AVAS set out to make change possible by creating opportunities for people to gain confidence in themselves, understand and make discerning choices for their community’s development, and ultimately own the process of transformation itself. The two-way learning process left me humbled and rewarded as I saw two generations grow in front of me. Housing was only a tool. The homes we built were each a story of how people can be transformed when they can live with security and dignity, integrated into society as a whole. We are privileged to share their faces and voices here.
ANNA MARY FROM LAKSHMIPURAM SAYS
I have lived in Lakshmipuram slum for over 50 years. My early memories are of how we would put up some thatch to sleep under every night and in the morning the authorities would pull it all down. Night after night this saga continued. Where could we go. Where we were trying to live by a storm water drain in Indiranagar was anyway just plain waste land those days. There was no development like today. There were just a sprinkling of homes on CMH road. Water posts were very far away . Our toilets were the graves in the cemetery. Infact when Anitamma first came in 1978 she had to conduct meetings on those graves only as our area was very congested. She united our community against so much of threats to her life and helped us to fight for secure living conditions. She fought litigations too and helped us implead into many court cases and we won the land for us. The so- called claimant landlord (it was established in court that the then BCC was the owner of this stretch of land) threatened to kill her by bringing kerosene cans and matchboxes to set her and the huts on fire. She stood her ground and saved us. AVAS was born in 1980 after these initial struggles by her to protect our land for us. Dharini amma also came to our area those days. After that we formed a housing committee in the area and then we were encouraged to plan our own layout as per people’s aspirations. 127 families were then accommodated in that plan . I am talking about more than three decades ago. And then AVAS helped us to form a tripartite committee with HUDCO, BCC (BBMP now) and our local peoples committee. For our project even the authorities relaxed all rules to accommodate the wishes of the poor. That was a big achievement. Every step of the way with help from AVAS we overcame all our problems. Women were the pillars of this well acknowledged participatory insitu housing project that changed the address of Lakshmipuram slum to Laksmipuram layout. We are no longer threatened by anyone. We are now living with all comforts and our assets include washing machines, refrigerators, T.V's ofcourse, fans and lights and individual toilets. Many have vehicles, two wheelers and autorickshaws. Our children are better educated and in better jobs now. Of course with our families growing the density of population has increased. However we have secure homes and our life has transformed.
IMMANUEL FROM WAHAB GARDEN SAYS
For over 70 years our families lived in an area called the Wahab Garden Slum. Everyday was a struggle for survival and I don’t remember a single night when I slept peacefully. Our homes were small and dilapidated. We were often threatened by vested interest forces, and we lived in constant fear. Today we live in posh homes , registered in our names.
AVAS was God sent for us. They collectivized us, created awareness, formed a CBO, empowered women and youth, and organized us for housing action. AVAS convinced authorities to make a tripartite agreement between our CBO, HUDCO and KSDB. We are a model for many others today. With support of DRRT and its DRIK programs our children are all well educated and skilled. Some are engineers and others are in corporate jobs too. We are now a part of mainstream society and no longer just a marginalized slum.
ANDHAI FROM VYALKIKAVAL CHOWDAIHA COMMUNITY SAYS
I am Andhai. I migrated from a small village near Tiruvanamalai in Tamilnadu 60 years ago. As my family lost a standing crop due to no water resources and a severe draught for several years, we came in search of livelihoods to Benagaluru. All my children are born and brought up here in this area. Actually speaking this place was the garbage dump that I cleaned up day and night and then built a small hut to live in . Like that 42 families lived here for many years without any basic amenities. For drinking water we used to walk 2 kms and beg for water and food. All the time we were under the threat of eviction and brutality of the rowdy elements and even police used to come and threaten us every night, snatch money from us and go. They even misbehaved with us in those days.
