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“I might be the first member of the royal family to come out, but I’m not the only one. Gay rights cannot just be won in the courtroom but in the hearts and the minds of the people we live with.” — Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, Gohil dynasty of Rajpipla, Gujarat

“Our strength lies not only in our rituals, or preaching. Our strength lies in our spiritual consciousness. Communities or panths come and go. But we are bound by unbreakable spiritual ties.” — Narendra Modi, Prime Minister

Your friend in a stranger

Saathi Haath Badhana Social Foundation’s initiative to create a confidential and non-judgmental space and lend a listening ear for strangers to share their problems covers people from all walks of life BY SALONEE MISTRY @SaloneeMistry Kaushal Sanghvi never thought that a casual walk down the street in Aundh on that particular day last year could change his life forever. A signboard in front of an office caught the attention of the 33-year-old entrepreneur. He walked in, inquired about the activity that is going on and came out only to become a regular visitor since then. Neena Khaire (50) and Lata Ananth (54), teachers of Sanskriti School, Aundh, along with Kaushal are all part of the non-profit organisation Saathi Haath Badhana Social Foundation (SHB) almost since its inception about two years ago. Just like them are four more persons who have decided to devote some time to take up the role of listeners for complete strangers. LISTENING POST Started with the intention to create a confidential and non-judgmental space for anyone and everyone from society, Listening Post was started in February 2014. It was a space that allowed people to walk in and talk to their heart’s content about problems and issues that they are facing in their daily lives. They don’t offer advice but simply listen. Many people describing themselves as feeling ‘bottled up’ is a drawback of modern lifestyle. And they need a space to vent their frustrations, anger and emotions. “My husband is in the army and in the community that I live in people feel free to share with me their problems or seek comfort. Being a volunteer at Listening Post was an extension to something that I

TGS NEWS SERVICE @TGSWeekly The mornings of Roopesh Kohad is always fi lled with the chirpy, happy sounds of children playing and laughing at the Shri Sant Goroba Bal Vidya Niketan School located opposite to his housing society in Viman Nagar. The Marathi medium primary school run by Shri Sant Goroba Shikshan Sanstha is working on free education for underprivileged children for the past 40 years. Around 150-200 children of labourers study at the school. They provide basic literacy to the most marginalised through effective educational facilities and mentoring programmes. The Santha’s mission is to bring awareness and opportunities in education to children in these communities, and changing their lives. Before going to his workplace, the 37-year-old techie would make it a point to look at the cherubic faces of children who are glad and oblivious of their future. He always wanted to do something for the children content in their simple clothes and food provided by the school administration. Associated with social activities from

‘Miracle’ criterion devalues Teresa work

an appointment in the week according to one’s convenience if the person cannot make it during the slotted time.

A volunteer at SHB Social Foundation explains a few senior citizens how to use the smartphone and its different applications

Lata Ananth

ymous but didn’t opt for a helpline as she knew that a face-to-face experience will benefit visitors more. “ W henever someone comes and shares their problem with Neena Khaire you and you are able to make them feel a little lighter simply by listening to them, you feel both worthwhile and empowered. Worthwhile because you could make a small difference and empowered because you could make them happy even if it was temporary,” said Neena. A primary schoolteacher, with every interview her confidence to tackle issues is only increasing and sometimes she even discovers feelings that she didn’t know she had. Listening Post is open to every single individual irrespective of age, gender, profession or community. One can also schedule

Kaushal Sanghvi

was already doing,” said Lata, who is a primary schoolteacher. Listening takes a great deal of concentration. Most people are aware that other people don’t listen. Problem solving is a huge part of her profession as well even if they are small children and she feels that she has gained a lot from this experience. All one has to do is simply walk into the SHB office at Gaikwad Nagar in Aundh on Fridays and Saturdays in the evening. SHB founder Janaki Vishwanath decided that she wanted to keep the personal interaction anon-

Giving children more reasons to smile and be healthy Roopesh has taken responsibility to provide milk to children of labourers studying in a neighbourhood school


school days and actively taking part in programmes organised by his fi rm under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Roopesh always felt the urge to support the cause waiting on his doorstep. “I was associated with social activities related to the school when I was working with Global Logistics Foundation. Later I joined Seanergy Softech Private Limited at Kothrud and was not part of the initiatives related to this school,” he said Roopesh met the headmaster of Sant Goroba Bal Vidya Niketan School Satish Patil who took him around the school while informing about the various activities carried out by the educational institute. Inspired by the efforts of Shri Sant Goroba Shikshan Sanstha that runs private educational institutes besides taking up social initiatives, Roopesh asked Patil about the school’s daily requirements. Aware about the nature of education that should be imparted to these children because of the nature of livelihood of their parents, Roopesh also got a fi rsthand knowledge of the lives that the children aged between three and ten years have to go through.

distributor who visited the school and gave him the details. “The school gives them mid-day meals. I decided to provide them milk three days a week. By directly paying Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 every month to the milk distributor, I can see that it is benefitting these children who are mostly malnourished because of their living conditions. I have been doing this for the past three years. The fi rst year I covered the milk expense, second year it was bananas and this year I am again managing their milk provision,” he said. “That is the least I can do for these children. Every child deserves a memorable childhood, having the chance to just be a child thriving in a conducive environment. Children need a stable and caring family to grow as a better individual and the lives of these little ones and far from this ideal facts of existence,” he said. Roopesh said that the school located at the centre of a posh locality like Viman Nagar near the famous Joggers’ Park cries out to the affluent neighbourhood to loosen their purse to help these children. “I will always do my bit for these children. I can relate these kids to my own child. I don’t want any popularity so most of my friends are unaware about this,” he said.

DOING HIS BIT He left the school with the smiling faces of children etched in his mind. Meeting Patil had given him a reason to serve the children in an effective way. Roopesh found that providing them milk will not only give them nutrition but also a reason to come to school every day. He contacted a milk VISHAL KALE

Roopesh Kohad said that helping the children of labourers and seeing the benefit before his eyes is the most satisfying experience

CITY’S REALTY REALITY The permanent facet of a growing city is its share of marginalised communities with lack of access to healthcare and education. Pune attracts a large number of labourers and their work of migrant nature leaves their children deprived of schooling. The United Nations recently claimed that the Millennium Development Goal that focused on primary education for all children by 2015 has increased global enrollment from 83 to 91 per cent. And in India it has not overall been very effective. However, the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act towards bringing in equality the educational needs of all children, including those with vulnerabilities, has delivered positive results.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE Listening Post is just one the many social initiatives of SHB, including smartphone assistance for senior citizens. There are many elders in the neighbourhood who are leading lonely lives as their children are either working in other cities or are settled abroad. With smartphones being the most effective means to communicate with their dear and near ones, Kaushal has been teaching these senior citizens how to use the different applications on their smartphones for the past one year. Terming the experience as enlightening, he said, “Learning smartphone functions is the key need for all of them. It is their escape from loneliness and reason for survival. Being a part of this activity and interacting with them has taught me to value my time with my parents.” The organisation holds workshops and seminars for schools and corporates and raise funds to manage these social initiatives. Their discussion with young adults on gender and sexuality is path-breaking. Tackling social concepts of gender and enabling youngsters to come out of stereotypical gender behaviour is one of their aims. They also hold support groups for those giving their board exams and for caregivers as well. SHB plans to roll out support groups also for PMILs (persons suffering from mental illnesses) and their families and also for LGBT persons and their families in the future.

Nuns take part in a mass prayer at Missionaries of Charity as they celebrate Sainthoood to Mother Teresa

A leading anti-superstition group slammed as “unscientific and irrational” the criterion of “two miracles” based on which the Pope has canonised Mother Teresa as a saint, saying the method devalues the social work done by the Nobel peace laureate. Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) said the yardstick adopted by the Vatican to canonise Mother Teresa is completely “unscientific and irrational”. Pope Francis, who in December last year approved a second miracle attributed to the Noble Prize winner, on Tuesday announced the legendary nun will be declared a saint on September 4. “When the noble work of Mother Teresa is enough to declare her a saint, the criterion of two miracles is like devaluing her service towards the underprivileged and poor people,” Milind Deshmukh, State Secretary of MANS, told reporters. After the December announcement, the anti-superstition outfit, founded by noted rationalist late Narendra Dabholkar, had sent a series of letters to the Pope, seeking dropping of the condition of two miracles for can-

onisation, he said. “We have not received any response from the Vatican, but we will continue to oppose the method by launching a signature campaign across India and aboard and will appeal to like-minded people and organisations to join us,” Deshmukh said and challenged the Vatican to prove the “miracles”. Deshmukh said the anti-blind faith committee has prepared a draft to deal with the menace of social boycott enforced by “caste panchayats” in the state. Maharashtra government has said it will bring a Bill in the ongoing Budget session to root out evil, outdated and unconstitutional practices of caste and community panchayats. “We prepared a draft for the Bill by speaking to victims (of social boycott) across the state and listed 41 types of punishment ordered by such panchayats. We have submitted it to the government with a request to pass it in the current session,” he said. MANS has organised a convention here on March 20 to demand that the Bill be fast-tracked and made into a law, Deshmukh added. PTI

The Golden Sparrow on Saturday 19/03/2016  
The Golden Sparrow on Saturday 19/03/2016