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Sunday, September 9, 2012

India is not so far away

It's been an eventful month, being gainfully employed again and keeping in touch with just about everyone in India. Dolma, Fleur and Anne and I maintain running dialogues; the guys at BuDan are doing well and Mahendra and Kapil and the LBWF are now getting funding. It's this last that I want to address a bit here.

I think I've written this before, but the business model that Mahendra and Kapil are implementing is one that should serve as a template for the rest of non-profits in India. Maintaining relationships with your donors is possibly the most important part of keeping a non-profit/NGO healthy. Naturally, growing new donor relationships is also necessary, but you have to build and maintain interest in your donor base to really achieve some measure of accomplishment.

I believe that what Leigh and I saw in Mahendra and Kapil is worth nurturing and supporting. This is why I write about it. But here's the additional icing on the cake; if the LBWF can thrive and grow in Bihar, there's every chance that this might prove to be a template for other groups, and possibly foster a stronger sense of community activism both in the state and the rest of the country over a longer period of time.

The principle thrust of the Lord Buddha Welfare Foundation (seriously, this is not a religious organization) is educational. I'll share an update from an email I received from Mahendra a month or so ago:

Last week there was held meeting of parents and teachers in the school in Choraha.

In which we discuss about education, provlems of students. we requested to them to send their children regular in the school. Particularly they get work in the agricultural season. We talk about cleanliness. Some children come school in dirty cloths and without bath

We appeal them to send in clean clothes. We also decide to build fence around the school so we need funding for it. After school teaching period children who live near the school building they play here and make it dirty as well they have broken little bit surface of the bramdah. We have appealed to the people to look after the school building.

Teaching is going very well in the school. It is the raining season here.

At present, we have only about Rs 3300 per month from Finland with which we are paying to the teachers and teaching materials. Teachers are not satisfied with the salary which we are paying.

We need Rs 3000 per teacher per month. We have two teachers. We need a hand pumpand toilet in the school. We need first aid box and one white board.

The computer class is running here but here are problems of electricity so we are not able to keep it regular. We had bought the Inverter in March but it is very helpful; for this we need a generator.

We got funding from Shindo association for the teacher salary and maintainanance for the computer class for 2012-13.There are 18 students are studying computer.

For FCRA we are arranging documents,such as audited report of last three years.We want also make good infra structure because after applying for FCRA officers will come to see the school and then they report to the home ministry Delhi so we want make all needy document which will see the officer.As soon as we will complete it I will inform you.

How we are using money which we get from Finland for Choraha school

Total exp./month

Teacher salary

2 (teachers) 1500 Rs each: Rs 3,000

Markers,brooms,etc: Rs 150

internet: Rs 150

Total Rs 3,300

Our needs estimate


Hand pump (1): Rs12000

toilets (2): Rs 25000

fence: Rs 60,000

Total: Rs 97,000

To put this in perspective, 3,300 rupees is approximately $60 US and 97,000 rupees is about $1560 US.

I think that with a little regular support, the LBWF can do more. At issue, is the FCRA which needs to happen, so that funds can be deposited directly into their bank account. As anyone who has spent time in India knows, this is far more easily said than done. That said, I have wired funds to Kapil, the foundation's secretary; however, knowing how business is done in Bodhgaya, I'm hesitant to wire more than a hundred dollars US. Even that seems like tempting fate. Nevertheless, with even a smallish donor base, I think the foundation can do more than tread water.

Obviously, they're very much connected to the community and this is also key. If the Choraha school is any indication, the villagers want better lives for their kids. I think the Gandhian view of the village as the ideal model for national community in India was sound for the time, but since independence, it's grown obvious that the villages are failing by neglect from that larger national community. Consequently, non-profits and NGOs like the LBWF take up the slack absent government support or other community support.

Additionally, since there is no buy-in or incentives from the governments - either national or local (that I know of) - it's left to members of the international community to support development in India and countries like her. One of the issues that plagues India is the idea that if someone else is willing to help, then the sense of necessity of supporting from within the community is reduced; this is not to say that international aid should be withdrawn, ever. However, it's integral to the survival and growth of a community on whatever scale to support education and educational reform. At some point, it may become obvious to the leaders in the business and government sectors of Bihar and the other states, to invest more in local educational and civic development. This would be enlightened self-interest at a major level and could initiate a new trend in communal growth in areas that need it most.

When I spoke to younger kids in Bodhgaya, Gaya, Varanasi, Patna and elsewhere, I was struck by their concern for Bihar, particularly. But I was also impressed by how they perceived what needed to change at a national level, as well. These are young people who may well leave the area because they are not afforded lives of advancement in their region and that would be the costliest divestment for Bihar. Conversely, if the business leaders and pols in the state were to actively support young people in pursuing education and utilizing that passion for their state and country, things may change radically.

I'm heartened by reports of more sophisticated waste management and environmental initiatives in the state, but one wonders how much of this is real and how much is wishful thinking.

Once again, if anyone is interested in supporting LBWF or just meeting a couple of great people, feel free to contact Mahendra Kumar at He's the director of the LBWF and his personal story of how and why he started it is worth hearing directly from him. In fact, I may ask him and Kapil to contribute their stories to this blog; they're both worthwhile. Kapil Kumar is the secretary and can be reached via Both are young people who have taken the decidedly difficult step of pouring their efforts back into their community when both could be doing other things. But this is what makes community activism in all its formw worth supporting; if we leave it to the other guy, it may not get done. If the other guy steps up to the plate, then we have an example (and an obligation) to follow suit.

Photo by Leigh Kumar


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