The students of the department of MA.HRM – Madras School of Social Work are involved in a number of community building activities that help in the upliftment of the disadvantaged sections of the society. They function under the banner of SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise).
Now, a brief about MSSW SIFE and the current year’s projects.
SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) is an international network of student, academic and business leaders who have made a commitment to create a better world with better leaders—individuals who have the ability and are willing to put forth the effort to make a meaningful contribution to their communities, and are working together to improve the lives of others.
Economic empowerment through sustainable entrepreneurship and community empowerment has always been the cornerstone of the Students In Free Enterprise movement or SIFE. The SIFE Team at the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) is comprised of a group of highly passionate and self motivated individuals who BELIEVE –
· Believe in the intrinsic and abundant potential of every individual
· Believe in the enduring power and spirit of entrepreneurship
· Believe that they can make a difference to the society
The MSSW SIFE team takes up novel projects every year to effect holistic and sustainable economic change that would eventually lead to social empowerment, by adopting a select community and imparting entrepreneurial skills to them. This is done with the conviction that the change brought about by these projects would make a difference to the lives of people beyond the community involved. And most often than not, the community at large is indeed benefited by SIFE projects.
In the year 2008 – 2009 the MSSW SIFE Team had taken up two key projects, each of which had a special focus in addition to adhering to the criteria laid down by SIFE International. The projects satisfy all the 7 criterion of SIFE, including the latest addition of Environmental Sustainability.
Literally translated, the word Sirugagal means “Wings” in Tamil. And true to its name, this project was aimed at giving wings to the lives of certain very special children. MSSW SIFE identified Sri Arunodayam, a home for mentally challenged children in Chennai. The aim was to make the children proficient in a particular skill so as to make them self reliant. Team MSSW SIFE hit upon the idea to impart craft skills to these children. The Team concentrated mainly on enabling the children to make products such as artificial jewellery, candles, greeting cards, artificial flowers and the like. The materials used to make the products were eco-friendly, recycled products. The demand in the market for such products is high, making it a viable business option for the Home. The returns have been attractive and they hope to sustain the Home through this effort.
In addition to the monetary benefits such a project has given flight to creativity of the children and also instilled in them a feeling of great self worth.
This project empowers the community of the Mentally Challenged.
Suyam in Tamil means the Self. In the context of this project of Team SIFE, it implies the self empowerment of the beneficiaries involved. Through this ongoing project, The SIFE Team is helping the poor and landless farmers of Anandhapuram Slum (Tambaram, Chennai) gain sustainable income through the cultivation of medicinal herbs. These herbs such as Vinca rosea are those that can treat numerous life-threatening diseases. There is a huge demand for such medicinal herbs in alternative medicine and the SIFE team has thought of this as a viable and a sustainable business opportunity. The simplicity of the techniques involved as well as its cost effectiveness of the project have made it very attractive to these farmers. Project Suyam has given these individuals a hope for a better life.
The project empowers the community of landless farmers in Tambaram.
Project with the Gypsy Community
The gypsy community for Kotturpuram has over 100 families out of which over 40 households are involved in making and selling artificial and beaded jewellery. During the pilot visits conducted by the students earlier in March, it was found that they were devoid of various opportunities and their economic status was not improving. Their daily incomes are not sufficient to get them through each day.
The solution that the team of students arrived at was to be instrumental in improving their business skills and helping them gather respect in the society by making their place of business look attractive. In order to promote Business Ethics and Marketing skills among the community, a small gathering was organized on Saturday, 28th March at their settlement. The meeting was well attended by over 50 people and the students interacted with the community on what their needs are and how they can make their businesses flourish keeping in mind a few basic aspects such as cleanliness, amiable customer interaction, fixing right prices and packing of the articles. Students identified 6 deserving members from the group and gave them several useful products such as bamboo chairs, mats, bags, dusting cloth, broomstick and paper covers.
The SIFE team catches up with them at regular intervals at places such as Gandhi Mandapam, outside Kapaleeshwarar temple and Besant Nagar to make sure that they are using the products and that it brings a great deal of benefit for them.
The project benefits the gypsy community by helping them improve on business ethics and marketing skills.