At Sobha, we believe that some of our finest achievements do not just refer to our growth figures. They also extend to Vadakkenchery and Kizhakkenchery - two panchayats in Palakkad district of Kerala, each consisting 2 villages. To usher in holistic growth at the grass-root level, the company, under the aegis of its CSR arm, ‘Sri Kurumba Educational & Charitable Trust’, initiated Graamasobha - a unique social development initiative for the two grama panchayats in the year 2006.
An in-depth Social Empowerment Mapping Exercise (SEME) was undertaken by the Social Empowerment Department (SED) of the Trust to fulfil the following objectives:
In 2006, the Trust selected and trained a team on a full-time basis to complete the exercise. For about a year, they studied the incidence, depth, and severity of poverty of the beneficiaries with the help of various mapping methods. Families, which had extremely poor living conditions or those which had a monthly income level of ` 7,500 or below, were categorised as Below Poverty Line (BPL). The Trust covered more than 15,000 families and identified nearly 2,500 families (around 11,000 people) from the BPL bracket. Individual photo identity cards were issued to each member of the adopted families. As a result, the Trust has detailed and authentic data about each beneficiary and his or her individual requirements.
Based on the data, the Graamasobha model was developed. The lives of thousands of underprivileged citizens are getting positively transformed through this growth model, which has a bottom-up approach towards poverty alleviation.
The Sobha Academy was started in the year 2007 to empower and enable the rural poor to break away from the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance, deprivation, and exclusion by providing their children with high-quality education. Selection to the Academy is done through an open draw from a list of eligible candidates short-listed after intense research. As of now, 913 students have access to free, quality education as a result of this initiative. Every academic year, 90 students (3 divisions of 30 each) are taken in. Once admitted, all the requirements of the children, including food, transportation, uniforms, books, medical care, etc., are met at no cost.
Sobha has also launched several educational initiatives for the benefit of the children. One of the initiatives of the Trust is ‘Sobha Icon’, which aims at creating ‘icons for India’ by making high-quality learning opportunities available for deserving students of other government schools who have exceptional skills but not the opportunities to grow. Regular academic professionals have been engaged to enhance the performance of more than 120 students.
It is a foundation programme and is a recruitment base for Sobha Icon. For Sobha Academy, Sobha Icon, Sobha Icon Higher Secondary as well as Sobha Shadow Icon, there are regular parents meetings to discuss the progress of their children in an effort to maximize the benefit to their children.
Sobha Icon Higher Secondary Course is a two year full time on campus, regular, 6 weekdays’ intense, technology-driven, professional college enrolment oriented programme for a batch of 60 students each in Science and Commerce streams, being conducted at Sobha Icon Campus at Moolamcode and is registered with Kerala State Open School for certification. The Trust also provides financial assistance to students from poor families, who obtain merit seats for engineering and medical courses. All their expenses are covered including tuition fees, uniforms, books and basic accessories.
Sobha Hermitage, located on 23 acres of verdant green estates, is the most benevolent home one can hope to find for the deprived. It is the epitome of humanity, offering love, care, and support to the neglected sections of the society - senior citizens as well as young widows, referred to as “young mothers,” and their children.
The residents stay in a secular and secure environment where they are provided with food, clothing, shelter and premium resources, and services along with the best facilities, all on the house.
The Sobha Health Care Centre has redefined the limits of primary healthcare institutions anywhere in the country. The target group comprises the 2,500 BPL families of the adopted panchayats, senior citizens of Sobha Hermitage, students of the Sobha Academy and their parents. The facilities include free consultation, diagnosis, tests, treatment, and medicines. The Centre has also set up outreach counters to reach out to the needy at their doorsteps.
Extending the health programme to a wider section of the society, an awareness programme on “cancer is curable” was organized by the Trust on 12th October 2012 which was conducted by renowned Oncologist Dr. V.P. Gangadharan. A large number of people participated and benefited out of this programme.
The Sobha Vocational Training Centre (SVTC) aims at providing functional vocational training, and paid apprenticeships in carpentry to youth from poor families. Plans are afoot to add more trades in the near future. Direct and indirect employment is provided to many through SVTC. Besides this, other centres have also been established for imparting training in computers, music and tailoring.
The Sobha Community Centre is a beautiful and spacious edifice for the deprived. It plays host to various community mobilization programmes including medical camps, orientation and training classes, and social weddings. The Centre also comprises a dining hall that has a seating capacity of 300, where several poor people are fed free of cost every day twice.
A comprehensive rehabilitation package for the young mothers (widows) living in the Hermitage is in operation. Special arrangements are in place for their living, safety, security and welfare at absolutely no cost. The widowed mothers and their children live together. All mothers have been encouraged to continue their education and many have completed their graduation and others are catching up. All are employed in the Sobha Academy with a good remuneration which they can save. Their children are admitted to the prestigious Sobha Academy, where they obtain quality education. Special arrangements are made to teach music and dances to their children in the Sobha Hermitage. Separate living apartments are being constructed for them which they can move into as their children grow older. Support is also provided if they want to get re-married. In short, an integrated social rehabilitation for the hapless widows, saving them from exploitation, is in full swing at the Hermitage with great success. Perhaps, an initiative with so much depth and devotion may not be found in the country and this is another example of Sobha’s philosophy of social service, ‘Devotion at Work’.
It has taken 50 widowed mothers and their children belonging to the Kizhakkenchery panchayat under their wing. They are provided with a basic monthly living allowance, clothing, medical and other personal accessories. Educational expenses of their children are met by the Trust to give them adequate opportunity to come up in life.
Social weddings are a practical response to the serious social problem faced by numerous women whose families are too poor to get them married. Sri Kurumba Educational and Charitable Trust conducts social weddings that are free from the fangs of dowry and till date, has carried out 510 weddings. It helps approximately forty women get married each year and provides basic resources to the couples to help them begin their wedded life. The couple is given pre-marriage counselling. The Trust’s staff also monitors the couples’ post marriage living periodically and renders help.
Sobha’s green philosophy of development is widely accepted across the spectrum as evident from the numerous awards and recognitions it has bagged. Akin to that, several green initiatives are underway in the CSR project areas also. The entire campus was constructed with minimum carbon footprints and without making any changes in the terrains of the land, large-scale rain harvesting methods and processes, planting more than 3000 herbs and plants and preserving the existing flora and fauna to the extent possible. The Trust has also very large waste management plants put in place to process the waste generated here. All the CSR project campuses are also a plastic free, no-smoking and non-alcoholic area, thus, strive to achieve a goal good earth for the goodness of human beings.
Sri Kurumba Educational and Charitable Trust has been highly active in providing relief to flood-hit families in Vadakkenchery and Kizhakkenchery panchayats. The families were provided assistance for the reconstruction of their damaged houses. It also provides assistance for other projects such as maintaining community pond, sponsoring students who get admissions to engineering and medical graduate courses but have no financial means to carry on their studies.
All CSR programmes and projects embarked upon by the Sri Kurumba Educational and Charitable Trust are implemented in consultation with the local panchayat authorities without placing any financial burden on them. Sobha Group strongly believes that if an initiative like Graamasobha, in which adoption of one or two panchayats can be taken up by other companies, institutions and organisations, then it could change India’s poverty equation forever and bring about a sea change in the social fabric of this country.