July 26 2016

Building Resilience and Self-sufficiency in Indian Villages

A Message From Shamsul Akhtar,
Karuna-Shechen India Director:


Shamsul AkhtarKaruna-Shechen began its work in Bihar, one of India’s most destitute states, in the late 1990s by sending a mobile clinic to distribute medical help to poor villages. This small-scale humanitarian project has evolved into a successful movement for rural development.

We have a creative approach to helping vulnerable communities become sustainable and self-reliant. In addition to our health and education programs for adults and children, a crucial part of our work entails providing villagers with the tools and knowledge they need to make sustainable use of local resources and to contribute concretely to their community’s well-being.

Each of our activities is interconnected, and together they create an eco-system of interventions in which they build on each other’s success to empower rural communities. For example, our distribution of seeds and plants to villagers so that they can grow organic kitchen gardens gives them access to nutritious food, which leads to better health. Our water-harvesting teaches water management and proper use of precious resources to communities in drought-prone areas.

In each village, local committees are set up and a motivator is chosen to act as an essential link between the people and us. By working with villagers in this way, we seek to affirm their dignity and self-determination.

Our Small Money, BIG CHANGE program allows communities to plan and implement small-scale projects that directly address their specific needs with a minimum of start-up funding. This directly benefits villagers’ daily lives while also teaching them about transparency and the responsibilities of ownership. Equally, it helps us identify the hidden talents and natural ingenuity of the people we serve.

We will continue to engage villagers in projects that build their resilience and self-sufficiency. With this strategy, we strive to create a better and more sustainable world, one village at a time.

Shamsul Akhtar