From spreading awareness on child rights to sensitizing the minorities, Santhi welfare association has been addressing to the needs of target groups

Aug. 24, 2021, 10:59 p.m.

By:Reshma Jain

A non-profit initiative working on issues faced by women, children, orphans and minorities in Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, the mission of Santhi Welfare Association is to identify the target population and bring out innate potential through education and training, through collaboration of philanthropists, government machinery and generous donors.

Based in Kovvur, Santhi Welfare Association was founded by Rebka Rani and Vijaya Kumar around two decades ago. While Vijaya Kumar was working in an organisation which was fighting against pollution and destruction of biodiversity wetlands, Rebka, having pursued her PG in Sociology was working in the social sector and her work revolved around children and their well-being. After the duo got married, both of them started to research at the grassroot level in the area they were living in and why problems were prevalent for quite a while.

While working on it, they learnt that mental challenges among children were on the rise. Also, issues like malnourished kids, child marriages, abandonment of street children, lack of education and awareness, lack of financial stability added to the woes. The couple then decided to address these issues by providing free services and have since been working on child rights through different initiatives and awareness camps.

Throwing light on few of the initiatives, the founders shared that the Santhi Welfare Association’s Mother Teresa Children Home since inception in 2004 is running integrated care-cum-rehabilitation centre for street children and inducing several interventions concerning their emotional and social well-being, secured shelter, nutritious diet, vocational training and social reintegration. Along with the children’s home, the organization has been involved in advocacy of child rights, human rights and environmental health.

Santhi Welfare had also run a paralegal program for minorities partnering with British Deputy High Commission of Hyderabad. The organization has been influential in carrying out information and awareness camps sensitizing the issues related to minority rights in Kovvur. This project named ‘Barefoot Lawyers’ aims at targeting youth from Dalit Christian slum communities in West Godavari, to make them legally aware and to make a legal resource available to the wider community. The NGO has developed a network of paralegals and advocates who train the minorities with required skills so that citizens understand their legal rights.

Rebka Rani, 53, M.Sc Psychology from Acharya Nagarjuna University, said, “We have been working with children with various needs. They include physically disabled children, visually and hearing impaired, children who need special care, polio survivors, street children, children living in the below poverty line. We have also been sensitising rag pickers by creating awareness on the need for education.”

She further added, “In the rural areas, there are many poor people who cannot spend money on their health or for buying medicines. So, Santhi Welfare did a free mega medical camp with the help of ONGC. Many doctors came forward to provide treatment to the needy and we also donated free medicines for the people.”

Stating that a lot of work needs to be done at the grassroot level to sensitise women, Rani said, “Women are still lagging behind due to poverty, illiteracy and other such reasons. In many cases, although the woman is educated and financially sound, she still faces violence at home. Certainly, ideology needs to change and there is a need to spread awareness on rights among these women. We are working on a few more projects to address these issues, with a hope to create a better environment for women and children to live in.”

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