miyapur. They now plan to merge the two into the Miyapur facility.
Priyadarshini Seva Mandali is run by a dedicated family of people who have experience in social service, and their work does seem promising. Both Mrs. Aruna and her son Vamshi have the ability to instantly connect with beneficiaries of any social stratum and age. Their sensitivity and care towards people should ideally take their work to greater heights, but scaling up is only possible when they receive larger donations for their various projects.