How we drove past the Unnati building on Bangalore’s Temple road, I don’t know. Even the chaiwala at the end of the road and those hanging around his roadside stall were surprised. But a short walk back down the road and we were at the sleek-looking building well in time for our 10am meeting at Mr. Rameshswamy and his team. We started off the day by taking a tour of the premises, with Madhuri and Poornima from their team introducing us to the different aspects of the organization. English classes were going on upstairs, an introductory practical training to housekeeping on the ground floor, and beautician training for a bunch of girls in a corner classroom. All this is in line with SGBS’s Unnati programme, which focuses on helping poor, jobless youth get the vocational and attitudinal inputs required to guarantee them a job.
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How it all began
While Unnati is SGBS Trust’s most successful programme today, it wasn’t a planned move. Infact, it was started by chance – to fulfill a need. Back in 1978, Mr. Rameshswamy got involved with the SGBS Trust primarily for its religious and cultural offerings – musical shows, bhajans etc. It was with a bunch of people he used to meet at these events that he got friendly. They decided that they would like to help people in need – a desire that was borne more out of doing something together, than vigorously fighting for a particular cause. Somebody in the group thought that they should offer help families carry out the last rites for their deceased members. They had noticed that in poor Hindu families, when a member passed away, there was confusion as to what exactly the protocol to be followed was. So through personal contributions, they began to support last rites for people from poor families.
Till date, about 1,300 youth have benefitted from Unnati’s vocational training. These have primarily been people like Lalita and Abdul and Deepthi – youth who were at home, clueless about how they could go about being contributing members of society. Had it not been for Unnati’s intervention, they Youth who would have otherwise faced a bleak future, or worse, fallen prey to anti-social elements are now turning into productive members of their family and society thanks to Unnati’s intervention, they would have, in all likelihood, faced a bleak future.
Most of their volunteering requirements are longterm – to take a course and teach the students. They do not really prefer short term volunteers. However, one avenue they do really want to get into is ‘mentoring’ of their graduates. Volunteers will speak to them once every 15 days just to understand how things are going on their end. No need to meet them in person; but simply get friendly with them. Offer advice and help them out with general stuff, if they need help. This is what they are trying to do with the corporate volunteers.