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Thought and Reason

From London to Uttarakhand – Journey of a Social Entrepreneur

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Empower her, help her taste Independence!

Ever imagine giving up city life (in the heart of London!) and relocating to an isolated village deep in the hills, where even electricity and roads are a luxury? Not many people can do it. I certainly couldn’t! But one particular woman – Saritha Thomas – has made this arduous journey from London to Uttarakhand, with the sole intent of achieving independence and empowerment of rural communities! Who is this gutsy Social Entrepreneur, and what does she do? Read on to find out.

The beautiful community

Community Radio – a quick background

Radio was a part of my childhood (and perhaps yours too?) I remember our family tuning into radio every day, even during rushed school mornings. One niche area of radio is ‘Community Radio’ – radio fully owned and managed by the local community that it serves. In cities, Community Radio (CR) might not be popular, however in villages, CR assumes great significance. Villages and less empowered areas in India and across the world obviously do not have access to the mind-boggling medium that we call the Internet. Mobile networks are more prevalent in India, even in rural areas. This is where Community Radio stations can come handy. Villagers can create programs that address issues that directly impact them, not just entertain but also educate and thereby empower.

But where do they go to build their own radio station? Radio stations cost money, licensing procedure and other long-winded formalities. But once a Community Radio station is set up and is fully operational, the benefits to the community are both immediate and enormous!

Achieving Independence at the Grassroots level 66 years later!

This is what Saritha Thomas, Founder/Director of People’s Power Collective is trying to achieve through her NGO. With a fantastic background of 13 years in Radio (including the BBC), Saritha gave up her regular industry job, undertook a program at the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) in London and subsequently founded People’s Power (Participatory Ownership Empowerment) Collective, a charity that works towards setting up a community owned radio station from scratch. Saritha’s aim is three-fold:

  • Stay on the field (Uttarakhand being her first project) with her team, undertake extensive ground-work in order to set up the radio station from scratch (including licensing, etc)
  • Train the local community in technical and functional aspects of running the radio station, including how to record and air programs, thereby helping them achieve true Independence
  • Empower the community by helping them find their voice!
Disappearing roads!

Saritha and team were infact on the field in Prithviraj Nagar, during the recent Uttarakhand disaster caused by unprecedented rains in June 2013. They were in the process of research and recording programs when rains battered the villages and caused massive devastation. Team PPC stayed on the field, and supported the community battle nature’s fury. One can’t help but think, if the Community Radio station was already in place, the villagers could have perhaps been forewarned about the calamity that was about to strike them. Or atleast have continuous and accurate information about the extent of damage and accessibility of relief camps!

A special salute on Independence Day

While Saritha and team help the community at Uttarakhand build their lives again, I would like to take this opportunity to salute my friend, this strong woman who has indeed sacrificed so much, so she can achieve her dreams for empowerment of communities in rural India.

Being an entrepreneur is not for the light-hearted. Being a social entrepreneur is an even bigger challenge as personal gains or profits are not the driving force here. What keeps the spirit of People’s Power Collective alive is the passion and commitment towards the cause of Empowerment and Independence itself. One can easily see how passionate Saritha is about her selfless dream to build a Community Radio station. I have worked with her closely over the last year, and can vouch for a fact she is incredibly passionate about what she is doing in Uttarakhand.

Saritha Thomas with the local community that will ultimately benefit from their own community radio station

What started off as a little idea in Saritha’s mind, has now taken shape and is throbbing and pulsating in a rural village, waiting to unleash its power across the community in a way they never imagined would impact them.

To put it simply, as Saritha says, People’s Power Collective is ‘helping 150000 people find a voice’. This community radio station project will generate employment in the local villages and will help build technical skills and confidence of even the vast illiterate sections of the community. Having their own radio station would mean they connect with each other in a more structured and effective way.

To me, this voice of empowerment is the sign of real Independence.

So here’s a special salute to the woman behind this lesser known cause. Here’s to an highly talented and admirable Social Entrepreneur – Saritha Thomas. More power to you, Saritha (People’s Power Collective).

Written for the Indiblogeshwaris Ladies Independence Special Contest in association with http://womenentrepreneursinindia.com/

Categories
Thought and Reason

Please Give 40000 families a voice!

Hola People,

First, listen to this AWESOME trailer of ‘Mountain Echoes’

And now, I’ll come to the point!!

Villages/rural areas in India are hardly connected the way we are. There is no question of Internet/Google/Facebook. They live in a ‘media dark’ area.

One really strong medium of communication is RADIO. It changes the way people live. Local radio stations, in particular, address local needs, local information/entertainment/education/etc. and bring about social change in many ways.

Lots of rural communities are incredibly passionate about making Community Radio happen, but are strapped by funds and lack of technical know-how.

My college friend, Saritha Thomas – who has a strong background in Radio – has set up a NPO called People’s P.ow.er Collective, that will help rural/isolated communities build and run their own Community Radio station.

In 2013 they will be building a Community Radio station FROM SCRATCH in Uttarakhand.

We are fundraising for this project, and ANY contribution from you would be awesome!!!!

Even the littlest amount that you can spare would go a long way. You will be helping 150000 people find a ‘voice’ that would influence their lives in a great way.

So please, please do contribute. Even the tiniest amount would do.

To donate from India: visit our page on Wishberry
To donate from UK/other countries: visit our page on Buzzbnk
And please, help spread the word. If you are a blogger and are reading this, then would you consider helping by adding a Widget in your blog?
Thank you SO much, folks!!!