Iswar Sankalpa, based in Kolkata, West Bengal, is a not for profit organisation that aims to ensure the dignity and holistic well being of persons with mental health problems, particularly those living in abject poverty and hailing from underprivileged background. We strive to support homeless men and women with mental illness to make a journey towards independent living. Rendered homeless due to the mental illness, these men and women suffer abuse, violence, stigma and exclusion. Our women and men shelters helps provide safe space for the recovery of these persons. Further, the functional literacy programme plays a key role in this process.
Iswar Sankalpa received the HUDCO Award for ‘Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment 2014-15’ for its shelter programme. It also received the State Award for 'Excellent Institution working for Empowerment of Persons with Psychosocial Disability 2016' for its overall work.
ABOUT FUNCTIONAL LITERACY PROGRAM
Our Functional Literacy Programme is powered by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) - It is an adult literacy programme which has been adapted by Iswar Sankalpa for functional literacy of persons with psycho-social disability. We at Iswar Sankalpa believe that every individual has a potential to contribute to the society, and we act as the catalyst to help these persons regain their functionality and dignity. Education plays an important part in this process.
One, it teaches the homeless women and men with psychosocial disabilities who we work with, basic reading, writing and mathematical skills. This aids in getting access to jobs in the future.
Additionally, it teaches them skills for carrying out activities of daily living - handling money, learning concept of time, understanding how to use public transport and managing bank formalities and so on.
This programme focuses on preparing people to engage in work and assists them in adjusting in the mainstream – by looking into teaching or revising concepts of money handling, travelling, seeing time, knowing the day and month, being aware of the context in which they live, understanding ways of dressing and interacting at a work place. In addition to that, the team uses various methods of fun, and games, art, dance, music, play and interaction to make the teaching interesting, enabling the men and women to grasp concepts better.
The clients also prepare to appear for the adult literacy examination through the National Institute of Open Schooling. 14 Women have given the exam in a 1.5 year period.
Inspiring Stories of Change
1. Shyamoli's Story
When Team Iswar Sankalpa met Shyamoli, she wouldn't say a word and keep to herself. Slowly, with regular interaction she started responding and sharing her life story. She told us that she has a B.Sc degree and had most likely forgotten everything due to the illness.
She then became part of the functional literacy programme. In the course of only a few classes, she turned around. She was not only good, but exceptional. Soon she started monitoring the class and motivated other students in the class. "Study hard, study well, it is important for others to know that you're not illiterate, because if they do, they will exploit you", she would say.
Now, she is a teacher at Kailash Vidyamandir, teaching physical science to classes IX and X , maths to classes V-VIII.
2. Jharna's Story
A self help group called Moushami was formed with 10 women who were part of the functional literacy programme. Jharna, one of the members did very well and took the charge of the group. They now run a tea stall together, and she along with others look after the business, independently.
People often wonder - "What will they do by learning to read and write now?" When we see people like Shyamoli and Jharna, we know that the whole idea behind making someone functional and socially adjusted through a literacy programme, works wonders!
Inspired by these stories of change, we now look forward to include more women and men in the functional literacy programme to help them live a life of inclusion and dignity, and to prevent their further exploitation.
We need YOUR SUPPORT to achieve our goal to reach out to 50 homeless men and women with mental illness over the next 12 months.
We are reaching out to YOU for help. Any amount will make a big difference in making Literacy a reality for these men and women in homeless shelter. We need you to hold their hands, to join their stride, to give them hope, to increase their strength and to share their dreams on their journey towards getting empowered.
For any questions or further information about this project and Iswar Sankalpa, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To know more please visit http://isankalpa.org/
About Iswar Sankalpa:
Iswar Sankalpa is a registered non profit organization working in Kolkata with the homeless and home-based poor population with psychosocial disability. It was founded in 2007 by a group of mental health professionals with the mission of enabling this ‘invisible’ population with an identity and being considered human enough to have the basic fundamental rights. Today it is a multi-pronged service delivery organization providing psychosocial intervention through the following 7 projects aiming holistic development of the persons under it’s care:
- NAYA DAUR:Community based service delivery intervention that reaches out to homeless mentally ill persons on the streets, providing medical care, nutrition, daily needs items and rehabilitation support.
- AROGYA: Emergency hospital services for homeless persons with psychosocial disability.
- DROP IN CENTRE: Day care centre for providing psychosocial interventions to street clients.
- SARBARI:Shelter for urban homeless women with psychosocial disability.
- MORUDYAN: Night shelter for Homeless men with psychosocial disability.
- SAMBANDHAN: Urban mental health clinic and support services run in conjunction with municipality ward’s primary health care unit.
- REINTEGRATION PROJECT: Focusing on client tailored vocational and literacy training, livelihood and home-based or community based rehabilitation.
