RIDE was founded in 1984. We are a secular, non-government organisation, registered with the government and recognized by Government agencies, dedicated to empower poor and disadvantaged residents of rural Tamil Nadu to improve the quality of lives.
RIDE works to eliminate child labor, promote economic and social justice for women, provide essential medical and educational services, and cultivate economic opportunity throughout the Kanchipuram region. Our motto ‘educate to empower’ embodies the central approach and goal of our activities.
For over three decades RIDE has been synonymous with community action, especially in the areas of child labor eradication, ‘bridge schools’ for children making a transition from child labor to school, empowerment of women through self help groups, human rights education, and other health, sanitation and road safety initiatives.
We have a dedicated staff and have grown immensely since our inception. At present RIDE has 35 permanent staff members–30 women, 5 men, and up to 6 part-time staff members, including a visiting doctor.
Our vision since 1984 has been to establish a just society. We work to do this primarily through education and empowerment, though we will develop creative approaches to meet the needs of our community as they arise. We will continue to strive for the total eradication of child labor, the empowerment and equal treatment of women, and ongoing improvement in the quality of life for disadvantaged citizens of our area.
Thinking about the future, RIDE envisions increased self-sustainability for the village families we have been educating, training and repeatedly encouraging. Along the same lines, RIDE is working to become a self-sustainable organisation, relying on our organisation’s own resources, generated through sustainable tourism, fee-for-service training, technical assistance to other NGOs, and other means. This would allow us to depend less on the generous donations of individuals and funding agencies.
Listening to the concerns expressed by members of our Self Help Groups, we recognise that road safety needs to be one of our key initiatives. Kanchipuram is one of the major accident-prone zones of Southern India.
RIDE has been running a road safety program according to the district officers’ guidelines. This program is offered in the entire Kanchipuram district, covering 5 police zones. Rescue operations are carried out jointly by RIDE, the local hospital and the police department. RIDE advocates for lorry free roads between 8 and 10 am, when children are on their way to school. However this continues to be an ongoing issue.
Focus on Environmental Issues
RIDE is hoping to be able to set up environmental centres in the villages – places where local people can gather to learn about waste disposal and recycling, about sanitation and ground water, and about environmentally sound methods of agriculture. RIDE wants to establish its own nursery, enabling us to distribute seeds and seedlings to villagers, thereby addressing the problem of deforestation and also promoting self-sufficiency and healthy living.
A Just Society
Other projects that RIDE would like to develop include an expansion of our successes in the area of child labour eradication which has recently included children in the rock quarries; further extension and strengthening of Self Help Groups; provision of services and care to children with disabilities, and support/education services to their families; clean water and sanitation for all visitors; and human rights watch groups.
The main challenges RIDE faces are inequalities inherent in traditional Indian society, including caste and gender discrimination. These injustices are particularly difficult to overcome in the rural areas that we serve. Due to the lack of education, RIDE’s efforts toward progress, development and general improvement of life is often hampered by the ignorance that continues to prevail in some villages. It requires patience, perseverance, and compassion to introduce people to new ways of thinking, new possibilities, and alternative ways of approaching life. For example it is difficult to persuade a needy person, who has long gone hungry, not to eat the meat of an animal which died three days earlier and is half rotten.
In addition to this, RIDE’s work often is complicated by local political pressure and corruption – which unfortunately appears to be widespread, permeating both the private and official levels of society.
Another of RIDE’s challenges relates to funding and support. Like most non-government organisations, RIDE struggles with insufficient funding, preventing us from expanding current programs and developing new initiatives to address compelling needs. This casts a shadow over our organisation’s vision for the future and requires us to continually work to seek out funding opportunities and support for future projects. This is why self sufficiency is deemed so important in RIDE’s vision for the future.