Building Bridges Out of Poverty
Looking back at 2011, I am struck by all that Upaya has been able to build since our early summer launch. In that time, we’ve built a strong pipeline of potential partners with great ideas and amazing passion for helping the ultra poor. We’ve built a stellar team in India and the US that will fuel those partners’ successes. We’ve built an online presence that empowers individuals to support entrepreneurs they believe in. And we’ve built a base of financial and intellectual support that will be the bedrock of everything we do from this day forward.
But that level of awe paled in comparison to what happened on my most recent visit to India. Having kicked off our partnership with Samridhi Agri-Products to develop scalable dairy operations in Uttar Pradesh, the Upaya team accompanied Samridhi founder Lokesh Singh to meet the company’s first set of prospective employees.
There, in Dev Kalia and Godha villages, I saw first-hand how these women were cobbling together odd jobs to make ends meet. I heard stories of how they struggled to provide even two small meals each day to their children. I listened as they explained how some children are unable to attend school because they have to work, and how rarely their families received basic medical attention. Most difficult of all, I stood in houses made of mud and thatch and spoke with families who knew that heavy rains could wash away what little bit they own at any moment.
But it wasn’t their struggle with extreme poverty that really moved me. Instead, it was the hope and enthusiasm in the women’s eyes as they talked about what a stable income from a job with Samridhi would mean for them. Suman spoke of children with full stomachs at bedtime. Shyama talked about building a cement house that could provide reliable shelter. Meera told me of her dream for her children to complete school and have an office job when they grew up. These three women, along with the 43 others who have been hired since that visit, were genuinely excited to have a real bridge out of extreme poverty and a chance at a bright future for the first time in their lives.
For all that we have accomplished this year and all we will do in 2012, that bridge is the most important thing the Upaya team can ever build.
With warm holiday wishes to you and yours,
Upaya Social Ventures
With every LiftUP Project
partnership, Upaya is posting updates in each donor’s Giving Portfolio
on the progress of our partner's employees and what steady income means for their families.
For the dairy initiative, we have posted the initial baseline statistics for the first 46 women employed by Samridhi. This report captures current statistics on daily income, quality of housing, level of food security, value of household assets, and the number of children enrolled in school.
However, we know it is also important to know the people behind the numbers, so with each newsletter we will profile a woman who has been given her first job opportunity through one of Upaya’s partners. This quarter we’re profiling Suman, Samridhi's first employee.
Until recently, Suman and her husband Uday worked when they could as wage laborers on construction sites. In a good month, their household income averages 1,000 rupees, which translates to about $.75 a day. They and their four children - Deepu, Ajay, Pooja, and Aarti (pictured) - live in the Godha village in a home made of mud walls and a thatch roof
. Three of their four children - Deepu, Ajay, and Pooja – are enrolled in school, however, Deepu often skips school to work with his parents doing manual labor. Beyond the pots and utensils
Suman uses for cooking, the family owns very little, although they do have a second-hand bicycle that Suman and Uday use to travel to work sites.
The family usually eats two meals a day consisting mostly of starch-heavy rice, roti (bread), and potatoes. Occasionally Suman can afford to buy a few vegetables, but almost never has enough to buy chicken. They cannot afford formal medical care, but each month they make multiple trips to an unlicensed practitioner in the area. Suman talks of frequent fevers and coughs, and estimates spending an average of 500 rupees ($10) a month on healthcare.
Working as a dairymaid will be Suman’s first formal job and the household’s first salaried position. Her salary will start at 92 rupees (close to $2) per day.