Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unnati, Bangalore

NGOs
Transforming a million lives

Unnati identifies unemployed, economically backward youth, trains them to become job-ready and places them in suitable jobs, all for free, writes Aruna Chandaraju



Confidence boost:  Unnati‚Äôs training has become a life-changing process for many youngsters. Photo by Aruna ChandarajuConfidence boost:  Unnati’s training has become a life-changing process for many youngsters. Photo by Aruna ChandarajuAt the sleek, new building of Unnati, three young men, Santosh Sarvanan, Umakant Arya and KM Madesha are sitting across the table and talking to us. All of them are from very disadvantaged families, who live below the poverty line. One is a high-school dropout, and the other two have barely managed to pass their high school and PUC respectively. Yet, all three are impressively self-assured, articulate young men who talk with confidence about themselves and their future.

All this is thanks to their job-oriented training at Unnati, the programme of SGBS Trust which locates unemployed, economically backward youth, trains them to become job-ready, and then places them in suitable jobs in good organisations. For three months, a person is given rigorous training in a chosen vocation. The course is intensive and lasts from 8 am to 6 pm on week days. Each person is also taught soft and life skills, values, spoken English and computer-skills.

Free training, educational material

All training and educational material are provided totally free of cost and what is more, these youth are also provided free meals and bus passes. At the end of the course, Unnati fulfills its promise of job-placement.

This training has also become a life-changing process for Anita Joy, a young widowed mother of two who was working as a domestic servant while struggling to support herself and her children. After hearing of Unnati she enrolled here for a guest-care training course. “I was cleaning utensils and washing clothes in various homes. Now, I am acquiring valuable skills and have Unnati’s wonderful guarantee of a decent job. This means that not only can I lead a better life but also do more for my children. I studied only up to the sixth class. But now I can give my children a good education,” she says.
The young Monica Sharma, who has passed her 12th class and is undergoing the same course, is also seeing the difference. “Once I become financially independent with the job they will give me, I will study BSc and then MSc.”

Youth who would have otherwise faced a bleak future, or worse, fallen prey to anti-social elements are now turning into productive members of their family and society thanks to Unnati’s intervention.

It is not about their individual upliftment alone. Now that they can look forward to a decent job and steady income.

These youngsters are excited that they can also raise their family’s standard of living. Some are also planning to study further once they are financially stable. Many students express happiness at the prospect of being able to educate their younger siblings too. “From being helpless ourselves, we can now look forward to helping ourselves and our family in so many ways,” said one youth. It is an impressive illustration of what the term ‘empowerment’ means.

“It is not only about getting a good income because of Unnati but also better health, education, social security, and a higher social status, in short it means an inclusive growth for the beneficiary and his family,” says Ramesh Swamy, Trustee, Unnati. “And this transformation of the lives of so many individuals translates, on a macro level, into social and economic transformation of the underprivileged sections of society. And when the youth who are the future of the country, are empowered, the country itself benefits,” he adds.

Unnati works to make unemployable youth employable through a variety of vocational training opportunities into which the youth are slotted given their inclination and aptitude. The vocations offered: retail sales, field sales, guest care in hotels and offices, BPO (data entry), industrial training, industrial painting, chauffeur/driver services and security services. The trustees are planning to add training in paramedics, computer-hardware management, and industrial carpentry /electrical/plumbing.

Initiative of SGBS Trust

This humanitarian programme, which began in 2003, is an initiative of SGBS Trust. This Trust which was founded in 1978 with a mission to serve different sections of society also has other programmes, Shiksha which focuses on primary education for the underprivileged and Utsav which promotes art and culture especially through a well-known annual festival during August-September.

There are about 100 students in the current batch at Bangalore. To date, about 1,300 have benefitted from Unnati. They have been placed in many top-notch organisations. To be eligible to join Unnati, a person must be at least 18 years of age and belong to an economically backward family. Though many of the participants have done their schooling up to some level, a person is accepted even if he/she has never been to school if he/she is truly in need of help. Unnati also trains train physically challenged youth and slow learners.

The facilities at this centre include eight training rooms, two computer rooms, and an air-conditioned auditorium with a capacity of 500. Besides, there is a dining room and a large kitchen. There is also a hostel for outstation students. Unnati’s goal is to empower one million youth by 2020. “We are also looking at establishing 300 centres across India in association with like-minded NGOs, organisations and individuals,” explains Ramesh Swamy. “We are ready to partner with anyone willing and capable. Two more centres are already functioning, one at Sirsi in Karnataka and the other at Pune.” The number of one million is a practical target, we are told, as the Unnati model is replicable and cost-effective and thus can be easily applied in other regions or locations across the country.