Once AVAS came to our area and rescued us from a tragic incident of attack by mafia elements trying to grab our land. Infact we all got beaten up and all our huts were even demolished. AVAS helped us to rebuild our houses using thatches as immediate relief from the rains and floods. They gave us confidence and thus we became a part and parcel of the organization. AVAS collectivized us and we got united to fight for our rights. After a long struggle we were first able to get our ration card, voter ID card and then sites with land rights. AVAS and DRRT helped us to build these good safe houses. After 40 years of night -mares and fear, we slept peacefully with all amenities available. Our children are studying in higher standards, go to colleges and have became skilled workers. Now we have overcome poverty. If AVAS had not come to our rescue we would have been chased away to no where land and lived our lives in constant threat and insecurity.
CHINAKANNAN FROM VYALIKAVAL CHOWDAIHA SLUM SAYS
I settled in this area called Vyalikaval 60 years ago. It was a land filled with garbage and stagnant water. Those days our community was totally illiterate. No body knew how to sign also. We were unaware of any rights as citizens . AVAS came to our area almost when our huts were demolished and we were all injured by the brutality of fake claimants and mafia calling themselves the landowners . We were very helpless not knowing anything. Where do we go. AVAS rescued us by providing immediate relief and all the time encouraging and educating us on citizens rights and motivating us to participate in several struggles. Thus we overcame utter poverty and helplessness. Then the organization helped us educating us on getting our land ownership and housing. I want to say that literally none of us in this area slept a single night peacefully. Everyone looked at us as antisocial elements and illegal immigrants. Though we were very hard workers and laboured for the development of the entire locality and this city we were constantly threatened. Even police used to attack us near our area and snatch all the hard-earned money of the week, usually every Saturday evening when our wages were given, alleging us to be thieves. Recollecting all those experiences is now a thing of the past and we are living in security now. Our children are graduates , engineers and skilled professionals earning with dignity. We are the rightful owners of our homes. A life of threat is forgotten as we carved out our own destinies and live in peace and unity today.
Our Youth Ambassadors Impact Communities.
SUVARNA FROM MRS PALYA SAYS
I have 3 older sisters, and an elder brother who passed away recently on the same day that my father did. Despite this double tragedy I knew I have to face up to life and give courage to my mother who is diabetic and my older sisters. Our family was very poor and I had to work as a domestic worker to substantiate the family income. I would go early morning to work and then come back to a Government school until I joined DRISHYA started by DRRT. AVAS was working in our communities helping families get proper housing and secure land rights. At that time DRIK Jeevanotsava and DRIK- CEF, two initiatives to develop leadership in children and youth were being promoted by AVAS and DRRT, and I soon became a leader in these movements.
I owe my life’s shift from poverty to prosperity to Jeevanotsava and DRIK- CEF, as I became enabled to pursue higher studies with help from RCF too. I completed my M.Com and now work in a company where within the first year I was recognized as a valuable contributor to the development of the company also. Today I know I am a good daughter, a responsible youth and a good citizen in the society. I lead children from other communities too and I will ensure that more and more children and youth get empowered. I feel so happy when I see Anupama today. As a young adolescent girl she was being forced into child marriage. On the verge of a miserable calamity she ran away from home and got swallowed into the dark nights of an unsafe city like Bengaluru. I stood by her and gave her courage to live up to her convictions. With help from AVAS and DRRT I got her back into studies at Drishya where she finished her 10th standard and is now doing her B.Com degree. She is becoming a leader and encouraging other young girl children to pursue studies. This is how we are all becoming leaders in the DRIK Jeevanotsava movement empowering the younger generation.
ARJUN FROM SANYASIKUNTE (erstwhile slum) SAYS
This is my life story. It has unfolded with the Blessings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and the inspiration of beloved Sri.Dwaraknath Reddy appa. I live in Sanyasikunte slum with my parents Mariyamma and Subramani. When I was 7 years old I joined Drishya , an educational initiative founded by DRRT. I finished my 10th standard in 2013 and joined my junior college level to continue education.
