A sweet fragrance for the poor

“I have known Saida (name changed) ever since she was a girl and a student at our school. She is a lively person and, from a young age, joined her mother and sisters in their work to collect, sort and sell rubbish from the busy market area.

When she was in her early teens, a woman from their village told them that she knew a way for Saida to earn more money. She said that she would take Saida to a house where she could work as a maid. Before leaving, Saida came to Sugandh to say goodbye. I asked her if she knew the woman properly or about the place where she was being taken. I tried to warn her about possible dangers but without success as her mother approved of the plan.

A few days later, I received a phone call from Saida. She told me that she had been brought to a place she didn’t know. It wasn’t a family house, as she had been led to believe, and she had been told she was going to Mumbai. She had managed to sneak out to the reception area to phone me when no one was looking. She sounded really scared. I asked her where she was but she was too afraid to answer. I was very worried about her and didn’t know what to do since I did not know her exact location.

I called back on the same number and a man picked up. I asked him to give the phone to Saida. He said that there was no one there by that name and asked me how I got the number. We had a huge argument but he got scared when I threatened him with informing the police. Thankfully, an hour later, they let her go.

Saida was too scared to go back to the slum, so she came and stayed with my family for a month until she was happy to go back home.” Thangteii David, Director of Sugandh.

Sugandh’s main work, in two very poor areas in Delhi, is empowerment through education, women’s savings groups and community advocacy. This includes:

Vocational Training Workshop

• running a non-formal school in the slum for very vulnerable children

• vocational skills training for young men and women

• community education and advocacy to empower people to access government schemes and know their rights

• co-operative savings groups where those who can’t open their own bank accounts can save a part of their meagre earnings and often take loans to fund their own small businesses, medical bills, and so on.


This grassroots level involvement means that we have developed strong relationships and, although our work is not often as dramatic as it was in Saida’s case, it often takes us beyond our set activities.

It is a huge privilege to work with these people and help them see their dignity and potential. Whether it is helping someone get admission to school, or giving tuition help, or helping them find skills training, we aim to empower them and be the fragrance of Christ to them. Sugandh means ‘Fragrance’ in Hindi.

Article by Rinengi Varte Ingleby (Friends of Sugandh)

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