6 March 2012

Deep Griha Spring Newsletter

Dear Friends of Deep Griha Society,


We have had an extremely busy few months, wrapping up our 2011 activities and welcoming 2012. We have selected a sample from a large range of recent highlights to share in this newsletter.


Aadhar Kendra Child Sponsorship Programme

Aadhar Kendra, our child sponsorship programme, continues to support the needs of orphaned children, foster families and single parents in Pune’s slums. An awareness programme on alcohol and child abuse was organised for children between the ages of 9 and 15. Three sessions on these important topics took place across the DGS site, and were attended by 104 children. In addition to this a counselling session was run for 20 children, aimed at preparing them for when they get married in the future. Ongoing medical support for sponsored children included check-ups courtesy of a group of international volunteer doctors working with Sangam, Pune (one of the World Centres of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts), and every month we continue to organise a birthday party for the children whose birthday falls in that month, which are of course very popular events. Also, in December, the children sent Christmas and New Year Greeting cards to their sponsors to thank them for their support.


Childcare and Women's Empowerment

On 16 January the traditional Makar Sankranti Festival was celebrated across all of the Deep Griha sites. Women (both DGS beneficiaries and staff) gave each other sweets as an encouragement to forget any bad feelings of revenge or grudges, and to start the New Year with nice thoughts. The traditional sweets shared are known as tilguds and laddus; laddus contain jaggery, which is made from sugar cane and is a way of giving the body energy during winter. Whilst exchanging sweets as tokens of goodwill, women greet each other saying ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’.

On 31 January a number of Deep Griha staff were trained as facilitators to support the local community on the issue of disability. These training sessions were run by a local Pune based NGO,
Ekansh, and focused on the prevention and detection of disabilities, together with the early steps that should be taken once any disabilities are detected.

Other support for local women has included sessions on how to control anger, and how to control depression. Also, 75 women attended a domestic violence programme, and 63 women from the local community attended a self-help group training session on microfinance. Microfinance helps local women to manage their yearly household budget, allowing them to be prepared for hospital costs, their children’s education, festivals and weddings. We also made time for some recreational activities; a picnic for 20 local women took place at the Baneshwar Temple historical site, two and a half hours outside Pune.



Deep Griha Academy

Deep Griha Academy organised two picnics for its children. Forty two children from the pre-primary sections (Nursery, lower kindergarten and upper kindergarten) went to the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park, accompanied by 14 teachers and members of staff. The children started the visit on a very excited note, by seeing the monkeys, which were happily running around. The children also saw snakes, crocodiles, elephants, sambar, porcupines, a sloth bear, and a white tiger in all its majesty. It was a very long day, and the children were asleep almost as soon as the bus set off for the journey home.

The primary school went to Peshwe Park for their picnic on 4 February. Peshwe Park recently introduced adventure sports for children! Team leader Ashlesha Onawale said:  “The Park provided helmets at the entrance, which worried the teachers slightly as to what was in store! There were suspended balancing beams, and a lot of complicated climbing frames, which tested the children's balance, strength and determination. They loved it!” After Peshwe Park the children went to Saras Baug (another park, minus the adventure sports) and sat under a tree for lunch, sharing their tiffins, and enjoying a game of football.


DISHA and Wake Up Pune

DISHA celebrated International Day of Older Persons on 1 October with an event at the Tadiwala Road centre’s Varsha Memorial Hall. 30 older people from the local community were invited to attend by the DISHA ladies and Sure Start team, so you can imagine our surprise when an unprecedented 110 people arrived, 50 women and 60 men. In these communities, older people are often treated very badly, even by their own families, but at this event they were all given a rose and a handkerchief and enjoyed snacks and tea. Also at the beginning of the event team leader Avinash Chakranarayan offered to wash the attendees’ feet. Many of the attendees started to cry in shock at being offered such a ritual. Avinash said: “The event was very emotional, and clearly meant a great deal to all who came. Reaching older people is very important for DISHA. HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. The virus impacts entire families, so older people need to receive information about HIV/AIDS. They also need to understand the negative impact of the current stigma that surrounds the disease.”


