Sara Seva Sansthan Samiti is a non profit organization in 2011 and works with a network of volunteers and smaller core staff in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. This district is majorly inhabited by tribal communities who are highly vulnerable due to the lack of access to public services. The remote location and overlapping borders of the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand along, combined with low levels of literacy, have rendered the district prone to social and economic deprivations and high crime rates. The CAC Team spoke to Mr. Jimmy Nirmal, director, Sara Seva Sansthan Samiti, to learn more.
What have been your key actions, initiatives and outcomes around the COVID-19 response?
We are a community-led organization focussing on the overall development of highly vulnerable populations, including women with HIV, missing children and low income households. During Covid 19, since the beginning of the lockdown, we were able to tap into our network to identify the different types of needs in the community.
At first, we did not gauge the intensity of the issue, but as weeks passed, we realized that food would be a problem for multiple families and needed immediate action from us. This led to the initiation of our ration distribution initiative. We mapped the most vulnerable households to reach out to, based on the number of children to be fed, and health status and age of the members. Despite a lack of resources, we were able to provide dry ration, medicines and other health services to over 3000 people.
We further facilitated the transfer of nearly 300 migrants at the Madhya Pradesh-Jharkhand border by enabling safe practices and providing migrant labourers with food packets during the transit.
We further recognise that the current labour crisis will have long term unintended consequences, such as increases in the number of child brides, school drop outs etc.To make sure that these issues do not get lost in light of the pandemic, we mobilized local police and administrative authorities for our campaign against early marriage for the community. We even held talk shows over community radio and street plays for awareness and sensitization.
What are your biggest challenges?
Lack of financial and human resources have been the major challenges, owing to the small scale of our organization. The remote location of the village has also led to difficulties in tapping support. We continue to undertake work for the community, regardless; our purpose since the very beginning was to serve the vulnerable in whichever way possible.
Any stories/insights emerged from the field or from your work?
We came to know through our WhatsApp group that Radha (name changed), in her late thirties, was being transferred from her village to the district due to poor health. The lack of access to medicines and health care owing to the lockdown was the main reason behind the condition.
Radha is the only bread earner in her family and her deteriorating health meant loss in the overall income of the household. However, we were able to mobilize our resources to support her in a holistic manner. We made sure that she was able to get proper medication and regular meals. We ensured that her condition improved, while also providing food to her children at home.
There were other similar incidents as well. These cases moved us to push our boundaries to help in every way possible.
How did you leverage the COVID Action Collaborative? How do you plan on doing so in the future?
We are a small organisation with a restricted area within which we work. The collaborative has helped us build a wider perspective on the pandemic and the relief response efforts. In addition, this was the best place to disseminate our work while also learning from what others are doing, what has worked and what has not.
In the future, we really hope that the collaborative can help us connect with people or organisations to provide us with the financial support required to expand our work.
Resources from the organization
About the Author
Vatsima is a Research Associate at Catalyst Management Services and has worked in the areas of Social Protection, Gender and Social & Behavior Change.