03 Jan

2016 at a glance

2016 has been a fun year at Seva Setu. We eagerly look forward to 2017 to bring about changes on ground, Seva Setu style 🙂

Looking back, 2016 was a year of consolidation and introspection at Seva Setu. We were not focused on expanding our services and scaling our operations in different regions. Instead, we were keen on strengthening and streamlining our internal processes. We focused on ensuring the data we collected on the field was rigorously maintained and indexed. We also identified and integrated technology in programs where we thought it would greatly help scaling them. Doing so has prepared us to aggressively expand our portfolio of services in 2017 as well as replicating them across geographies. We want to strongly establish our brand presence as well on the field in addition to having polished operations. 2017 is also the year Seva Setu turns three. With this, we now want to be formally involved with local governments in executing various projects in our areas of expertise. 2016 has thus been a year of preparation for the high amount of activity we hope to see in 2017!


We highlight here some of our posts from the year before –

  • Citizen care: We worked primarily on three pension schemes – for the disabled, for senior citizens and for widows. The second half of the year saw our focus shift towards the disabled, and covering three districts in parallel. We learned a good deal about the processes and challenges in ensuring people received their benefits from the government. [Our opinion piece]
  • Mother care: After seeing a lull at the beginning of this year, 2016 saw a swanky-revival of its Each one, Reach one program. We got good coverage from the press and got on board urban mothers from varying professions and backgrounds to befriend peers from rural Bihar! We now have a fully automated tool to schedule and manage phone calls. We have begun receiving feedback from urban mothers and are resolving escalations raised by them. [Web-based software] [Press article]
  • Child care: 2016 saw a tough year for our Child care program. We fought tooth and nail in ensuring that the NRC in Patna, which was shut down without notice, was reopened in two months’ time. We also faced resistance from families in Patna in going to the centers. On a positive note, most families in Vaishali obliged and realized its significance. Our opinion piece of issues in the current setup also got press coverage. [Related post] [Press coverage]
  • IT training: We completed four batches of skill training this year. We were pleased to see the warm response we got from the people of Vaishali in participating in this program. Basic computer literacy as a skill has high returns in our growing knowledge economy. We want to see how we can get those we train employed in local markets. [Related post]
  • Audits of public services: We also spent time on auditing existing facilities and liaisoning with the government to rectify issues we had spotted in them. We audited Anganwadi centers – to ensure basic facilities like weighing machines, growth charts etc. were available at the centers; and health centers – health subcenters in villages and block-level primary health centers. The audits of Anganwadi centers led to several fruitful meetings with the CDPOs and the health center audits led to action being taken after we filed complaints with Bihar’s Lokshikayat center. [Health center report]
  • Sewing training and creating markets: We continue to operate sewing training centers in which get batches of 20-30 young women trained in sewing and related skills. Towards the end of 2016, we were able to liaise with local vendors in ensuring their produce got into the local markets. We are very optimistic about this program taking off full-steam, given the successful pilots we’ve seen thus far. [Related post]
  • Technology and processes:  2016 witnessed an emphasis on technology. By rigorously maintaining internal data stores and making our code-bases public, we restructured our operations to make it amenable to disciplined data collection and analyses. We are now on GitHub and have a dedicated community of 5-6 developers who are involved in designing and maintaining our software-related tools! [Each one, reach one software] [Our live stats from citizen care]

With this, we really look forward to 2017! We thank our team of field executives, employees, and volunteers who’ve worked shoulder to shoulder in getting us here. We think we’re better prepared in facing challenges that this space will throw at us and we’re optimistic that our experience in this domain thus far will help us be more efficient and impactful!

Hello 2017!

12 Dec

कोहरा भी सेवा सेतु केअपने काम के प्रति निष्ठा को प्रभावित नहीं करता!

