"Non Governmental Organizations have to encompass and sustain the core value of compassion and cannot function as a corporate" said Mr DR Mehta, founder of the Jaipur Foot Factory, one of the three honorees at the annual recognition dinner organized by Indians for Collective Action on November 11th Sunday evening at the Tie Banquet Hall in Santa Clara, California.
Last week, Mr. Mehta had also won the prestigious Equality Award of the Tech Museum of San Jose for his pioneering and innovative work of providing ingenious, low-cost prosthetic limbs for amputees to help them restore mobility and dignity. Besides cash prize of $50,000, the honor also induces the laureates into the Tech Laureate Venture Network, an extension of the awards from an annual event to a year round program. The goal of the network is to create opportunities for learning, networking, and exposure to assist the awardees in furthering their work.
The Jaipur foot is lightweight, strong, and has virtually the same range of movement and appearance as a human foot and amputees who visit Mr. Mehta's clinics or mobile workshops receive their new limbs at no cost, and can return to improved lives in just a day or two.
He said that the organization's goal is to provide the best quality product to the poorest people. "We have succeeded in increasing the production of limbs via new management techniques and a patient centric approach in all of the 16 centers around the country."
While recognizing the practical issues of sustainability and scalability by NGOs, he said, "several corporate with various sums of donation have helped the Devendra Raj Mehta Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti since its inception in 1975 and divine grace has allowed the organization not only to survive but to increase its reach. The Jaipur foot, as the prosthetic limb is popularly known is being used not only by the needy in India but by people in other parts of the world too."
Adopting the latest in the principles of science and service, the non-profit is confident in the design and production of the limbs below the knees but wants to collaborate with other NGOs and hospitals for production of above the knee limbs.
The other honorees at the ICA dinner included Inderjit Khurana, founder of Ruchika Social Service Organization (RSSO). RSSO operates more than a hundred schools and two phone help lines, a shelter for homeless children, water and sanitation program, and an AIDS awareness program for the poorest and most vulnerable children who live and work on station platforms in Orissa. Ms. Khurana is an Ashoka fellow and the recipient of the 2004 National Award for Child Welfare and the 2006 Henry Derozio Award. RSSO believes that every child has a right to education, and has dedicated itself to the ideal that "if a child cannot come to school, then the school must come to the child."
The third recipient of the honor for Social Entrepreneurship went to San Francisco based Global Fund for Women, the world's largest foundation solely dedicated to women's human rights. It advocates and defends women's human rights by making grants to support women's groups around the world including India. Since 1987, GFW has awarded over $58 million to more than 3,450 organizations in 166 countries.
Indians for Collective Action (ICA) is a San Francisco Bay Area based nonprofit group, incepted in 1968 at the Berkley campus with a motto of Development through Innovation. Working in partnership with dedicated social workers and organizations in India and the US, the organization has supported development projects in 16 states in India. The foundation only works with NGOs whose guiding principles are secular, non-partisan and democratic with a vision of a secure life for every Indian, in a sustainable environment and a just society. The foundation provides seed funding, ongoing financial resources, moral and technical support to innovative, community-based development initiatives. Some of the new initiatives of the organization include the Youth project and a Fellowship fund. While the first one helps connect the youth in US with NGOs in India for a hands on experience of work on the ground, the second one is to help activists in India especially women in securing opportunities to come to US for higher training in their areas of work/interest.