When I arrive in the late morning and see all the people in front of the new anganwadi (kindergarten), the drumming boys welcoming everyone with an exciting sound and rhythm and the parents and children who are dressed up in the best way for the day, the local government representatives, the constructor, the kindergarten teacher and a woman who leads the regional teacher organisation, I’m simply overwhelmed.
We all have gathered to inaugurate the new kindergarten building and to hand it over: To the village, to the regional government … and to the village children and the parents who since years haven’t had a proper place with a basic hygiene standard.
The tribal people have put one of these nice function textile roofs in front of the new building so that we can sit in the shadow. They have decorated all with coulored balloons and flowers – inside and outside the anganwadi. Some of the village people even sit on the stairs around. The village is built on a hill.
The kindergarten area comprises – including the space outside – ca. 80 qm. Ca. twenty children will come here soon on a regular basis…
Today, even the surroundings of the village seem to be nice. It looked very desolated the past times when I passed by. Maybe that’s due to the many balloons, colorful dresses and music… We are in middle of a very poor tribal village in Kerala, close to the border of Tamil Nadu. A “forgotten” village like many others here in the surroundings: one to two rooms habitations, with broken roofs, no sanitation facilities, fireplaces that make the smoke enter in every part of the house, broken steep stairs, waste, pathways only with stones, holes, gaps leading from one house to each other. Goats and chicken running around, a few coconut trees, no real comfort.
Today it is a special day. I’m simply happy – together with all of them. When they ask me to say a few words on the kindergarten inauguration and to uncover the memory board at the entrance, I feel a bit ashamed. Because in all of that I have not done that much. The honor shouldn’t be mine, but of the local people and NGO managers who have identified the huge need in that village; they have planned, contracted, aligned and monitored, helped with everything, even brought the plants for a small backyard to create a green area for the children. Without them I wouldn’t have achieved anything…
It is fascinating: The local rituals, enlightening candles, listening to the speakers, (unfortunately, I could more observe than understand), all the flowers, the visitor book registration, the people looking at me with smiles in the faces….
I work for a huge international company, headquartered in Germany and run a huge social program, called Making More Health. I’m proud of this initiative. It is a great one and there is so much potential in it, far beyond the traditional sponsoring only. It is about listening and learning: I have spent four months now onsite. Going to the villages nearly every day, talking to the Self-help groups, the Panchajat, NGOs of all kind, universities and participating in health awareness programs, talks to tribal doctors and joining a mobile clinic.
I have learnt a lot, mostly from the tribals themselves. And from the NGO people onsite who has trusted in me and our program. They asked me to join them, every day, in all their activities.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) 2.0 and work across the borders
Real change? It is all about relationships, trust and innovative thinking. We have to think big, we have to start small, we have to start now … and most of all we have to collaborate across the sectors, better starting today than tomorrow. This is my personal conclusion out of this experience: If we want a better world we have to think “across the borders” , find NGOs that are open for innovation and trust, from Corporate perspective to be open to learn and to be fair partners. We have to forget about the “two different worlds”, the artificial separation between business and social, between money and care. We can make a lot more . Together. Also in terms of more health. To create sustainable market places for those in need.
Social responsibility? It is all about them, those in need. Not us, not our organisations, standards, traditions, artificial separation among doing business and the social “do good world”.
By the way, did you know?
An anganwadi in India is not just a kindergarten, but also a basic “healthcare center”, especially in tribal areas. Here the children get checked on a regular basis, especially in terms of malnourishment the anganwadi teacher helps to fill forms and to order supplementary food. She knows in which families are the biggest needs, offers help to parents, pregnant women and youth. Often she runs basic health awareness and education programs and is the first point of contact if someone in the families feel ill. Immunization campaigns for children and village people are offered on a regular basis. There are always a few tribal family members who support the anganwadi teacher on a daily basis – cooking the meals, cleaning, caring …
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