However at that time there were also compulsions of my family needs for economic survival and I decided to take up an opportunity in DRIK Jeevanotsava team as I had myself been greatly benefitted by the experiences I had in this cultural empowerment movement. I had an opportunity to go to summer camps sponsored mostly by DRRT, and I learnt the Dollu Kunitha at Shankara Foundation. I also learnt other folk lore dances that were an expression of our rural heritage. I performed and showcased my skills in college which were highly appreciated. That motivated me to continue becoming a cultural facilitator and leader in teaching other children and youth with the dance skills I learnt. I have developed 4 teams in Bangalore, Chikkaballapur, and in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.
Working and learning from the AVAS team I learnt to solve community issues. In my community I am recognized by my peers and elders as a leader. I help families and empower them with their social entitlements. I have done in the past year or more 200 to 250 Voter ID cards, 18 Death Certificates, 68 Aadhar cards, 13 Aadhar corrections, 29 Caste and Income Certificates, 8 Ration cards, 20 Pensions, 24 Pan cards, 13 Birth certificates, 184 Land Documents with other community leaders. The big challenge that I recently took up was in resolving the drainage issues in the area that had become a nuisance despite our in-situ housing being completed. I reach out to people who need support in health care or hospitalization, in education for their children and linkages to Government schools, problems faced at the city Corporation BBMP offices etc. I feel so happy when my people say if there is a problem call Arjun, he will help us to solve it.
My thanks to AVAS and DRRT for supporting me right through, and for RCF for supporting me as cultural facilitator.
KEERTHANA FROM MRS PALYA SAYS
I am a youth leader and I owe my leadership development to the skills and values I picked up as a student of the DRIK Jeevanotsava program that AVAS co-ordinated in our area. I feel that in schools and colleges we just learn out of text-books. But in this program we learn real life lessons. I observed the elders in our community, and began to recognize my role as a responsible citizen. I participate in community meetings and I am learning to resolve the area issues. I want to become an independent leader and solve the issues of our community children. I teach children after school hours and even my parents are happy to see me do this. AVAS and Jeevanotsava have changed my life.
SANTHOSH FROM VYALIKAVAL COMMUNITY SAYS
I live in Vyalikaval slum. My parents migrated from Tamilnadu to this place 60 years ago. There was nothing in this area or surroundings then. It was like waste land. We lived in a small thatched home. I am the last son among the five children of my parents. As days passed on, in our growing up years we were faced with lots of problems. Vested interest elements wanted to chase us out from this place calling us anti-social just because we were poor. Our entire slum was ‘rescued’ by AVAS from the jaws of demolitions. We struggled very hard, and all our elders got beaten several times by politically motivated goondas . Once we got empowered with lot of awareness meetings, discussions , follow up with governments and courts , we built secure houses and got absolute land right documents also registered for most of the families. AVAS, with support from DRRT helped us to build the people before building the houses. Thanks to the extremely innovative approach to education at DRISHYA concept learning and activity centers today I am what I am . Humbly I want to say that we are the productive citizens of the city and all the youth and children are getting educated higher and higher utilizing the DRIK CEF also. Many of us are graduated and mastered in engineering , commerce and arts. And many are working in corporate and IT companies. Once upon a time we lived in utter poverty with absolutely no amenities and proper roof . Today we are the proud citizens of this locality and in the main-stream of the society in all respects though we belongs to the SC/ST category.
DHANALAKSHMI FROM WAHAB GARDEN SAYS
I am a Jeevanotsava leader. I also am an account holder of DRIK-CEF, the Children’s Education Fund in our area. Now I am a teacher and a leader. We, the youth, are very thankful to AVAS and DRRT for having provided many young girls and boys opportunities for higher education and youth empowerment programs. I have been brought up in a situation of constant struggle for land, housing and better living conditions. Today we are very lucky to be in big posh houses with all amenities. I humbly thank AVAS for empowering women on all aspects of life today. Women are socially and economically empowered and are educating their children in our area. We have benefitted and changed. We now work in neighbouring communities to help them also to change.
FROM MRS PALYA SAYS
I always wanted to be a responsible leader in Society. I had no direction or goals and felt lost in the community. After DRIK Jeevaotsava came into our lives everything changed. It gave me the confidence and courage to become something in life. I live my life like the leader that I feel I am today.
