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Punjab - Case Studies
Title Issue
A Positive Change Healthcare
A New Direction to Life Education
AIDS Can’t Get the Best of You Healthcare
Charting a new path Capacity Building
Confidence Through Co-operation Women's Empowerment
Didar makes a choice Capacity Building
Free From Addiction Healthcare
Helping others to think POSITIVE Capacity Building
Kicking the Habit Healthcare
Nobody’s Children Education
Sita Got Back Her Smile… Women's Empowerment
Strength in Numbers Women's Empowerment
Woman Power at Its Best Skill Based Livelihoods
A Positive Change

When we began working in the villages of Ropar in Punjab, on the issues of HIV/AIDS, no one was willing to admit the issues existed, leave alone discuss it.

Much effort was put in by ACF to bring the issue to the forefront. Much counselling, one-to-one interaction and reassurance went into changing the attitude of the people about their illness. Over time, there was a gradual but sure change in the attitude of the people and they began coming ahead to talk about the subject and their status.

A small group of three young widows, Rekha*, Anita* and Seema* were the first to come up to ACF. In their interactions with the Foundation they revealed how they had got infected. The Foundation encouraged them to get themselves tested for HIV to confirm their illness. Once confirmed, the women were encouraged to build their confidence, to form a group and to remould their lives. They were helped to understand that though they are ill, their lives have not come to an end and that there is a lot they can do in spite of their illness. These women started contacting other women they knew were suffering from the same disease and encouraged them to join the group. Slowly a network of 24 people was formed. This network called itself ‘Roopnagar network of HIV+ people’. They meet once a month to share their experiences, discuss issues affecting their lives and find solutions to commonly faced problems.

This is a first of its kind group in the region. The group has become a source of strength for each of the members and has made definite change in their lives.

*Names changed to maintain confidentiality.
A New Direction to Life

In Punjab, Simranjeet Singh and Saleem Ahmed joined Ambuja Manovikas Kendra at age 14. While being physically fit, they both had an IQ which was in the severe category if their disability. With limited self-help skills, difficulty in communicating clearly, inability to read or write and related behavioural problems, their families had written them off.

After conducting a thorough assessment of the children, the AMK staff members felt their condition could be trained and placed them in the secondary group. Other children in this group had good communication skills. These children had a positive impact on Simranjeet and Saleem and their communication skills began improving slowly. Simultaneously, behaviour modification techniques were applied and the children were helped in developing daily life skills. The parents too were involved in the development of their children and were informed of the training methods applied at the school so that they may repeat the same at home.

After four and a half years of intensive work with the children, there has been a commendable improvement in them. They are able to talk in complete sentences. They are able to manage all their daily activities independently. There has been a marked improvement in their demeanour. They have been trained as office assistants for six months in AMK and were later shifted to local schools as a part of their training. Both Simranjeet and Saleem adapted very well to their new environment and they built a rapport with the teachers and students there and enjoyed their work. Seeing this as an opportunity for long-term gainful employment, ACF put in a word for them to the school headmasters. The headmasters were more than willing to take them on as full-time workers.

Simranjeet and Saleem are now independent young people who are making valuable contribution to their family incomes.

AIDS Can’t Get the Best of You

In the village of Bani, in Ropar, Punjab, Ramandeep Kaur* was married for just one year before her husband, a truck driver, died of AIDS. With no financial support or the support of her in-laws, 29 year old Kaur was helpless and went to live with her sister.

Since Ramandeep was at the risk of having contracted the disease, an ACF member counceled her and convinced her to take the HIV test at the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre at Rupnaga. Kaur tested positive for HIV. For her that was the end of her world.

ACF organized many counseling sessions to help her cope with her problem. The first step towards getting back her will to live was for her to get a job. Unfortunately she had no training or education and so getting employed was a problem. Luckily ACF was looking for a person to run a Drop-in Centre at Anandpur Sahib. Ramandeep was offered the job. She was trained well to become a peer educator before she was allowed to take on full responsibilities of the Centre.

Today Kaur isn’t the same woman who had once given up on life. Confident and independent, she manages the drop-in centre on her own and earns Rs. 1,500 per month. She is also involved in educating and motivating other women like her in the area.

