Sudhamanagar Slum in 1978
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world"
- Mahatma Gandhi
THE ORGANISATION: A PROFILE
AVAS (Association for Voluntary Action and Service) a service organization, registered as a Trust in Bangalore, came into existence in 1980, initiated by a group of Professionals and Social Activists who shared common concerns on the deprivations of the city's poor, especially the slum dwellers. AVAS work reflects an intense involvement and a prolonged interaction with slum communities in Bangalore city.
The initial work of AVAS was directed towards improving the living conditions - physical, economic and social - of the urban poor and ensuring them a dignified existence. AVAS uses tools like housing, health programmes, education, skills & income generation activities, savings & credit programmes, towards forming strong and selfreliant communities.
AVAS' predominant concern and commitment in the last four decades of work has been to address these issues and to work towards eliminating the oppression and exploitation of slum-dwellers.
AVAS has worked at the grassroots level in various slums in Bangalore and has learnt many a lesson in the process. Both, urban poverty and slum development are not isolated issues and encompass many more interrelated problems. It is in this context that AVAS has adopted a holistic approach for sustainable human settlement development in slums.
AVAS' basic philosophy in dealing with any of these issues is community-centric and terms like community participation, empowerment of women and youth, power to the people, etc., are not mere jargon for AVAS, but are visibly translated into action in AVAS approach towards an integrated and sustainable development of communities.
Primarily, it is AVAS' concern and belief that slum communities, if given the opportunities, are the most potential and the best resource available for solving their own problems. The belief has motivated AVAS to adopt an integrated and participatory approach towards problem solving.
Sudhamanagar Insitu Housing
Dynamic and Progressive Development
A Transformed Community
AVAS strives for a just and humane society
Four decades of exposure to and action with the poor has taught AVAS that combating the forces that keep the disadvantaged where they are is not easy, and that the institutional changes required to bring about qualitative improvement in their lives is painfully slow. That realization, how ever has only strengthened AVAS resolve to continue and intensify the struggle, empowering slum communities to bring about a change in their lives. Ensuring them spaces and opportunities to determine their histories and live with security and dignity, remain AVAS' prime goal to achieve a society that is just, equal and humane. It is a combination of grass root level organisation of communities and an understanding of the macro-perspectives that has shaped AVAS work over the years.
The AVAS Experience
Execution of model housing projects to improve the settlement conditions of specific slum communities and through them build a climate of confidence among the poor is one aspect of AVAS' work. Through these projects, AVAS has demonstrated that insitu participatory projects are possible and are definitely feasible answers to the problems of the slum dwellers. On comparison with various other projects in slums, these pilot projects also make obvious the futility of one-sided planning processes. Each of these projects is a solution with a difference, owing to the different situations prevailing in the respective slums. This clearly implies that however different or difficult the problem is, viable solutions can be evolved with the concerned community.
The Journey Begins..
“The year was 1978. In my early 20’s I settled down in Bangalore. I walked around the city one day to find myself in a slum. I found doors to homes ajar. They couldn’t be shut There were huts with no walls. Roofs blowing away in the winds. Fear and insecurity of survival was palpable in the environment. Women cowered in the shadows of the male leadership. Children with Kwashiorkor bellies, and Scurvy on their hands stood behind their mothers. The old were relegated to the corners, ignored and neglected. Lost youth gazed in hope beyond horizons for opportunities. And the bull dozers had never heard the adage “home is where the hearth is”. In fact I faced threats to my life by vested interest forces, and land mafia who wanted the slums removed. Seeing all this did not defeat me. My purpose for years to come was carved out. Yes, this door will one day become a beautiful home and protect the family that lives in it. Rest is history and I keep my resolve to continue working for any one person, family or community that is in need.”
- Anita Reddy, Founding Trustee
Meet The Team
Anita Reddy, Managing Trustee
and Founding Trustee of AVAS
Anita Reddy has been working voluntarily through AVAS and the DRRT Trusts for the upliftment of the indigent communities, especially in the urban slums of Karnataka and in the villages of Andhra Pradesh for the past 40 plus years.
Anita Reddy, a social worker and a founder member of Association for Voluntary Action and Services (AVAS), is known for her compassion and deep involvement in actively striving to establish a just society and the rights of the slum dwellers in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
She is also the managing trustee of DRRT, DWARAKA and DRIK Foundations, working for Kalamkari art revival, women's livelihoods & empowerment and children's education.She haseffectively partnered these organizations with AVAS towards maximize the outcome of her efforts in urban poor and rural communities.
She was awarded the fourth highest civilian award - Padma Shri by the Hon’ble President, Government of India in 2010 (given 2011).
Recognized for her experience, expertise and passion to serve society she has been in various positions on State and National Committees and Boards which have helped bring an impact to State and National Policy for the development of urban poor.
The impact of AVAS’ work was made possible due to strategic interventions formulated by her to cater to the immediate as well as long term development needs of the poor in the slums. It has defined the concept of in-situ development not just to primarily achieve land and housing security but also for the holistic comprehensive development of the slum communities, especially women.