FROM MRS PALYA SAYS
I studied in DRISHYA and learnt values and leadership in DRIK Jeevanotsava. I was born and brought up in MRS Palya slum and with support of AVAS and DRRT I was able to pursue my education, finish M.Com and am now placed in a good multi-national company earning well. I also benefitted by the internship I did in DWARAKA and the encouragement I got there.
AKBAR FROM BYAPPANAHALLI SAYS
For more than 30 years AVAS has worked in G.Byappanahalli slum where I was born and brought up. With AVAS support our infrastructure like water, toilets, garbage collection etc. improved. They are helping us get the land documents also. Now it is no longer like the slum as each family keeps developing in many respects. Education levels have gone up and so have our income earning capacities and economic levels. I studied in Drishya Kallika Kendra, the educational initiative of DRRT. I then joined Shristi School of Art and Technology on a scholarship. I am an architect today working with Mistry Architects. I was given these opportunities to grow and develop by AVAS and DRRT.
ANTHONY FROM SUDHAMANAGAR SAYS
I was born years after Anita Reddy had come to our area to help the people there. When I was a small boy my parents used to tell us that from 1978 she worked relentlessly and had managed to convince all concerned authorities to adhere to peoples dreams and aspirations for independent houses. As our families grow we could develop our homes incrementally. AVAS helped us solve our infrastructure and housing problems. Water was a big issue but now we are all settled well. They taught us to struggle for our rights and win.
I was involved in all the DRIK Jeevanotsava programs from many years. We participated actively in drama, dance and music practices and performances. But to me the encouragement and opportunities I got in sports in the Jeevanotsava platform is what changed my life to who I am today. Football became my passion and I practiced hard as I learnt the value of perseverance and determination in Jeevanotsava. I play National level Football today and am a leader for many youth in my teams. The DRIK CEF helped many children in my community who are in higher studies. I pursued my dreams for excellence in sports. And I remember that when Anita amma helped me buy the first couple of pairs of special shoes for football that I could not afford then my dreams got ignited to action. I want to thank her and her friend Latha amma for their encouragement.
SWAPNA OF BANDEHALLI VILLAGE NEAR CHIKKABALLAPUR SAYS
I am 18 years old. I was born and brought up in this village called Bandehalli. The very name indicates that this village exists on a rocky terrain. It is over 70 years old. It is adjacent to the birth-place of the world-renowned scientist and engineer Sri. M.Vishweshwaraiah, a Bharath Ratna awardee. Despite this fame our village did not benefit in any and we lived in poverty with no amenities for a decent survival. As days passed by youngsters got educated and moved to the near by towns and cities leaving aged parents. Lack of toilets alienated us in many ways and our young daughters of this area were being ostracized when they sought marriage proposals as the homes had no toilets. The same with youth who couldn’t bring new brides to homes with no toilets. But still I love my village .
I started attending DRIK Jeevonothsava program of DRRT and AVAS. I learnt values and skills from this but all the time I was worried about finding solutions for our toilet issues. In one meeting I spoke about my villages young women facing severe problems due to open defecation and even the National, State and Regional TV channels and news papers covered our plight but it was of no use. None of the politicians or beaurocrats came to our rescue but AVAS and DRRT came to our village like a celestial gesture, and gave hope to do the IHHL project in our village. Anita amma raised additional amount as grants from Habitat for Humanity, and along with available Government grants Rahath amma and team worked very hard to get the toilet project completed in our village. AVAS also helped us to get our land ownership documents( house list) for all families.
After this IHHL project lots of changes are taking place in our village. People started levelling the area, made proper accessed roadS and our village looks much cleaner and greener because of these eco friendly toilets with an innovative design constructed for all. Today officers and other dignitaries from all over India and foreign countries are visiting our village and appreciating the efforts of AVAS, and even governmentt officials are also very happy and request Anita amma for help to other villages in that region. And the best part is that young couples have started coming back to our village and settling here, by renovating their broken homes. Without AVAS our lives would not have changed so dramatically.