Through one of my close friends, I got to know a wonderful lady who makes a difference to the society she lives in. She was drawn to the plight of the underprivileged street kids and women of the society from a very early age. She is on a journey to educate and empower the children from the economically marginalized sections of the society.
In today’s materialistic world, very few people have the benevolence and desire to devote their life to the welfare of the deprived. It is my honor to get an opportunity to talk to Sarika Desai who aims to touch the lives of the underprivileged people of the society by working towards their well-being through her NGO, Sparsha.
Hi Sarika, Welcome to Femme Time.
What drew you to the field of social work, and why did you decide to pursue a degree in Social Work?
Hello Shilpa. While studying BHSc (Bachelor of Health Sciences), I specialized in child psychology & human development. During the internship, I worked with a home for the mentally challenged and with communities for adolescent girls. It was then that I realized that society considers the mentally challenged people as a stigma. Even their parents are not supportive. It is during those days that I thought about the need to start a linkage program with them and made a decision of foraying into the social work for them. That made me enroll for the degree, Master of Social Work (MSW). While studying for MSW I got the opportunity to work with NGO’s like Pratham and Prerna, where I used to counsel girls from the street communities to pursue education but due to their family conditions these girls used to drop out from their schools.
Tell me about Sparsha NGO you’ve been running. What’s the purpose of the organization, and what’s your role in it?
I started Sparsha in June 2000. Its registered office is in Vikhroli, Mumbai but we operate from our office in Sion, Mumbai. While working for the women from the brothels and the street children, I realized that it’s not the children, but their surroundings that make them vulnerable. There is really a big gap in family systems due to which the children are unprivileged. Keeping this in mind, I initiated the Sanskar Project. Its main aim is the holistic development of a child through parental support.
I am the founder director, currently working as a trustee of Sparsha looking after the entire requirement and functioning of the project.
Sparsha’s vision is to create an empowered future generation through education.
We have 400 children in our centers. Before our intervention these children used to work as child laborers, rag pickers, in domestic jobs, in small hawking zones, etc.
Under the Sparsha roof we enroll such kids and motivate them to continue their education. Also we teach their parents to take their responsibility in child rearing, guide them first to give their child a legal status, that is we empower them to get their Identities (ID proofs / Residential proofs), Child’s Birth certificate, etc.
After this, we help them through our program to understand their saving options and assist them in opening bank accounts to sustain their family. We help them to be financially literate by explaining to them the benefits of the short and long-term investment plans, like taking a policy for their child from Life Insurance Corporation of India to secure their future, etc.
Through SHGs (self help groups) we empower women to make some products & help them to get a market for the sale of the same. Women are thus able to fulfill the financial needs of their family and at the same time they are able to save some amount of money for their future.
What type of help do you expect from people around you to help you in your cause?
I feel the people around us are very resourceful. The only thing we need to work upon is to provide them a perfect channel to help or work for a cause.
There are a lot of professionals around and I think they can help these kids by utilizing their skills. Doctors can conduct medical check-ups; lawyers can help us with the children’s legal documentation work. Professionals can also help by being volunteers in our efforts. People who are unable to devote their time, can assist us by either contributing to an year long expense of the child, sponsor his/her education, or pay for books, stationary, library materials, toys etc.
What responsibility do we all have in empowering and building up the self-esteem of the kids you have been working for?
I think the least that we all can do is devote a little time, love & care for those who are not so privileged like us. A little understanding and motivation would go a long way in helping these children to define their destiny. Small efforts from each one of us can collectively make a huge difference to the society.
Where do you see yourself and Sparsha in 5 years?
In the next five years, I see Sparsha to be a well-known organization, through awareness measures, where people from all the sections of the society will come together and work towards creating an empowered future generation. Current students will be the role models for others in their community and they in turn will empower others through education.
We wish Sarika Desai the very best in all her future endeavors.
Thank you, Sarika. It was a pleasure talking to you.
To know more about Sarika Desai and Sparsha Charitable Trust, you can visit her website: www.sparshatrust.in and participate in her benevolent cause.
You can also connect with her on Facebook: @SparshaCharitableTrust