Suri and Edda Sehgal and the team of social scientists who launched S M Sehgal Foundation in India more than two decades ago had a daunting task to convince the people in the poorest villages that the foundation’s rural development intentions were straightforward, honest, and worthy of their attention. The goals were to partner with villagers to empower them with tools to move their families out of extreme poverty and create a better future for rural India.
People living in the region where this work first began had plenty of experience with others who had come to “help” them. Trust wasn’t easy for those who had been betrayed and/or misguided by organizations claiming to be on their side, and even by those whose jobs or official responsibilities were to assist and represent rural communities.
Sehgal Foundation work has been steady and arduous, requiring skill, patience, compassion, and dependability. The teams, associates, and the many donors and partners have persevered; and the credibility attained in these steadfast efforts has been vividly illustrated during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout 2020, the people’s trust was recognized by public officials and government representatives who came again and again to Sehgal Foundation to gain assistance in taking COVID-19 information to villagers who live in the most remote areas, “at the last mile.” The villagers have demonstrated continuing reliance and faith in information coming from Sehgal Foundation over many years—from foundation communication conduits and programming. Because of the multiple communication channels created by the foundation, which are staffed by people from the communities, villagers receive important news and guidance in critical areas—how to access their benefits from government programs and services, how to improve their crop production, access health care, receive trainings in digital literacy and life skills, and how to stay safe in a global pandemic!
The track record of trust established by the foundation’s team members on the ground and in hotlines, trainings, demonstrations, and interactive community radio programming has served to meet the goal of empowering more and more of rural India—and the TRANSFORM LIVES one school at a time program that has been embraced by so many donors and partners in the US has helped to further the goal of transforming the lives of schoolchildren so they are empowered to create a more promising future for themselves and their families.
On behalf of Suri and Edda Sehgal, the trustees and advisors, and the teams in the US and India, a special thanks goes to all the partners and philanthropic investors who collaborated with Sehgal Foundation in 2020. You are warmly invited to continue this collaboration in 2021!
Sehgal Foundation will continue to go to the last mile to empower rural India.