SEDS, the Social Education and Development Society, was founded in 1980 by Rajen Joshua and Manil Jayasena as a grassroots development NGO, motivated by the desire to help the poorest of the poor in the drought-prone area of Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh. In the early days, the main focus of the work was on community development by way of non-formal education and small loans to skilled target communities like cobblers, basket weavers, blanket weavers and others.

As Anantapur is the second most drought prone area in India and much of its natural resources are depleted, it soon became clear that environmental problems would have to be tackled first, if peoples’ livelihoods were to be made sustainable. Starting in 10 villages near the small town of Penukonda a scheme of pioneering work was developed which aimed to empower local communities and improve their environment. Initially small nurseries were started for homestead plantations and planting of avenue trees along village roads. Re-a-forestation and more sustainable agricultural practices were introduced. From 1990, SEDS started using a more participatory approach, through the formation of Community Based Organizations. Involving the communities more in the effort made them actual stakeholders in the development process of the region. Throughout the years the scope and area of the work increased and the fruits of the sustained efforts became visible in the greener environment and the enthusiasm of the communities.

Today, SEDS is working through an integrated rural development approach with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, watersheds, re-a-forestation and natural resource management. This is within five Mandals in the southern part of Anantapur District, in south western Andhra Pradesh namely, Penukonda, Roddam, Gorantla, Somandepalli and Chilamathur. In these 5 mandals SEDS currently supports 125 villages, being some 12000 women and their families, 980 Self Help Groups (SHGs), 120 Village Organisations (VOs) & 5 Mandal Samakyas (MMSs) .

Through its sustained efforts SEDS has made a significant impact on the lives of the people in the area and the local environment. The SEDS slogan “Towards a greener tomorrow” has become a reality.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SEDS: Hostel the homeless

"In the first place men should have a fear of the gods above, who regard the loneliness of the orphans." - Plato

Asha (name changed) was a bright girl who used to attend the SEDS school on a sponsorship program. All of a sudden she stopped attending classes. When she returned after a couple of weeks, she was four months pregnant. At the age of 12. Another disappearance followed, and this time Manil sent the reluctant SEDS staff out to search for her. When she returned again, there was no sign of her pregnancy. Patient inquiries revealed that she had been 'sold' to a group of men by her own mother, who had also arranged for the abortion.

Arun and Deepa were found living alone in an empty house. Their parents had died a few months previously. Arun used to dance on the streets, Deepa would try and do odd jobs to make money. When they were found, their hair was lice-infested and living on rice that Deepa would cook at night.

These are just a couple of the stories from the SEDS hostel. Started with the aim of providing shelter to children who needed shelter, the hostel has met with mixed success. Even though it is SEDS that cares for and tries to help, the ultimate authority over the child's future always remains in the hands of the child's relatives, sadly often the very people who look to exploit the children rescued by SEDS. Sponsorship for the hostel has been sporadic. One bright instance came in the form of Belgian funding for a dedicated block of rooms. 

But much can be, and remains to be done.

[The article originally written by Amit Manikoth, for SEDS's 30 years celebration. This is simply a reproduction.]