Each new year starts with reflections on the past year that trigger all the emotions of the spectrum: SORROW for the programs that did not quite work out the way we envisaged; DESPAIR when the longed-for donations and grants didn't come through as we expected; BLEST that those who offered support and funds kept their promises and helped us pull through on turning our powerful initiatives into reality; PRIDE that choked us when we looked at our Parinaam Teams with appreciation for how hard they work to change the lives of our beneficiaries; RELIEF that one more year had passed and we were able to stand firm and not compromise our integrity; and finally HOPE that this year can only get better and that we will PREVAIL.
2012-2013 included some incredible highs for Parinaam, and sadness for those favourite programs that went into cold storage, waiting for a better day to come alive. Parinaam has settled into the role of "Innovator", with every initiative meeting the high standards we have imposed on ourselves to deliver unique quality services to our women beneficiaries and their families. We understand that we cannot control the sources of our funding requirements and with sorrow we realize that indigent families will fall through the cracks. Yet always there is a prayer for a better day and often it works in wondrous ways.
Last year was the "Year of Diksha", the financial literacy program developed by Parinaam. The training sessions were launched for 33000 Ujjivan women customers, thanks to a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Citi Foundation also joined in as a funding partner, supporting another 31500 participants. Soon the news of Diksha spread, attracting accolades and interest from many organisations. The final feather in our cap came from the Reserve Bank of India. They contacted us for our training materials and integrated many of the Diksha concepts, including the financial diary, in their own financial literacy program for the banks. They kindly acknowledged our contribution in their training manual. In the meantime, our trainers and the Ujjivan field staff made it their mission to help the Diksha graduates open bank savings accounts and taught them how to utilize such accounts. Ujjivan encouraged the usage by offering cashless loan disbursements. Our beneficiaries, who had expressed their most desperate need for financial inclusion as how to save and where to save, suddenly found themselves empowered as they felt in control of their financial situation for the first time in their lives.
This year our goal is to find the funds to train at least half of Ujjivan's one million customer base. Our first grant for 2013-2014 has just been approved by Citi Foundation. For the second time, Citi will support the training of 30000 additional participants in Diksha. As part of the Grant we have included a unique pilot to encourage savings by tying it to the Scholarship Program. With access to financial literacy training and banks, women can actively support their children's need for quality education without falling into usurious debt.
We expanded to 9 slums in the Parinaam Urban Ultra Poor Program. Sadly 2 of them were demolished for reasons best known to the agencies that roared in there with their JCBs, converting the already "almost-homeless" into "the homeless", scattering impoverished families to the four winds. From our originally planned 240 families we took under our wing 469 women beneficiaries with 1769 family members, including 1130 children. The highlight of the year was helping the first 15 women open savings accounts. This is unheard of among the ultra poor. I will always remember the incredible high when the first UUPP beneficiary received her ATM card. Of the graduated women, 94 borrow micro-loans from Ujjivan and have a 100% repayment rate. We all smile when the Ujjivan field staffers report that our former UUPP women are more disciplined than the regular Ujjivan members. We remember those early days when we despaired because they were so irregular at their UUPP centre meetings!
Our UUPP children attend 7 tuition centres, and the Summer Camp is the ultimate joy. Sarah Owen-Vandersluis, dear friend and well-wisher from the UK, ran an amazing triathlon to raise money for this year's Camp. Her supporters, including her Grandfather, contributed generously to Parinaam. Our 259 children reaped the benefits of that generosity and Sarah's efforts for a glorious 5 weeks.
Some folk think these small numbers hardly make a tiny dent in the vast majority of the desperately poor. However if you could see the smile on a well-dressed woman's face when she is treated as a guest at the Ujjivan branch office, you would understand the impact. She has never experienced such a day. She sits on a chair, is offered snacks and tea, receives her Ujjivan membership card and her first microfinance loan... This day she is empowered. She now looks forward, beyond her memories of a year ago when her children ran about half-naked, her husband drank himself silly and beat her up at the slightest provocation; the days when she scrabbled to put food in her children's mouths, they died of the slightest illness because she had no money to pay for healthcare. I feel incredibly proud of the work our UUPP Team has done to change these lives. This I know--this program will never go into cold storage!
