Millennium Post (Kolkata)

From margins to mainstream

Under the able leadership of Ambadas Chavan, Caring Hands—a voluntary organisati­on—is introducin­g positive changes in the lives of marginalis­ed communitie­s in Pune and Ahmednagar districts

- ANIL SWARUP Views expressed are personal

Caring Hands, a Pune-based voluntary organisati­on, is making significan­t strides in transformi­ng the lives of neglected communitie­s. This transforma­tive journey is embodied by Caring Hands, a voluntary organisati­on led by the indomitabl­e spirit of Ambadas Chavan and a group of dedicated friends. Their mission goes beyond the convention­al, reaching out to communitie­s like Fase Pardhi, Bhilla, Dombari, Kaikadi, Ghisadi, Dhangar, Vaidu, Katkari, Thakar, among others, spread across Ahmednagar and Pune districts.

The backdrop of their interventi­on reveals the harsh realities faced by these communitie­s. Often labelled as ‘born criminals’, they grapple with challenges that stem from historical prejudices. Ambadas Chavan sheds light on their initiation into this noble cause, focusing particular­ly on the Bhilla and Pardi communitie­s. The journey commenced in 2015, and over the years, they have extended their outreach to more than 350 children throughout Ahmednagar, venturing recently into Thane.

One cornerston­e of Caring Hands’ efforts is the establishm­ent of a rehabilita­tion centre, providing a haven for 82 children. Here, they receive not only shelter but access to essential provisions such as food, education, health services, and a nurturing environmen­t that emphasises civilisati­on and education. In parallel, the organisati­on runs a short stay home for distressed women, offering counsellin­g and reuniting them with their families whenever possible. An old-age home for uncared elderly, currently hosting over 12 individual­s, is in place, with plans for a larger facility underway.

The organisati­on’s commitment extends to the realm of education, as they recently obtained permission from the education department to

launch a school up to the 10th grade. With a hostel facility for 400 children sprawling across 6 acres of land, Caring Hands envisions a holistic educationa­l experience for the underprivi­leged. Their footprint has now expanded to Mumbai, specifical­ly Mira Bahindar, where they provide refuge to children who have left orphanages and have nowhere else to turn.

Ambadas Chavan narrates his personal evolution, a journey that led him from an average farmer family to the heart of communitie­s in need. His commitment intensifie­d after joining an organisati­on in Ahmednagar post his 11th grade. Engaging in rescue operations, notably in red light areas across various cities, Chavan faced threats, challenges, and even exposed a sex scandal in 2006. The fight for justice, with the support of figures like Anna Hazare, marked a turning point, leading to significan­t conviction­s.

His educationa­l journey,

spanning BA in English, LLB, and MSW, unfolded simultaneo­usly with his relentless dedication to social causes. Internatio­nal exposure in Israel highlighte­d the stark contrast in tackling minorrelat­ed issues. A subsequent connection with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences further enriched his understand­ing and capabiliti­es. The journey ultimately led him back to his roots in Ahmednagar, where he envisioned creating a positive impact.

Caring Hands’ grassroots initiative­s are highlighte­d by their Samskar Kendra, focusing on vulnerable children. Recognisin­g that adults were resistant, the organisati­on redirected its efforts towards children, establishi­ng a doorstep school. The challenges were multifold, from unhygienic conditions to societal reluctance, but Caring Hands persevered. With the support of organisati­ons like Doorstep School, they expanded to 10 schools in remote areas, benefiting over 350 children.

Financial constraint­s posed hurdles, prompting a shift to Pune, where Caring Hands engaged with the children of constructi­on labourers and initiated an old-age home. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic posed severe challenges, leading to the closure of certain operations. However, the organisati­on’s resilience prevailed as they secured land in Talegaon, where they recommence­d their efforts. What was once a dire situation transforme­d into a thriving haven, providing solace and support to those in need.

As Ambadas Chavan reflects on the past three years, he acknowledg­es the collective effort of the community. The organisati­on’s impact extends beyond immediate relief, as they plan to accommodat­e more than 1,500 children in the next two years. Future projects include venturing into remote areas of Mawar, establishi­ng resource centres for youth, and supporting tribal women with initiative­s like sewing machines donated by philanthro­pists like Kailash.

Despite these accomplish­ments, challenges persist. The bureaucrat­ic machinery often impedes swift action, and the lack of documentat­ion for marginalis­ed communitie­s hampers their access to government schemes. Caring Hands actively engages with authoritie­s, advocating for policy changes and recognitio­n that goes beyond grassroots efforts.

In a recent interactio­n at a Seminar organised by the Pune Chapter of Nexus of Good Foundation, Ambadas Chavan shared his vision for the next decade. He envisions Caring Hands not just as a grassroots organisati­on but as a policy influencer. Their focus extends beyond addressing issues to creating systemic change, particular­ly in policies related to migration. By advocating for the rights of migrants and ensuring their access to education and health facilities, Caring Hands aims to carve a lasting impact on society.

As Caring Hands continues its journey, the organisati­on seeks recognitio­n not just for its immediate interventi­ons but as a catalyst for broader policy shifts. The narrative of their work transcends the convention­al boundaries of charity, evolving into a movement that envisions a society where every individual, regardless of their background, has an opportunit­y for a better life. The title “Transformi­ng Lives: The Journey of Caring Hands in Empowering Neglected Communitie­s” encapsulat­es the essence of their story – a story of resilience, compassion, and the unwavering commitment to create a more equitable world.

Caring Hands presents a wonderful example of Nexus of Good. Ambadas Chavan has created a model that can be replicated and scaled through public-private partnershi­p.

The vision of Caring Hands is not limited to being a grassroots organisati­on, but to act as a policy influencer

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 ?? IMAGE COURTESY: CARING HANDS ?? Caring Hands has extended its outreach to more than 350 children throughout Ahmednagar, venturing recently into Thane
IMAGE COURTESY: CARING HANDS Caring Hands has extended its outreach to more than 350 children throughout Ahmednagar, venturing recently into Thane

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