Gita - Balakrishnan, Trustee
A graduate from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, Gita Balakrishnan completed practical training at the Centre for Building Performance and Diagnostics at the Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. She underwent a training programme on Stabilized Mud Blocks and other alternative methods of construction at Indian Institute of Science Bangalore. She worked with an NGO, AVAS – as a shelter coordinator in the slums of Bangalore. She is now a trustee of AVAS. She moved to Kolkata in 2001 and started Ethos with the intention of making the architectural and civil engineering community alive to the changes happening globally and in our country in the field of architecture and construction. Ethos reaches out to over 35000 students of architecture and civil engineering from around 600 colleges across India through interesting events. Gita Balakrishnan has also authored a book – Archumen: Questioning Architecture. Archumen, the quiz she conceived was conducted in Sri Lanka in 2006 and an episode was hosted at Lahore in 2010. Ethos launched ACEDGE on August 15th 2018 – to offer online EDucation modules that give the EDGE in the field of Architecture, Construction, Engineering and Design.
Gita is currently the Chairperson of the West Bengal Chapter of Indian Institute of Architects for the term 2015-17. She was in the Shortlist of the top 25 People in Kolkata in the Lead India Campaign by The Times of India.
She is enthusiastic about her running and recently completed her first full marathon.
Dharini Srinivasan, Trustee
A graduate in Psychology, Dharini holds a Diploma in Pre-School Education awarded by the Association of Montessori Internationale (AMI). She has served as a teacher and academic coordinator in a leading Montessori establishment for over 15 years, during which she completed a Diploma in Inclusive Education from the Spastic Society of Karnataka.
She is also a certified mental health counsellor and has been working in the field of Mental Health since 1995. She is a senior volunteer-counsellor in a leading centre in Bangalore called Viveka Centre for Emotional Support.
FOUNDER-PRINCIPAL OF DISHAA MONTESSORI HOUSE OF CHILDREN:
Since 2007, she has been a founder-principal of a very well run Pre-Primary school in HSR Layout, Bangalore called Dishaa Montessori House of Children. She is well respected for her work to promote the Montessori Methodology as a preferred method of Education and is in involved with the IMC (Indian Montessori Center), Karnataka Chapter, as an Examiner and also a member of the committee for recognition of Montessori schools.
Dharini Srinivasan has been a Trustee at AVAS (Association for Voluntary Action and Services) since the mid-eighties. Her association with the team and the projects undertaken by AVAS, has helped in understanding the rights of the poor especially that of children and how education can empower them.
Dharini began her journey in serving slum communities over 4 decades ago when she joined ANITA REDDY as a co-traveller into areas that were pockets of suffering and threats, facing challenges that were marginalizing the poor in Bangalore. Specially moved by the plight of women and children Dharini began to work in empowering them towards participatory action. She also co-ordinated the ICDS centres and worked with the girl child.
Dharini’s expanse of experiences in slum rehabilitations, and children’s development work strengthen TRANSCEND TRUST and its activities in education.
Kedar Diwakar, Trustee
Kedar Diwakar had a deep compassion for serving urban poor communities from a younger age and always reached out to people with his father Mr.L.P.Diwakar, a founding trustee of AVAS. Over the years Kedar also began to support AVAS after becoming a trustee of the organization. He was responsible in all respects to keep it steady and persevere with its housing projects. An architect by profession, his inputs into many of the slum rehousing programs were invaluable.
Kedar is also culturally vibrant and is deeply involved in Hindustani music, and other classical forms and traditions of art and performing arts. In this aspect also Kedar reaches out to the children and youth programs of AVAS.
AVAS Founding Trustees
"only a life lived in the service to others is worth living"
Late Smt.Tara Chandavarkar
Founding Trustee, AVAS
Smt. Anita Reddy
Founding Trustee, AVAS
Late Sri.L.P. Diwakar
Founding Trustee, AVAS
Sri. Prakash M.Apte
Founding Trustee, AVAS
AVAS co-ordinators today.
Empowered women, empowering women.
Rahath has been an asset to AVAS with her determined spirit to work for the poor and downtrodden unabashedly. Her journey with AVAS began in 1985.
Glory also joined AVAS in 1985. Her hand had the golden healing touch for the sick and she left no stone unturned to make sure that every patient she was asked to take care of returned home well and healthy.
Gretta wanted to serve the poor at any cost and she joined AVAS in 1994 to do just that. Once she took up a responsibility she would ensure it got done regardless of the challenges she faced.
For all those years you worked with us
We miss you
We miss you
AVAS remembers your work in the urban poor communities.
AVAS ACKNOWLEDGES THE UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT YOU GAVE US.
Dr. Ruth Manorama
Womens Voice & NAWO
KKNSS & NCL
Mr. Kirtee Shah
Architect & Policy
Ruth Manorama, N.P.Samy and Kirtee Shah, three stalwarts in their respective fields of work and having decades of social activism in their lives journeys, have each been a pillar of support to AVAS, mentoring and nurturing its growth and vision in respect to community empowerment, women’s struggles for their rights, and guiding the team on policy and advocacy interventions. AVAS acknowledges the strength they gave at every stage of its growth and development.