In our series “We the people” we proudly bring for you Mrs. Niru Arya, founder of the NGO Arman, a person very much from amongst us, who after a teaching experience of around 20 years decided to start Arman to provide the under privileged an education that could change their lives for the better. GingerChai.com had the honour of having a conversation with her and we found her words very inspiring. I hope that our esteemed readers will also find it touching and thought provoking too.
Mani Padma- Welcome to Gingerchai Mrs. Arya. We are delighted to have you among us. Could you please tell us when Arman was founded?
Mrs. Arya- Thank you very much. We started Arman on 7th of March, 2002.
Mani Padma – Were you associated with any other ventures or NGOs prior to Arman? At present what other ventures are you associated with?
Mrs. Arya- Prior to Arman, I had 20 years of experience including running two schools. Education was something that I was always interested in and education is what I have attempted to incorporate in Arman-education that will benefit them in real life.
At present other than working independently as an entity, we are also working in collaboration with Delhi Police and Delhi prison in conducting health and awareness camps in their respective jurisdiction areas.
Mani Padma – So what is ARMAN all about?
Mrs. Arya- Well, Arman is all about upliftment of the destitute women, youth and the children and their rehabilitation and incorporation in the main stream society. So basically we target our work in slums and such areas but we have laid special emphasis to the female prisoners who are lodged in Tihar Jail and their children, who are also there with their mothers with no fault of theirs.
We provide them vocational training, counseling and guidance. After their release from the Jail, we try to help them settle down in the society and lead a self sufficient life free of crime. You can say it is our little bit to contributing towards a society free of crime and poverty. Other than that we also conduct health camps and awareness camps for a healthy and hygienic life style. We also have our own shelter or homes in Tilak Vihar for the destitute and also take up prisoners who have been just released and have nowhere to go. It’s sort of a transit camp before she can settle down with a livelihood and a shelter. We regularly follow up each and every individual registered with us, in coordination with the police so as to ensure their safety, as well as rehabilitation.
Mani Padma -What are the difficulties that you had to face initially when you had started Arman and what are the difficulties you face now?
Mrs. Arya-The initial difficulty that we faced was lack of funds. With no one coming forward to sponsor or fund our program we used our own personal savings to start Arman and why shouldn’t it be, after all, charity begins at home. Though we faced no such red tape-ism or other problems during registration and paper works, we have not received any government aid or grants from any government agency till date. Later on some industrialists came forward with monetary help and that is how Arman has been functioning smoothly till now.
Mani Padma -Do you feel that the objective of Arman has been achieved?
Mrs. Arya-Well, I feel with proper and adequate funding, we could have done more and in vast scale, but even with our limited budget we still attempt to achieve our objective of rehabilitating each and every inmate or beneficiary of our program.
Like for e.g. – They usually belong to low socio economic group and a steady livelihood is what they basically need and want too. So sometimes we provide them a cart and a little capital to buy vegetables so that they can start a small business of vegetable vending. Or sometimes a few utensils and a gas stove and the tea things to start a tea stall. So we usually go for setting up a small business instead of just handing out cash, one which they can manage easily and one which we can fund it. A steady source of income and a little bit of help and guidance is what we aim for them. It at least sets them on the path away from petty crime. We believe that if a steady income and a livelihood are provided to them, 50% of the need for crime will automatically decrease. If we had more funds, maybe the scale would have been bigger, other wise we have attempted to the best of our capacities.
Mani Padma -How has your family response been, about this?
Mrs. Arya-I have been very lucky in that matter as my family has been very supportive especially my husband who has always encouraged me to go on giving my best. I on my part try to finish my chores and other domestic duties satisfactorily before setting off on organizational work.
Mani Padma -Could you please tell our readers about the procedure to be followed to join as a volunteer?
Mrs. Arya-We have kept the procedure very simple. If you just browse our website www.armanngo.org then you will find all the detailed information about how to volunteer or donate. One has to just fill up our membership form and provide us an ID proof with a membership fee of Rs 150/- As per your choice and proficiency, you will be assigned duties as either counselor or vocational trainer. We have teaching program of- painting, tailoring, pickle making etc. or even other jobs.
Mani Padma – What is the response of the general public in terms of awareness and support?
Mrs. Arya-In Tihar Jail, in the course of vocational training, we allow them complete creative freedom, after the initial basic guidance and the products that they have created are simply amazing- be it a painting or other handicrafts. Hence other than providing training and the raw materials for production and experimentations we also retail them outside- which of course is done in collaboration with the Prison authorities. The response from the society has been very encouraging so far. People have accepted warmly the products and the demand for brand- Tihar is going up day by day. Without the rising demand the project would have fallen flat and by accepting the goods manufactured in Jail, the society at large have shown their willingness in giving them a chance at rehabilitation again. A percentage of the proceeds go to the prisoners too in the form of prisoner’s welfare fund after the production cost is recovered.
Mani Padma -What are your future projects?
Mrs. Arya-We have certain projects lined up but what needs immediate attention is a vehicle which is completely at the disposal of the old age wing of our shelter in Tilak Vihar. I have realized this after we had to face an unfortunate incident because of the lack of a vehicle. A vehicle could have been of immense help in emergencies-like in transporting a patient to the hospital. Of course other than that it can also be of use as a means of transportation for their recreation- their small wishes of sight seeing or visiting a temple.
We are also planning a computer centre as a part of the training program for the slum children.
Mani Padma -At the end, what message would you like to give our readers especially to those who would very much like to serve the society, but who are a bit apprehensive too?
Mrs. Arya-I would just like to say that if at any point of your life you have this feeling- this calling by an unknown force to do something good, just don’t ignore it. All the other problems will just dissolve away in front of a strong will to do something for the greater good. Our life is a God’s gift and man is the only creature who has been gifted with capabilities to do willfully something for others benefit. If we can do something to bring a smile upon another’s face, it is the best thing we can do with it. (Apne liye toh sab jeete hain. Sab jeev apne liye jeete hain. Bas insaan hi aise hain jo dusro ke liye jeete hain)
And with those beautiful insightful words we finally parted. Thank You Mrs. Arya for those gems of wisdom and Ginger Chai wishes you all the best for your future and Arman.