Fatima Chhipa, 31, felt helpless when her husband divorced her. With a son to look after and no education to fall back on, it seemed a dead end. Then she came across Umeed that provided her the light at the end of the tunnel.
In 2007, Fatima, an Ahmedabad resident, joined a course on customer relations under Umeed. Today, she works in a departmental store. “The job not only made me financially independent but helped me survive with respect and dignity in society,” said Fatima, her eyes welling up.
Umeed has empowered many lives in Gujarat with its market-oriented three-month vocational courses. The project had its inception in Andhra Pradesh in 2005. Dr Reddy’s Foundation designed the courses for disadvantaged urban youth. America India Foundation (AIF), an NGO, invested in the project. Known as Market Aligned Skill Training (MAST), the programme runs in eight states and has trained 45,535 urban youths.
In 2006, Saath, an Ahmedabad-based organisation, in collaboration with AIF and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation adopted the programme that came to be known as Udaan.
“We found the service sector required a lot of skilled manpower and the disadvantaged urban youth from the slums needed jobs. So we designed the curriculum accordingly,” said Rajendra Joshi, managing trustee of Saath.
Buoyed by its success, the Gujarat government in 2007 invested in the project and it was renamed Umeed.
“What sets MAST apart is its trained faculty sourced from local industry. It has a 71 per cent placement rate,” said Tarun Vij, country director (India), AIF.
The response of the employers, too, has been encouraging. Chirag Desai, of Chroma, Gujarat, said, “These candidates understand the importance of the chance given to them and, therefore, work sincerely.”