We realise that the Right to Education Act is a paper tiger: most schools will take in a few kids under duress, the newspapers report that parents could pay anything up to Rs. 20000 in unethical costs. Our UUPP staff helped 84 children get into good schools. Some parents can afford to pay the fees thanks to our livelihood initiative that got them good jobs. For those who could not quite make the cut, Parinaam started the Academic Adoption Program to give them the security of a good education. We had 17 sponsorships, up to 40 this year. People were incredible--given a choice of several child profiles they would say "I'll sponsor all of them!" We are happy to note that not one rupee of the sponsorships go towards Parinaam administrative costs or school transport. We manage somehow and are determined to ensure that the child will benefit 100% from the care provided by a generous donor. Yes, we and our children feel truly blest.
Sadly last year we could support only 9 of the 200 applicants for Scholarships for Higher Education. Then, at the beginning of this year, Sequoia Capital India Operations LLC provided us the funds for the much needed support of our students, under both Academic Adoption and the Scholarship Fund. We are so excited because we know how truly grateful these students are for being given a shot at their dreams. This year we will meet our goals. One more reason to believe in the power of prayer!
We were let down last year on a promised donation for our Medical Interventions and we thought it would be near impossible to manage critical care for the very ill. Through our determination to not give up and to meet the challenge head-on, we were able to help every case that came up for urgent and expensive medical care. Our Parinaam staff paid the high price of working extremely hard at all hours. They found the funds, generous doctors and hospitals that would provide quality tertiary care to poor patients at little or no cost to the families. It is quite strange--what we thought of as a really bad situation ended up being the cause of our biggest success--saving lives.
Our beloved Jalmitra Program that focused on the education and provision of safe water for slum dwellers was born from necessity and hard work. This livelihood initiative provided a good income to poor women trained as sales people for their communities. Unfortunately, the synergy that we had assumed existed with our partner Hindustan Unilever Ltd. was not as we had envisaged, and eventually Parinaam had to shut the program down in August 2012. We feel especially sad that women, who so enthusiastically bought into the idea of safe water for their families, were let down.
The Educational Grant Initiative where we refunded the interest component to women who had borrowed to send their children to school had to be set aside as we simply could not raise enough funds to meet our goals. Our beneficiaries loved this program because for the first time someone was giving them money instead of taking it away from them. The interest refund often went towards school expenses for the following academic year and with today's rising inflation every paisa counted. One day, we hope to resurrect this program.
2012-2013 was our toughest year yet. All of us multi-tasked and every week was fraught with concern that a program would not quite meet the goals and standards that we had set for ourselves. Some people, unable to manage the pressure, left which only made it imperative for those of us who were determined not to fail. We would think--"This bottomless pit of human need--can I possibly pour any more of myself into it?"
But then the moments come that remind us of purpose and humanity: an ultra poor beneficiary gets an ATM card; a Diksha graduate sends a message sharing how empowered she feels, how her business is growing and how much she is finally saving; a happy patient comes to the office to proudly show us the huge scar on his neck where a tumour had once threatened his life; a little girl who had been saved through open heart surgery is seen happily skipping in the best community school in India. This girl is a double beneficiary of the Medical Intervention and the Academic Adoption Program. Then an email arrives "I will sponsor six"; a bank notification announces a huge, unexpected donation; a Donor says "we appreciate the work you do"; a child smiles; a young woman, old before her time, is young again because someone is there to hold her hand and walk her through the pitfalls of her life.
And we know, we just know, that we will prevail in 2013-2014.
Elaine Marie Ghosh
May 30th, 2013
Sustainability and funding are key issues faced by most non-profit organizations. Parinaam works with the intention of providing the maximum and best quality benefits at a minimal cost. To successfully continue our programs, we need support from donors, sponsors, our volunteers and our friends. We appreciate donations of all types--money, time or some product / service that will benefit our families. We thank those generous sponsors who made last year's programs possible. We are confident that this year will bring us the sponsorships and donations that will enable us to innovate and expand new programs across India.
Parinaam Foundation was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization under Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956, on March 31st, 2008. Parinaam received its tax exempt status under Section 12AA on January 20th, 2009 and its approval under Section 80G (5)(vi) of the Income Tax Act 1961 in July 2009 which has been validated "in perpetuity" under CBDT Circular No. 5/2010. The 80G approval allows Indian citizens & companies a tax break on donations. The general approval under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA) has also been approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and is valid for 5 years until January 16th, 2017. We are now in a position to also accept foreign currency donations and grants.