* Names changed to maintain confidentiality


Charting a new path

Ashish's parents were at their wits end. No matter how much they tried, he could not do any of the things other children did routinely. His speech wasn't clear, making it difficult to communicate. He often displayed stubbornness and lacked social skills. He did not recognise alphabets or numbers, couldn't count money or read the time. Tired of working with him and heartbroken at finding no significant improvement, they enrolled him in Ambuja Manovikas Kendra in 2000. Ashish was ten years old then.

AMK was what Ashish had been waiting for. The teachers at AMK applied scientifically sound techniques while working on Ashish's behaviour and simultaneously worked on imparting functional education. He was in an environment that allowed him to be comfortable and safe, and yet push his limits in terms of learning new skills. His parents cooperated with the school teachers and gradually Ashish was able to do many of the things his parents thought he would never master. He could take care of himself, contribute to household chores, read the time, write his name and address and even operate a calculator! His disposition improved as did his speech and social skills. Ashish blossomed into a star all-rounder. He won several sports, painting and dance competitions in the state. Being selected as a probable for the Indian basketball team for the World Special Olympic Games 2011 to be held at Athens, Ashish is practicing hard and keeping his fingers crossed.

Ashish's progress was heartwarming, but AMK knew only social skills and functional education was not sufficient. For any special child to be reintegrated into mainstream society, it is imperative that he find some form of employment to support himself. With the help of a community member, Ashish set up a juice bar.AMK trained him in operating the machine to make the juice, handling money, dealing with customers etc. and supervised him intensively till he was independent and confident. With his juice bar, Ashish earned about Rs.3,000 per month- a substantial amount for someone who was completely dependent on others till some time back.
Ashish is overjoyed at his independence. He enjoys the status of an earning member in his family- a fact his parents are very proud of. His wish list includes buying a mobile phone for himself with the money he earns- a simple wish that he might not have been able to fulfil had he not been rehabilitated.


Confidence Through Co-operation

In Punjab, along the banks of River Sutlej, in a small village called Alampur, agriculture along with related activities were the main source of income for the villagers. Until, the women from the Arjun self-help group decided to try out an alternate means of livelihood!

Dairy business seemed like a good idea to them. The downside to this was the poor quality of cattle, milk producers being exploited by the middlemen, and lack of awareness on good animal husbandry practices.

In true Punjabi spirit, the women went ahead full throttle! And ACF supported them. So a dairy co-operative comprising over 20 members was formed in October of 2005. Some members purchased cattle through their own savings, and some through the loan of Rs. 1,00,000 that the group took from the bank.

Initially The Punjab Milk Federation wasn’t convinced enough to help market the venture to sell 75 - 80 liters of milk. That’s when ACF stepped in. Once the General Manager of the Milk Federation agreed to assist the group with their existing marketing network, they also provided the women with equipment worth Rs. 15,000. The tie-up benefited both sides, and the dairy co-operative is doing good business. This group of Punjabi women have now inspired more self help groups to start a similar initiative.

Didar makes a choice

Didar Singh, a small farmer from Alipur village, owned barely 5 acres of land. A graduate, Didar was quick to notice and understand the ill effects of inorganic farming. With ACF's help he made a small beginning by converting 1 acre of his land, organic. Didar began producing and using vermi-compost, vermi wash and Jiva Amrit. He also used the slurry from his bio gas plant as manure. To control plant diseases he sprayed neem based biopesticides, fermented lassi and vermin wash .Satisfied with the results from his first attempt at organic farming, Didar has recently extended organic farming to sugarcane cultivation.

Previously when Didar Singh cultivated sugarcane, he sold it at the sugar industry at Morinda. After turning to organic farming, he re-assessed the market and identified a vendor who was willing to buy his organic sugarcane. The vendor was in the business of sugarcane juice and the good quality sugarcane that Didar provided produced the sweetest sugarcane juice and was a big hit amongst his customers. The vendor was so happy with the quality of sugarcane Didar provided that he himself approached Didar to purchase sugarcane this year. He was so keen on buying the sugarcane that he willingly paid more than going marker rate. Didar was only to happy with his profit!