November and December were very busy with the DISHA and Wake Up Pune ‘Join the Fight Fortnight’ series of events supporting World AIDS Day on 1 December. One particularly successful activity used Rangoli to capture people’s interest on the eve of World AIDS Day. Rangoli is a traditional Indian folk art in which patterns are created on the floor with materials including colored rice, dry flour, sand, and flower petals. Rangolis were created in four busy city locations and brought World AIDS Day to the attention of an enormous 12,000 people who passed by. More photos of these events can be found here.


Yuva Sphurti Kendra IT School

In December, 25 students completed our three-month course covering basic computer skills and spoken English. These courses are run in collaboration with the Mahindra Satyam Foundation, who also donated 25 used computers, which was a significant boost to our facilities. This January a further 21 students started the course and are currently working towards receiving their qualification.

We are always keen to boost our corporate partnerships. If you know of a company that may be interested in supporting our work please direct them to the
Corporate Involvement page of our website.


Medical activities, Sure Start and Eye camps


Jessi Taube and Gregor Young, two medical students from the University of Edinburgh, visited Deep Griha for two months at the end of last year. They provided medical support for all of the children in the crèches, and educated the children on dental health and the importance of brushing their teeth. To enable them to do this, they bought toothbrushes and toothpaste, along with educational materials, including visual posters showing people how to brush their teeth. These posters are now displayed in all the Deep Griha Centres.

The MOMs (Monitoring of Maternal and Newborn Health Services) committees which form part of the Sure Start programme have been strengthened with further training. These committees are led by women in the community and are responsible for monitoring maternal and neonatal health among mothers and babies.  The participants have been trained in a range of subjects including holistic health, financial literacy, and communications skills. This Sure Start initiative is supported by the international NGO

Finally, our mobile eye clinic saw 663 patients during visits to both urban and rural sites in the last quarter of 2011.


Our local and international volunteer programme is going strong. We recently said a reluctant goodbye to Jemma Clegg, who came to volunteer at DGS through the UK charity Development in Action. Jemma stayed with us for five months and did a fantastic job as our Volunteer Coordinator in addition to contributing to projects such as Wake Up Pune.

We also welcomed Charlie Nichols, our oldest ever volunteer at 80 years of age. Charlie came with a group of visitors and volunteers from the First Community Church in Ohio, USA, one of our most longstanding supporting organisations. Charlie has known DGS’ founder Dr Neela Onawale for 35 years. Finally making it to Pune, to visit Dr Onawale and volunteer at DGS was a dream come true for him. Whilst here Charlie helped document the stories of children on our Aadhar Kendra child sponsorship programme and inspired everyone at DGS with his energy and enthusiasm.



Anisha Shankar is currently working with us on an innovative project aimed at improving the nutrition of local children. Anisha has joined us through a fellowship with Design Impact, an NGO that partners professional designers with community organisations. Also two volunteers from Sangam (see above) are currently supporting our activities at our Ramtekadi centre, and we continue to be supported by a number of local volunteers from Pune. Thank you to everyone else who has volunteered with us over the last few months, and if you are interested in volunteering with DGS please have a look at our website and/or get in touch via


In other news...

We have been visited by the Calvin College of Nursing in Chicago, and by a group of management students from Mumbai. 

In December all staff participated in a two-day ‘Open Space’ workshop aimed at ensuring effective internal communications within DGS. This very valuable session was run by Celia Bray, an international volunteer and trained organisational coach.

We also enjoyed a staff picnic at Murud-Janjira on the Maharashtra coast.

A few inspirational words to end with:

“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”Albert Einstein

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”  Muhammad Ali

Thank you to all of the Friends across the world who continue to sustain our work.

We wish you all a wonderful Spring.

The Deep Griha Team

This newsletter has been compiled by international volunteer Nick Stewart with support from all of the team leaders and formatted by Susannah Hodge.

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