By Tracey Albert, LGT Impact Fellow for Aangan Trust, Mumbai, India
Aangan works in 15 hotspots across Mumbai, wherein the city’s drastic economic disparity is placing its vulnerable children at high risk of child labor, abuse, and trafficking. One of these communities is Mumbai’s Wadala community that has been impacted disproportionately by this pandemic. During the first week of my fellowship, in September 2019, I had the opportunity to visit this community to witness Aangan’s work. There I saw Jyoti, Aangan’s 17-year-old community volunteer; addressing a group of women and children.
As I observed Jyoti confidently facilitating the session, over the sound of the crane shovel, asking individuals about their dreams and urging them to think of pathways to achieve it, I was in absolute awe as I internalized the palpable result of Aangan’s commitment to making child protection everyone’s business.
And when Aangan says everyone, they mean everyone!
Aangan’s approach, which is focussed on shared responsibility and collective action, reflects in its work with the communities at large. Some great examples of how Aangan helped community residents transcend leadership to render support, are the quick responses to adverse situations faced by our communities in the current times.
As the world faced the pandemic, migrant, and daily wage workers across India were hit hard. To mitigate this, Aangan raised funds and worked closely with its community volunteers to identify the most vulnerable families and helped them buy food as well as basic supplies to last until the government relief supplies reached these families. And just as we were grappling with the effects of the pandemic, our communities in West Bengal faced an added challenge with Cyclone Amphan creating widespread devastation. Once again, Aangan rose to the occasion, raised funds, and leveraged its ties with the local residents to distribute immediate relief support to 500 families that lost their homes and were in desperate need of help. The blended approach of proactively prioritizing along with swift funding addressed the need of the hour.
Aangan’s efforts to help these communities by increasing participatory development made me realize the importance of leveraging existing resources for an effective and, arguably, more importantly, sustainable administration.
However, while these calamities and the need to address their effects have been widely acknowledged, Aangan has consciously chosen to tackle equally crippling yet often overlooked issues, such as an increase in cases of domestic violence as a by-product of the pandemic. Aangan does this by actively working with its community volunteers in spreading awareness about support forums, such as the helpline number for violence, as well as by promoting innovative ways of intervening in cases of violence in the communities. From using a code word for alerting others to dialing the right number for seeking immediate help, today women across communities that Aangan works in know how to seek and receive help when in dangerous situations.
Studying Aangan’s model has helped me comprehend how real-time impact can be achieved by increasing awareness and accountability at a hyperlocal level.
It has rightly quoted that there is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about and Aangan truly epitomized it for me.
I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity presented by the LGT Impact fellowship to be part of Aangan’s work. This helped me understand how building capacity at the sustainably grassroots level can not only increase the problem-solving ability of a community sustainably but also increase the accountability of the community towards addressing its challenges.
LGT Venture Philanthropy, the manager of the LGT Impact Fellowship, supports portfolio organizations like Aangan Trust during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing additional funding through an Emergency Funding Facility. Furthermore, LGT Venture Philanthropy actively collaborates with partners to coordinate emergency plans and is easing contractual obligations where necessary. Find out more about LGT Venture Philanthropy’s COVID-19 response here.