Ahmedabad: A group of friends inspired by the thoughts of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi chose to serve the community by setting up a voluntary organization in Gujarat. The result was Society for Education Welfare and Action-Rural (SEWA Rural).
SEWA Rural was founded in 1980 in the town of Jhagadia, an impoverished area with low literacy and no health facility. Jhagadia was chosen because “it was close to the holy river of Narmada", says Bankim Sheth, one of the managing trustees at SEWA Rural.
The group of founders included Anil Desai, a surgeon, Lata Desai, a paediatrician, and Sheth, a science graduate, among others.
The local community offered the organization a small, partly defunct maternity home.
What started as a 20-bed hospital with a handful of doctors is today a 200-bed facility with more than two dozen doctors. About 400 patients from Jhagadia and nearby villages receive medical treatment daily in the hospital’s out-patient department. Every year, about 125,000 out-patients and 20,000 in-patients are treated at the facility, which delivers around 5,400 babies and performs 7,500 surgeries.
Every year about Rs5 crore is spent on hospital services. Of this 50% comes from a state government grant.
“Various central government schemes like Chiranjeevi Yojana and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana meant for poor people help SEWA Rural achieve its objective of serving marginalized families," said Sheth.
Apart from running the hospital, SEWA Rural works in as many as 600 villages with the state government in healthcare and community health services, carrying out research works and imparting vocational training to the local residents, especially members of the tribal community. As many as 200 young people are trained in the Vivekananda Gramin Tekniki Kendra every year.
In the 1990s, SEWA Rural became the first Indian non-governmental organization to take over the functioning of a state government-run public health centre (PHC). The organization ran the PHC successfully for over a decade before handing it back to the government.
The non-profit organization, which employs around 275 people, has become the first NGO in Gujarat to be certified by the Great Place to Work Institute-India, according to Sheth.
SEWA Rural has come up with a number of initiatives to promote work-life balance, including the ‘Nav Dampati Mela’ where sessions for newly married employees are organized from time to time on married life, savings, family planning and caring for each other.