सेवा सेतू ने अपने कार्य क्षेत्र का विस्तार कर नेपाल के सटे पश्चमी चंपारण जिले में भी काम शुरू कर दिया है| सबेयाँ,जोगिया और महुई पंचायत का सर्वे किया जा रहा है| जल्द ही इन पंचायतों के सभी विकलांग लोगों को चिन्हित कर उन्हें पेंशन और उपकरण दिलाने में मदद किया जायेगा| वृहस्पतिवार को सबेयाँ पंचायत के मुखिया शकील खां के साथ सयुंक्त अभियान चला कर 21 विकलांग लोगों को बेतिया रेड क्रॉस में चिकित्सक बोर्ड से जाँच कराया गया| सबेयाँ पंचायत में 41 विकलांग लोगों को चिन्हित किया गया है जिन्हें अभी कोई सरकारी सुविधा नहीं मिल रही है| गौरतलब है कि प्रखंड स्तर पर वर्ष में एक बार कैम्प लगा कर विकलांगता प्रमाण पत्र बनाया जाता है फिर भी सूचना के आभाव में कई लोग प्रमाण पत्र नहीं बनवा सके हैं|
जिला मुख्यालय रामनगर से 55 किलोमीटर दूर है| लोगों को वहां तक ले जाने में काफी परेशानी हो रही है| फिर भी आगामी 15 दिसंबर को जोगिया और महुई पंचायत से 33 लोगों को जाँच के लिए ले जाया जाएगा|


07 Dec

Seva Setu’s work for the differently able (Part III)

This is the third post in the series on disability. In this post, we have highlighted the ambiguity and stigma associated with mental illness.

Of all the disabilities we surveyed, mental illness is by far the most complex one. The problem begins with the reluctance of families in accepting the existence of this problem in their kith and kin. They think of it as a matter of shame for the family and hide the affected from society. As a result, identifying the mentally ill itself becomes a challenge. As per our survey, only 1 in 20 differently abled is mentally ill, which we believe is much less than the actual number of mentally ill people in these areas.

Unlike other disabilities, mental illness is not something which can be determined by the mere physical appearance of a person. One needs to be trained in human psychology to conclude if a person suffers from any mental illness. Although we have the Indian Disability Evaluation and Assessment Scale (IDEAS), a scale for measuring and quantifying disability and mental disorders, ambiguity remains. There’s no popular debate regarding this issue which is attracting the collective conscience of the masses.

A dialogue from the recently released “Dear Zindagi”, a movie which aptly highlighted the nuances of mental illness, sums up the stigma associated with mental disorders. Shahrukh Khan, who plays the role of a psychiatrist in the movie, quotes, “We openly talk about every physical problem, be it related to eyes, ear, throat, stomach, legs or any other part. However, when it comes to the brain, we behave as though we don’t consider it to be a part of our body.”

The most important prerequisite to addressing any problem is the very acceptance of that problem. The ignorant attitude towards mental illness has to be changed if we want any progress in this field. We are trying our level best to educate the villagers on mental illness and encourage them to discuss these issues openly.

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05 Dec

Seva Setu’s work for the differently able (Part II)

This is the second post of the series on disability that Seva Setu will publish this week.

Challenges are inevitable in any journey and social service is no exception. We face hurdles and obstacles on a daily basis. Again kudos to our field team who never let the continuity break regardless of the hurdles they face. One of our main challenges is to garner trust among the villagers. They are always skeptical of a possible hidden agenda when we reach out to them the first time. This is made worse by the fact that we don’t charge money for any of our services. This skepticism is reinforced by the fact that most of these villagers are already victims of charlatans who’ve posed as NGOs and have fleeced them of their money. As a consequence, instilling trust towards our organization and to make them believe that we are there for a specific, constructive purpose is not an easy task.

The second challenge we face is a lack of awareness among villagers. Sometimes they are even reluctant to acknowledge their own rights. They exhibit little or no interest in getting things done. They make excuses or avoid our calls when we try to reach out to them. We have to persuade them to cooperate in each step of the process to avail benefits. Their attitude is a killjoy for our field employees but at the end of the day, we remind ourselves that it is a lack of solid primary education causing this.

Another challenge we face is when we have to apply for a PH certificate of a person who is severely handicapped and is unable to move. Since the presence of the differently abled is mandatory while applying for a certificate, we find it very difficult to get them along to the center where these certificates are processed. Ideally, the government should arrange an ambulance for such people, which we believe is still a distant dream. In these cases, Seva Setu arranges a reserved auto-rickshaw for handicaps. With the assistance of our volunteers, they are carried to the center to apply for their certificates.

In spite of these challenges, we remain firm in our commitment to ensuring pension benefits to each and every differently abled we have surveyed or will survey in future.

In the next post of the series, we will be sharing the complexities and stigma associated with mental illness that we witnessed while working for the differently abled.

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