Asha means hope
True to its name, Asha spreads hope, radiance and positivity across the lives of millions of slum dwellers in 95 slums in the vast, sprawling megapolis of Delhi.
Asha’s programme areas are holistic covering Healthcare, Empowerment, Education, Financial Inclusion, Environment and Infrastructure development in the slums of Delhi.
The programmes are implemented through 13 centres located right at the heart of the slums in the project locations. These centres act as the hub for all the activities and also act as a Resource cum Capacity Building Training centre. Asha’s programs directly address land rights, health, education and income, as well as the underlying social and environmental factors that influence them. Acting in concert, activities are mutually interdependent and reinforcing, thus amplifying the individual impact of each.
The three main pillars of Asha’s approach
Visionary and Passionate Leadership acting as the central force in driving the organization, Building Community and avoiding burnout among the Asha team and Building Competence, Quality and Independence. Asha’s Overall approach is based upon providing critical support to unlock individual and community potential. Based on this approach, Asha Strategies are –
- Long-term commitment
- Systems, protocols and monitoring
- Strengthening civil society
- Identifying and responding to local needs.
The activity at Asha starts early in the morning. Asha centre is located right in the middle of slum locations. As soon as the gates of the centre are opened, there is hustle, bustle and running around. Smiling Asha staff welcomes everybody and enquires about their wellbeing. The children and Ladies of the community enter the centre and starts their daily activities as per the schedule. The healthcare clinic begins in the designated room and there is a queue of patients waiting for their turn. The healthcare team attends to every patient with care and compassion to ensure that they are given the best treatment.
What makes the real difference is the long relationship with every patient, the confidence they have in the Asha team which gives them the courage to discuss their problems without any hesitation and the caring attitude of the Asha staff. Asha considers every member of the slum community as part of their family and there is genuine concern for them. The beauty of Asha is such that everyone who enters Asha premises develops ownership of the place and becomes part of the family. Asha team works meticulously to maintain the health records of each patient along with the prescribed doses of medicines. The Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) start their round of home visits to provide primary healthcare to the community after attending the morning briefing at the Asha centre.
The children come to the centre after their school hours and start engaging in different activities. All the activities are in Fun learning mode but are intended to provide them lifelong education. The children also utilize the IT facilities at the centre to complete their homework and school assignments. The children attend Bal Mandal meetings to discuss various issues about the community. They also learn about Asha Values and practice them in their community.
The children are taught and conditioned from a very early age to become responsible citizens of the country and develop themselves in an environment that is much different from their day-to-day surroundings. The children also enrich themselves with good books which are available at the well-resourced Asha Library. Most importantly, the colourful decoration on the walls of every room, Murals and other designs enhances their mood and makes them cheerful and happy.
The college students come to the centre to use the IT Lab facilities, to attend classes, submit their assignments and appear for their online exams.
The Asha centre with the necessary infrastructure is their constant companion and support starting from their college admission, continuing their studies till they get their final degree. It has been the lifeline for their education, especially during the crisis of the pandemic.
Senior students also conduct classes at the centre for their junior counterparts and help them in their crucial school-leaving exams to open the door for their tertiary education.
Evaluating the effectiveness of large, complex programs such as Asha’s that grow organically over an extended period is a major challenge, especially when they are located in resource-constrained settings such as the slums of Delhi. It is to Asha’s credit that staff recognized the need to maintain systematic records that would allow them to both documents what they were doing and capture the changes in their communities over time. Asha maintains an efficient record-keeping system, and present a summary of change over time on selected indicators.
The strength of an organization often rests upon a sense of solidarity among staff, and a system that ensures staff remain committed. The latter is a particular challenge for Asha, given the necessity to put in long hours in conditions that are often physically and emotionally demanding. However, Asha has combatted this challenge successfully and has created an environment based on trust, transparency and commitment and most of the team members have been part of the organization for long years.
Asha is much more than just a workplace for them. Professional development is offered to staff, via formal training, visits by outsiders, and being called upon themselves to give presentations about their work.
Founder, hands-on leader and doctor, inspiration, guide, visionary, much loved in the slums and proud holder of the Padma Shri Award.
Loving and caring, professional and committed, our people all work with us because they care for other people.
Our mission is to work with the urban poor to bring about long-term and sustainable transformation to their quality of life.
Growth and success
After being founded by one person who worked surrounded by dirt, ignorance and despair, and who overcame the obstacles of political intrusion and corruption, Asha is now transforming the lives of more than 700,000 slum dwellers in over 91 slum colonies of Delhi. Today, the government, visitors and the slum communities themselves have great respect for Asha and all that it has achieved.