An enterprising farmer, Didar is using his sugarcane to dabble with jaggery- making these days. He wants to see how much difference jaggery would make to his income. He has set up a small unit for this purpose at home and now earns a double income- one by the sale of sugarcane and the other by the sale of jaggery.

Organic farming combined with processing the farm produce has worked wonders for Didar's family. Other farmers are beginning to look up to him as a role model. Didar is happy with the improvement in his income, but being the kind of innovative person he is, he is sure to think of ways to improve still further.


Free From Addiction

Substance abuse doesn’t just affect the abuser, it impacts their family too.

Baghar Singh, a daily wage labourer in Bhatinda in Punjab, had been using Pukhi (a local form of opium) for 5 years. Most of his meager earnings of Rs. 50 – Rs. 60 per day was spent to support his drug habit, leaving barely enough to feed his family. His family was in dire straits, until a Drive Against Substance Abuse by the ACF team showed them the way.

Baghar Singh was persuaded to enroll in the rehabilitation programme, which began with counseling and motivating sessions, progressed to detoxification accompanied by medication to control the physical effects of addiction, and continued with regular follow-ups and counseling to ensure he didn’t relapse.

Now free from active addiction, Baghar Singh is once again a productive member of his family. His wife, Charanjeet Kaur, couldn’t possibly be more delighted to have the old Baghar back.
Helping others to think POSITIVE

16 year old Khushwinder Singh lost his parents to AIDS at the tender age of 8. He was then looked after by his 70 year old maternal grandmother, along with his younger brother.

Khushwinder came in touch with ACF when he visited the behavioural change communication stall organized at Anandpur Sahib. Knowing that Khushwinder may be at risk, the team urged him to get tested at the drop-in centre at Anandpur Sahib. He was counselled and motivated till he was able to make up his mind and muster courage to visit the centre. The tests were a blow Khushwinder hoped he would never have to face. They indicated that Khushwinder was HIV positive. Taking into consideration his age and health status, he was advised to undertake the CD4 test and was thereafter started on ART.

Khushwinder responded well. His general health improved and he felt more energetic. His attendance at school improved. He also joined the ACF initiated network for HIV+, the first of its kind in the region.

Khushwinder is now a source of inspiration for others. He is a living example of how, with emotional and medical support, anyone can learn to THINK POSITIVE!

A cast-away strikes pure gold
Ramandeep Kaur, a mentally challenged child, came to the Ambuja Manovikas Kendra (AMK) a few years ago. Before joining AMK, Ramandeep was an unruly girl who didn’t respond to human contact. She spent her time roaming the streets, playing with stray dogs and sometimes begging. As is the case with most mentally challenged persons she was a virtual cast-away in the village. Her parents tried to get her admitted to many regular schools unsuccessfully, till they found AMK who willingly accepted her.

The four years spent at AMK transformed Ramandeep. With patient and consistent efforts Ramandeep learnt to look after herself and communicate with others. She picked up basic skills required for daily life such as stitching and cooking and became largely self reliant. With better control on her life and the ability to communicate with others, Ramandeep’s behavioural problems eased, much to the relief of her family and neighbours.

Showing a keen interest in sports, Ramadeep was groomed by the AMK staff in her field of interest and was given the opportunity to participate in various sports competitions. She participated in the Punjab State Olympics in 2012 and won three gold medals. Some years back no one would have ever imagined Ramandeep could achieve such prowess. Her parents are proud and AMK feels a sense of deep fulfillment.

Kicking the Habit

Dev Singh, from Punjab, was addicted to opium. His addiction had been taking the toll on his health, finances and family life. All the money he earned was spent in feeding this habit leading to a severe financial crisis for the family. His wife, Sukhpal Kaur, was constantly worried about her husband’s health and her family’s dismal situation.

ACF identified Dev Sigh for his de-addiction problem and seeing his own motivation to kick the habit and his family’s support, included him in the programme. He underwent a number of counselling and motivational sessions and subsequently underwent detoxification. Medical assistance was provided to him as per his requirements. When he was detoxified, he was monitored by ACF to prevent a relapse. Alongside, counselling sessions were organised for him to support him in getting used to his new lifestyle.

