Dr Neelam Gupta established AROH Foundation, a not for profit organization, in 2001 to realize her childhood dream of creating a positive change in the society. A gold medalist from Delhi University who has done Ph.D in Agricultural Sciences, Gupta has been working for over two decades on replicable and impactful programmes aligned to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Seeds of AROH were sown on a cold December morning, when Gupta gave a poor little girl on the roadside a woolen sweater. Next day, on the way to school, she saw the same girl without the sweater. When asked, the girl said her father had sold the sweater. “That day I realized the great truth behind the famous saying, ‘Do not give them the fish, teach them how to fish’,” says Gupta, sharing AROH Foundation’s journey so far in a brief interview.
What were the challenges of running an NGO?
It has been about two decades now, and I would say the journey has been truly rewarding and fulfilling. But there have also been daunting challenges like venturing to work in the remote villages, particularly in Naxalite affected areas, or the red corridor villages of Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. But we have bravely endured and carried on the work in areas where it was most needed and managed to make a great impact.
Some of the functional challenges in running an NGO have been dearth of good manpower and resources, means of transport and lethargic support from government to work in the remote villages. Regular flow of funds has been another major challenge, as it is difficult to sustain the good work when funds dry up. Government funds are often put on hold due to various administrative issues, which can derail a good project. COVID has also thrown unprecedented challenges for grassroots organizations like us due to both resource and manpower crunch.
AROH Foundation’s initiatives cover a host of thematic interventions. What has been the impact so far?
AROH is implementing projects in the field of Education, Skill Development, Sustainable Livelihood, Health & Sanitation, Women Empowerment, Water & Natural Resource Management and Holistic Rural Development programs. We have a presence in almost 18 states in association with leading CSR partners from corporates, government and PSUs. We have been successful in transforming lives of over 5 lakh people directly, including around 2.5 lakh women. In the past 20 years, AROH has provided skill development training to over 25,000 poor and unemployed youth, empowered around 25,000 women through skill development training and helped over 50,000 children by improving infrastructure in more than 500 government schools.
AROH has empowered over 50,000 farmers by helping them adopt better farming practices with our flagship of Holistic Rural Development Projects. AROH could reform almost 100 villages into self-sustaining revenue units by helping to set up around 1500 SHGs and 500 small-medium enterprises and enhancing socio-economic stature.
AROH has been a forerunner in environmental interventions like pond rejuvenation, RWH and check dam renovations, etc. AROH has also installed around 2000 solar street lights, 200 solar water pumps and 500 solar lanterns, 100 Biogas, and distributed 200 Biomass Chulha.
What sets apart AROH from millions of NGOs registered in India?
AROH is sought after for its USP - Technology, Transparency and Time-Bound or 3Ts as its pillars of working. For the past 20 years, team AROH has been working to elevate the social good index of people. Our pool of resources has a well-built cohesion with communities, government and officials to create better impact.
So, what does the next decade hold for AROH?
With our experience, expertise and learning of nearly two decades, AROH today has a robust roadmap and confidence to scale new heights and change the lives of millions of vulnerable and underprivileged people in farthest corners of the nation. The pandemic has opened new doors for women due to focus on digital and online education, skilling and working from home, which would certainly exacerbate our efforts towards women’s empowerment.