Stories from the Slums

Sugandh has worked among some of the most deprived communities in New Delhi, India for almost 20 years. Led by Mrs Thangtei David, the team is wholly committed to two slum and resettlement communities spearheading child development, women’s self-help groups and community empowerment.

Sugandh children 2016 Staff in both its child development centres focus on supporting children; to integrate them into formal education and equip them with crucial life skills. Textbooks, midday meals, stationery material, uniforms, shoes, school bags, and other supplies are given free of charge and all children are helped to enrol in the local Government school. As many enter school with an academic ability lower than their age, Sugandh provide tuition classes to support the school curriculum and reduce the immediate risk of children falling behind and dropping out. On average over 110 children are registered in both centres in the academic year. For girls there are additional challenges as many families still do not value education for their daughters.

One such girl is Ayesha whose father works abroad in a Gulf country as a labourer and even with her mother’s earnings as a casual factory worker, the family find it hard to clear their debts. Sugandh staff met Ayesha 2 years ago and encouraged her to join the centre and continue her studies. With focussed support, she persisted and has passed her 11th class exams with an impressive pass mark of over 90%. Instead of drifting out of education she now wants to be a teacher. Another girl, Shilpi aged 13, dropped out of school because of bullying. When she tried to return at a later date she found her name had been removed from the register. Sugandh staff helped her regain admission and she enjoys her studies and is progressing well.

Sugandh SHG members 2016Saving is hard for many people and, for the very poor, practical considerations often prevent people from putting money aside: the cost of travelling to a bank is an issue for many. Local self-help groups enable women to save together and facilitating this has been the main growth in Sugandh’s work over the years. Group members are all stakeholders with the funds being held separately from the charity. Everyone commits to save on a regular monthly basis and the interest is divided equally between the groups. Last year over 900 women were saving together.

This simple scheme helps women like Lali Begum save to buy land. Both Lali and her husband are rag pickers* and, from their regular savings, have purchased a plot of land in their home village in Assam and more recently a small plot in the slum too. Others like Supriya, have been able to borrow from the group to buy a tiny shop in the slum and sell eggs thus increasing the family’s income. The women enjoy spending time together and an outing and meal together is a firm fixture in their community life.

Sugandh is also involved in advocacy training and community empowerment which includes helping people access what is rightfully theirs. One example is the ration cards which enable families to buy basic food supplies at subsidised prices. It took six months for Aisha to obtain her card, but even so, she was told by the shop owner that she could not access the rations. After being sent away empty handed for several months she turned to Sugandh for help. Staff member Kamal took their case to the local MLA’s (Member of the Legislative Assembly) office, and a senior member of staff accompanied him to the ration shop. As news of their impending visit reached the shopkeeper, he fled from his shop. But it was clear from his records that Aisha was already registered and Aisha is thankful to now receive her rations.

Sugandh BuntingFriends of Sugandh supports the work in New Delhi through prayer and fundraising. For example, Sugandh Creations helps women earn money by making crafts, such as bunting, bags and cards, to be sold locally and abroad. The sewing is done by a group of Burmese refugee women and the trainer Arti was, herself, trained through Sugandh. Please contact me if you would like to know more or to buy some of the crafts. If you wish to support our work please donate via South Asian Concern marking your gift for Sugandh or click here.

Emma Greenfield 2015

Article by Emma Greenfield, Chair of Friends of Sugandh.

For more inforamtion about Sugandh please visit their website here or contact Emma via email at


*rag-pickers collect recyclable rubbish which is then sold for a few rupees per kilo

Photo of children copyright Freida Angullia, used with permission