BENGALURU: Smiling young faces greet those visiting the Bharatiya Grameen Mahila Sangh (BGMS) campus in Bengaluru. With loud recitations of poems, mathematical tables and musical compositions, the mills of learning continue to grind, spreading energy and life on this 5.8-acre campus.
BGMS was introduced as a central government scheme by the late Yashodhara Dasappa, a social reformer, recipient of Padma Bhushan award and the first woman cabinet minister in Karnataka, and late C. Sharada. As it was a central government-sponsored scheme, such centres were set up in all states across the country in 1958.
Beginning as a hostel for the visually impaired, it now has a hostel for the underprivileged children, a destitute home, a short-stay home for women in despair, an old age home and a school. BGMS helps young children, women in despair and the elderly who are homeless.
The hostel houses 230 children – both girls and boys, who are orphans, children of single parents and from below-poverty-line families. The destitute home is partially funded by the government, while the rest is borne by donors.
To help overall development and a better future for children, BGMS set up an English medium school in 2009. Help for the initiative came from the London-based NGO Shishukunj. The school now provides free education to over 300 children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Though set up for the welfare of women and the girl child, BGMS has not denied education and shelter facilities to boys. Of the 230 children at the shelter home, 50-60 are boys. However, after Class X, boys are referred to government-run hostels or NGOs for further studies and residence, while girls continue with the organisation.
In addition to providing a safe and secure environment for children, BGMS also gives shelter to women subjected to domestic and other forms of violence. Victims can take the help of its Swaadhaar initiative, where women in conflict can stay for a short while till their issues are resolved. Through its another initiative, Saantvana, counselling is provided to women in distress.
BGMS has received help from Rotary Club Indiranagar, Jai Shiv Shakthi Education and Health Foundation, Free Masons and Shishukunj to build its physical infrastructure.
Ms Anantha Laksmi, Secretary, BGMS, narrated how she got involved with the organisation. Her uncle Mr Anantha Krishna, who held the post till then, told her one day, “I have a family of 200 children and I am dying”, which moved her to take up the challenge. Just a few months after she took over, her uncle passed away. She told Deccan Chronicle, “I am now running a family of over 300. It is the smile and success of children that drives me to work hard to impact a change in their lives. These children have tremendous talent, but lack opportunities. I proposed to set up a school as quality education is a necessity to bring about a change in their lives,” she said.
BGMS believes in the philosophy of ‘Letting Every Bud Bloom’ and allows children to explore a number of co-curricular activities, like music, dance, theatre, sports and even Bridge. Recently, one of their students, Manasa N., was selected to represent the Indian team at a Bridge tournament in Croatia. Expert coaching is provided for each of these activities as professionals volunteer to help children.
"Currently, this is the only BGMS centre that is functioning on the vision it was set up for. Similar organisations set up in other states have now started functioning as paying guest accommodations for women," said Mr Venkatesh, Manager of BGMS.
BGMS is now looking to expand its reach to cater to the educational and social needs of all the needy.
The present BGMS committee includes Bimba Raikar, Motamma, Vilasini, Prasanna Chandri, Anantha Lakshmi and Jaya Gopalakrishna.