An organisation that’s transforming – not just changing – lives
Many Mumbaikars plan an annual weekend to Khandala in the monsoons. Driving through fog, playing in waterfalls, trekking through its hills, snacking on bhutta and hot chai – it’s got all the ingredients for a perfect weekend getaway. My two days there over the August 15th weekend this year included all this and more. Yes, if you visit the NGO Social Action for Manpower Creation’s (SAMPARC) orphanages, as I did when there, you’ll realize that Khandala has more to offer.
So, four of us took off early on a rainy, Saturday morning towards the hills. Our journey would have been incomplete without a pit stop for breakfast at the usual Neeta buses stop – so of course we stopped and enjoyed some hot, though rushed, Upma and Poha. What we didn’t realize is that breakfast was awaiting us at SAMPARC too. But as we were in Khandala, it felt more like holiday than work, and found no difficulty in tucking into another hearty meal! As we did, we chatted with Mr. Amit Banerjee of SAMPARC to understand more about their work.
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How it all began
SAMPARC was set up in 1990 by Mr. Amitkumar Banerjee. His background indicates that he was always inclined towards social work. After doing his M. Phil in Social Work, he got a MS in Rural Development from the Xavier’s Institute of Social Science in Ranchi. During one of his first social work stints, in 1978, he headed a rehabilitation program for flood victims in 45 of the worst affected villages in West Bengal. After another stint with farmers of the Bhoodan movement in Bihar, he was the Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Lonavala between 1984 and 1990. Under his leadership, SOS Children’s Village in Lonavala grew from housing 36 to 100 children. During his tenure, he also organized an educational support program for 200 children whose parents work at stone quarries and construction sites. It was also this tenure that shaped his thinking for years to come and ultimately lead to him to setting up SAMPARC, along with a colleague Smt. Lata Pande.
It is hard to note down how SAMPARC has changed the life of every child that has entered its doors. However, what’s clear is that their destinies have been changed. Because really, God alone knows where life would have taken them if not to SAMPARC; and this thought crosses the minds of anybody who visits this organisation.