Afternoon tea with Sugandh

SAM_7731 - CopyIt is very difficult for people living in poverty to save money and what little they have is often kept at home where it might be stolen or destroyed by fire. Setting up women’s saving groups is just one way that Sugandh work with those living in Delhi’s slums.

Last Sunday I spent an enjoyable afternoon hearing more about Sugandh from founder Emma Greenfield and assistant director Rinengi Ingleby. Emma had invited us for afternoon tea with Sugandh and about 30 people gathered to hear how the work had grown from a non-formal school for children working as ‘rag-pickers’ in the busy market to a centre providing life skills through vocational classes such as sewing, painting and card making.



In many instances the children at Sugandh are the first in their family to go to school and this is only possible because textbooks, mid-day meals, stationery, uniforms, shoes, school bags and other supplies are given free of charge. In India those with learning disabilities are often excluded but at Sugandh everyone is welcome and the children come full of anticipation and excitement. With a capacity of 60 students and three main classes the school also gives tuition support for older children. Rinengi spoke of one 17 year old graduate who had set up his own fee paying tuition club in order to provide an income for his family.


Sugandh aims to help empower Delhi’s poor and vulnerable communities and one way they do this is by helping women manage their hard earned savings in an effective way. They now have 60 women’s saving groups and Rinengi told how one member had bought supplies to start a grocery shop and another had repaired an old sewing machine and then attended a tailoring course – both using money from savings as well as a low interest loan from the co-operative.



Towards the end of the afternoon Rinengi read a testimony from a 14 year old girl whose father worked in a shoe factory earning about 400 rupees (£40) a month. The family struggle to pay their household expenses and her mother has to take on manual work to make ends meet. The girl shared what she had learned at Sugandh and how the teaching had relieved her tension and anxiety. She is now looking to her future and hopes to become a police officer.


Sugandh means “fragrance” in Hindi and, mingled with the fragrance of tea, coffee, cakes and strawberries, that afternoon we could smell the fragrance of Jesus in the Delhi slums.

Sugandh is a partnership organisation with South Asian Concern. You can find out more about their work here.  If you wish to support Rinengi and the staff in Delhi please donate via South Asian Concern marking your gift for Sugandh.

Rosey Johnson


Article by Rosey Johnson, Communications Manager, South Asian Concern