'We believe in creating sustainable solutions'
United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe) seeks to improve lives by mobilising the caring power of communities to advance the common good. It works with communities locally, raise funds both locally & internationally and initiate activities which impact locally. Their model is an inclusive one, where they encourage communities to get involved and make a difference. UWBe works together with communities, corporates, civic bodies, the government, research institutions, etc. to create a converged force for social change. Sabu Thomas, chairman UWBe speaks to City Express about their campaigns and its sustainability.
How critical is the concern when it comes to education and healthcare in and around a growing city like Bangalore?
Research for our ‘Born Learning’ campaign has led us to some shocking facts with regards to education and healthcare;
Rates of underweight children in India is twice the figures in Sub-saharan Africa.
20% Indian children under 5 are wasted/acutely malnourished.
48% of Indian children are stunted/chronically malnourished.
India has the highest under 5 mortality rate.
India ranks No.1 in the world for children afflicted by stunting (48% )
A majority of funds generated for education goes to children under 6yrs.
Statistics from reports such as HunGama(Hunger and Malnutrition), Malnutrition report by Clifton Rosario, and the April 3013 WHO report reiterate the need for action within these areas. Our Born Learning campaign was therefore launched to address the education needs of children below 6, as the first 1000 days of a child’s life has irreversible consequences. Through our campaign, we also address the nutritional needs of these children using locally available and easily accessible foods.
Tell us about your main campaigns?
At United Way of Bengaluru, our main campaigns are ‘Wake the Lake’ and ‘Born Learning’.
Water is a major concern for Bangaloreans. In 1937, we had 937 lakes and today we have ended up with less than 100 lakes in the city. Wake the Lake is an environment related campaign wherein we get stakeholders together to revive the existing water bodies which is a better solution to the problem.
Born Learning is an education campaign which intends to enhance the early learning skills of children below 6 years from underprivileged communities. We have set up Born Learning Centres within the Hennur area at present to reach out to the children of quarry workers.
How has the success rate been?
Our Wake the Lake campaign has seen significant impact. We have recently come up with a scoring system for all the lakes that we work with. This is based on certain parameters which must be fulfilled for a lake to be deemed ‘ideal’ or ‘community friendly’. Some of the parameters are setting up of a Sewage Treatment Plant, fencing around the lake, walkways in place, etc. The scoring guidelines are easy to follow and can be performed by a lay person too, as this is a uniform baseline.
We have seen success in cases such as Kaikondanahalli Lake, where along with active community & corporate volunteering events, the lake has been restored and is a ‘haven’ for residents in the area.
Through our Born Learning campaign, we have been successful in reaching out to 140 children of quarry workers in the Hennur area. Through our campaign, we have moved 124 children out of malnutrition into the healthy category.
Anganwadis in the area are impressed with the work being done at the Born Learning Centres and have expressed a desire to learn from the processes which have been put into place.
Are these initiatives sustainable or do these give temporary relief? How do you ensure that they are long term solutions?
At United Way, we believe in creating sustainable solutions. Our focus, worldwide has always been on how to solve issues in the long-term. We are the world’s oldest and largest privately funded charity, which is no mean feat.
Tell us about a few of your future campaigns.
United Way of Bengaluru intends to focus on our main two campaigns locally. We plan to expand our Wake the Lake project to include multiple lakes. This will hopefully bring back Bangalore’s past glory as the ‘city of lakes’.
Through our Born Learning campaign, we want to create 500 Born Learning Centres by March 2016, thereby reaching out to 12,500 underprivileged children. We would like to invite corporates and individuals who hold these causes close to their hearts, to come forward and support us in our efforts to realise our vision for the city.