A simple, handmade ‘hundi’ is going places, not so much for its appearance, as its significance. And, it’s being taken places by school students.
Along its four-year journey, this humble hundi has helped change the lives of many poor students and children thanks to the Poverty Solutions initiative by the NGO Shanti Ashram in Coimbatore. Simply put, Poverty Solutions encourages school children to save money and contribute for the well-being of their less privileged peers.
Mahek V Bhandari, a Class 10 student of Yuvabharathi Public School, Coimbatore, says the ‘piggy bank’ system is simple.
“All interested students buy a piggy bank each for Rs 25. We are given a time frame of, let’s say, 100 days during which we fill the piggy banks, after which we all break it on the same day and count our savings. One-third of the total goes for the contribution. The other two-thirds is to be divided for our use and our respective families,” he explains.
Rani (name changed), the daughter of a construction worker in Coimbatore, had to face hurdles to continue her higher secondary education. Despite high marks (493/500) in Class X and a negligible fee in a government school, joining Class 11 was not a cake walk for her. So, a scholarship of Rs 1,000 meant a lot to her. And, the fact that this scholarship came from student-donors made it all the more significant.
K Harini Amala, the daughter of an electrician from Kanya Gurukulam, who also received a scholarship, says: “It is a very nice gesture by students and should be encouraged in all schools. Even the small savings that students like us (in Government / Government aided schools) can make will be of great help to those studying in conditions worse than mine”.
There are interesting stories about how the hundis get filled, from sacrificing on chocolates to add to the savings to running errands for parents to the local store and saving the small change. Others set aside a few rupees from their pocket money, while some opt for less expensive dresses for a festival or birthday and add to their savings. These efforts result in savings of between Rs 350 and Rs 1,000 per hundi.
The Ashram has devised the initiative with a two-pronged aim – to infuse the spirit of charity, and accentuate the importance of saving. It also gets children involved in decision-making exercises. The initiative has completed four phases, proof that the number of student contributors are growing steadily as is their contribution, says Kezevino Aram, director of Shanti Ashram.
Many schools have been involved in the initiative through all the four phases. Going beyond the stipulated, teachers say most students choose to contribute the whole amount saved rather than just one-third. For the student contributors it is a feeling of “being the change you wish to see, a small way to contribute to society”.
A seemingly simple concept, Poverty Solutions, the seed for which was sown by Shanti Ashram in 2012, has grown into India Poverty Solutions and is spreading its roots pan-India. The initiative has now reached six Indian cities and is even poised to spread to Sri Lanka, Kenya and the Philippines.
The ‘hundi’, in the last four years, has reached students in over 100 institutions across Coimbatore, Ernakulam, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Puducherry. Its savings – of over Rs 2.5 lakhs – has translated into contributions for scholarships for children, immunisation and anaemia screening drives for children and adolescent girls, food banks, and nutritional literacy programmes.
Watch a video about the initiative here: