RAJASTHAN: Some years ago, Vibha Agarwal’s was a happy family. Then came a painful period and a time to rediscover herself. Diagnosed with cancer, she didn’t know if she would even survive. Faith can move mountains, doctors told her. For Vibha and her family, faith was all that they had. They were associated with the Gayatri family in Haridwar’s Shanti Kunj whose members run various programmes aimed at social uplift of the deprived. As Vibha went through her excruciating chemotherapy sessions for hours, her thoughts remained fixed on the ideals of her Gurudev and that she had to do something for society.
“There can be no bigger suffering than this,” she said, recalling her treatment days. “Most of the people admitted to the hospital along with me died in the cancer ward. When my doctor told me that some miracle has saved me, I felt not only hugely relieved but also full of gratitude to her Guru ji. That prompted me to choose a new goal in my life.”
Ever since she has devoted her life to her Guruji’s ideals to serve the needy and helpless.” In 2015, at Shanti Kunj Ashram in Haridwar, Vibha saw women training in various skills to become economically self-reliant. She was told that by helping rural women, one can strengthen the village social system.
Vibha returned to Jaipur with some samples of products made by women and organised a tailoring camp in a school where 40 girls and women joined her. “I thought if women can stand on their own feet by learning sewing, then why not help them.” Vibha soon formed an NGO ‘Chetna Gram Santhan’. With 11 members, she started a small cooperative effort. She would take Rs 1,000 every month from them, and eventually set up around 75 camps across the city.
After training the women in sewing, Vibha started giving clothes from her NGO funds to women so that they could make and sell many products like gift bags, jute bags and kurtas. Besides giving training to about 50 women and their organizations, with the help of donations from her friend Sunitaji, she also distributed free machines to poor women to make them self-reliant. Many women in Jaipur have started tailoring work in their homes after training from them, which has strengthened the financial condition of their families.
After Jaipur, Vibha turned to women of the surrounding rural areas. With the help of Anganwadi workers and Vijayji Meena, she hired a tailor and organised a 20-day sewing camp in which women learn to make 10-15 products and sew clothes of women around the house and uniforms for school children. Each member earned up to Rs 6,000 per month.
Vibha has started a unique initiative of making eco-friendly lamps called Urja Deepak. The ingredients for these lamps include 80 herbs, besides turmeric and sesame. Neem and ghee are also mixed in them. These lamps are also sold in cities. Diwali is the time when their sale peaks even on online platforms. Hansa Devi of Mathurawala village is associated with Chetna Gram Santhan for five years. “Vibha Didi’s training has enabled me to financially support my husband who is a furniture worker,” says Hansa.
Vibha has set up training camps in at least 60 villages where over 8,000 women learn to be financially self-reliant. Sangeeta Sharma, whose village Vibha adopted six years ago, is one of them. “Vibha Didi founded a camp and helped us get our men to quit intoxicants, including drugs,” she said.