Kewnale, a village situated in the Sahyadri Ranges, in the Mokhada Block in Thane District of Maharashtra was engulfed in poverty and gross neglect. But there has been a tranformation after Rotarians of Rotary clubs of Mumbai Shivaji Park and Bombay Bay View, RI District 3140, along with their global partner, District 7210, USA, worked hard on integrated community development here.
The man behind this project is Rtn Aniruddha Naik of RC Mumbai Shivaji Park, RI District 3140. A chance visit to the village in November 2010 shocked this Rotarian about the plight of the tribal residents, the abject poverty here, and the absence of even basic amenities such as electricity, drinking water, toilets, hospitals and proper shelter. The only public transport for the region, a government bus, reached the village by sunset and returned the next morning. The primary school was in shambles and the children sat on the floor as the school had no furniture; the Samaj Kalyan Kendra or the community centre had a leaking roof and was in a dilapidated condition.
The village has a population of about 600 adivasi people, who lived in mud houses and commuted on mud roads. Sanitation facilities were nil and this adversely affected the health of the villagers. Women had to trek three kilometres daily to fetch drinking water and during monsoons the situation was much worse. Such uninhabitable conditions prodded many families to migrate to nearby areas and children to drop out of school.
Rtn. Naik described his experience to his club members and thus the Rotarians of RC Mumbai Shivaji Park got passionately involved in developing the village with support from other Rotary club partners. Together, the Rotarians brought about better comforts and enhanced the living conditions of Kewnale. The main areas of focus were education, water, sanitation, women empowerment and community development. The work was in full flow with US $59,250 received under Rotary International’s Future Vision Plan of Global Grant Project and substantial contributions from club members and the District Grant.
The check dam built by the Government which was hitherto non-functional was repaired and the wells were deepened and cleared of slush to provide sufficient drinking water to the people. Solar panels were installed on housetops and solar-powered street lights brightened the paths of the newly-laid roads. Toilet blocks were constructed and the community centre was also made functional and equipped with adequate furniture.
The Zilla Parishad School was renovated and necessary infrastructure was put in place. Uniforms, sweaters and stationery items were distributed to the 100 children studying there, to encourage them to attend school regularly.
The women of Kewnale were empowered with training in tailoring and sewing machines were also provided to them enabling a sustained livelihood. Arrangements were put in place to impart adult education to empower the villagers with functional literacy.
Kewnale’s community leader Madhukar Khade says that after the Rotary intervention the entire village has now become vibrant and alive and a new hope for better days ahead has been kindled in the hearts of the villagers. The tribal community comprising mainly of agricultural labourers had till then survived on a meagre annual income of about ₹15,000 and through the intervention of the Rotary projects, they have started to lead a better life. Women now are empowered so much that they also participate in discussions and decision-making in the Gram Sanghatan; children now attend their classes regularly and even take part in sports activities.
The village with its new look and life was formally dedicated to the villagers by PDG Vijay Jalan in a simple yet exuberant ceremony in April 2014.