Today Dev is a free man and for once he is free from his addiction. He is happier, healthier and more productive. Naturally with such a drastic change in him, his family is happy as well.

Nobody’s Children

It’s sad when children want something they can’t have. Rani wanted to go to school, but she couldn’t. Although her parents also wanted to give this bright six-year old an education, there was no school in this area in Bathinda, Punjab. The nearest was three kilometers away, which was too far for the child to travel on a daily basis.

It was found that many children faced this problem, so ACF started non-formal education centers called Ambuja Gyan Deep Kendras. Children from marginalised groups, especially Scheduled Caste (SC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities are taken care of with this programme.

The children who are now studying at this non-formal education center have been receiving strong guidance from the dedicated teachers and have been showing good academic progress.
Sita Got Back Her Smile…

Panipuri is fun, isn’t it? Something to look forward to? Sita and her husband sold panipuri in a daily market in Ropar, in a village called Ghanauli, Punjab. And it wasn’t fun.

The couple lived on a tight string budget, and only managed to make enough to cover their daily expenses and restock for the panipuri business. Years went by like this. As if this wasn’t enough trouble, the small business was affected even more when their stall got completely destroyed.

You would think Sita and her husband would be completely distraught and loose all hope, but Sita knew exactly how to pull herself up. She had been part of an SHG for a while now and had been depositing Rs. 50 with them every month. She approached them and was given Rs. 1,000 as a loan. With this money she fixed her stall and the couple is back in panipuri business!
Strength in Numbers

In village Alampur in Ropar, Punjab, the women were motivated by ACF to form themselves into a self-help group. Led by a highly motivated Surinder Kaur, a group of thirteen women came forward to form one such group. The group made a small beginning by collecting Rs. 35 per month. After collecting money for a few months, the group members opened a bank account with the Punjab Gramin Bank and began inter-loaning. The women soon began realising how easily they could solve some of the common financial problems through the group.

The village had a large production of milk but it wasn’t marketed in an orderly fashion.  Villagers would generally have to sell their milk produce at minimal rates to customers. With the guidance of ACF, the SHG identified this gap in the market. The group members contacted Punjab MilkFed to establish a market linkage with them. However, because of the small volume of milk collected in the village their proposal was rejected. ACF intervened at this point and met with the authorities of MilkFed and convinced them to associate with the group, which we promised would expand its operations in due course of time. With the assistance of ACF, the group established a dairy called Alampur Ladies’ Milk Producer’s
Co-operative and took a loan of Rs. 1, 00,000 to purchase new buffaloes. Steadily the membership of the group increased to 30. With increasing numbers and better yields, the co-operative was able to collect 1.35 quintal of milk per day. The co-operative had better bargaining power as a group; it was able too sell milk at Rs. 18 per litre and the average monthly sale of the dairy was pegged at Rs. 72, 900. Punjab MilkFed was happy at seeing the progress of the group and awarded it Rs. 11,000 as a bonus.

The members of the co-operative have been able to pay back two loans that they took from the bank. They have recently taken another loan worth Rs. 50,000 to invest in agricultural activities and to construct a bio-gas plant.

The Alampur Ladies’ Milk Producer’s Co-operative has become a source of inspiration to women in other villages. These women have shown an inclination to form similar co-operatives and ACF is extending all the help it can to help them achieve their goal.

Woman Power at its Best

In Punjab, village Jattandee in Majri, Kuldeep Kaur, 14, was married to a man 18 years older. A few years after their marriage, her husband took heavily to alcohol, and later abandoned her and three children. Kuldeep was depressed and had no idea how she would pick her life up.

Then a freak meeting with an ACF member gave her that ray of hope she was looking for. She decided to turn her life around for herself and her children. With some money she had been saving she set up a small shop in her house. She also joined an SHG. She made a monthly saving of Rs. 25 to the SHG and earned a bank loan of Rs. 10,000 which she used for her shop.

Kuldeep venture started doing increasingly well and now the middle aged woman is a role model for many. She was recently nominated the ‘Aarogya Didi’ by her villagers and is now receiving training to take on her new role as their Village Health Functionary.

She actively encourages other women to join an SHG because she strongly feels that her association with the group has changed her life completely.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

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