Today, Iswar Sankalpa has approached and intervened with over 2422 persons with mental health conditions in the slums and 3239 homeless persons with mental illness on the streets of Kolkata. Together with the Social Welfare Department of the Govt. Of West Bengal, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the Kolkata Police, these individuals have been brought under the purview of mobilized community resources for their care and support in different parts of the city. By establishing linkages with Community Based Organizations (CBOs), NGOs, police, administration, educational institutions and the medical fraternity all over Kolkata and its suburbs, Iswar Sankalpa has gained the ability to continuously raise awareness and support for the help and treatment of the those with mental illness, in particular those who have been pushed into conditions of unthinkable violations of all human rights.
Magnitude of the problem: India accounts for 12% of the global burden of mental health disease and an analysis indicates this will increase by 15% by 2020. West Bengal has a population of 91 million (Census 2011), and an estimated 5.46 million persons are with psychosocial disability. The prevalence of mental illness far outstrips the state’s mental health service provision which is just 6 psychiatric hospitals and 11 psychiatric units of Govt. medical colleges and hospitals. The situation is far more appalling when it comes to the homeless population. According to the 2011 Census, there are 70,000 homeless people living in Kolkata (Kolkata’s Poor Poorer Than The Rest, Times of India, Kolkata edition, September 12, 2012). Marginalized by mental illness and disenfranchised by homelessness, homeless people suffering from psychiatric disorders are among the most stigmatized and vulnerable in Kolkata. They are the 'nowhere people' - separated from - or abandoned - by their families, ignored by welfare and health agencies, and pariahs to the rest of society.
Homelessness and Mental Health: Homelessness is both a cause and consequence of mental illness. Depression, hallucination, abuse and neglect at home often drive the persons out on the street. Many a times, families abandon them fearing stigma or regarding them as liability. On the other hand, years of living on the streets in hostile environment also causes severe to common mental health disorders in the street dwellers. More than other homeless people who stick together in families and communities and survive by begging or working for minimal wages, those with mental illness are doubly marginalized because they are shunned even by other homeless people. The mental illness leaves them incapable of even foraging for a meal, keeping themselves clean and protecting themselves from a hostile environment. Psychosocially disturbed women and children on the streets are especially vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. With the mental disease having taken away all physical and psychological coping mechanisms, they are totally defenseless against violence and rape. Four out of five homeless persons with mental illness also have significant physical health problems. Unable to take care of themselves, they suffer from problems ranging from malnutrition, open lesions, rabies, untreated wounds, HIV/AIDS and are especially vulnerable to communicable diseases.
Need for reintegration:Psychosocial disability experience of homeless persons is mostly associated with schizophrenia, an illness that can be treated and managed. In fact, with continuous treatment and rehabilitation, the majority will have long periods of good functioning. However, the lives of persons with psychosocial disability are made more difficult by the way society interprets and reacts to this disability. Even after clinical recovery, deprivation of rights and social exclusion continues, which makes the recovery unsustainable. These factors are creating considerable demands for aftercare reintegration programmes that will focus on capacity building of the persons with psychosocial disability for independent living. Thus training along with community support programmes for employment and housing play an important part in enhancing the quality of life of persons with psychosocial disability.
For any questions or for more information about this project and Iswar Sankalpa, please contact us at email@example.com. To know more please visit http://isankalpa.org/
Risks and challenges
Rapport building has always been a challenging task- Getting the clients to participate in the literacy program have always been a prolonged task. Oodles of patience, perseverance and encouragement is required to get them started. Generally, when they see their friends learning and doing something together, it piques their interest. We wait around until they join the programme by will and not force.
Heterogeneous Group : Unlike schools, the students in our classroom belong to different age groups, speak different languages and battle with varied forms and levels of psycho-social disability. Hence, our functional literacy officer has to push herself beyond capacity to continuously offer methods of teaching that can cater to the needs of this dynamic group simply and suitably.
Health Status: The students in our classroom have psycho-social disabilities and hence their overall health status may fluctuate.It may thus happen that if there is a gap due to the health status, the student may have to be re-taught. Hence, it is imperative for us to not to lose hope and keep trying; many a times from the scratch, again!
How will this help the clients?
Basic education is required for any kind of job. If they know the 3 R's (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) it automatically helps them execute daily activities with ease, adjust in any work space and/ set up and operate their own small businesses. Its the first step towards a successful rehabilitation.
Will I get tax benefits if I fuel this in India?
Yes. Under 80G, all contribution made will be tax exempted.
Can I donate if I am not from India?
Yes, you can donate from outside India as per our FCRA compliance.
What else can we do?
One can come and donate their time at our shelters. The best way is to visit our shelter and understand our program before one wants to donate their time. If you stay outside India, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and take up online volunteering projects.