The Impact of Basic Needs Program

(2002 – 2007)

Joyasree Mahanti, August 2008


The Basic Needs Program (Water, Food through Micro Finance, Basic Education, and Basic Healthcare) was started with the collaboration of Biswa and four villages in the district of Sambalpur, Orissa in November, 2002 and expanded to 48 villages by 2006. The impact of the Basic Needs Program on children, parents, and the villages is clearly visible in a short period of time.  It is also encouraging to see the increased attention the Government is paying to these historically neglected areas.




-          Installed enough drinking water tube wells (44)

-          Started 20 schools (one room/one teacher)

-          Supporting many small businesses through Micro Finance

-          245 Health Camps

-          28 Eye Camps

-          Bike project for the school children

-          Soap making unit

-          Started a production unit in the urban area

-          Expand the Prabasi Training Center in Eastern Orissa (which I started in 2002 after the Super Cyclone) by adding computer training program to the exciting tailoring program.

-          Opened Oddissa Fabric Tailoring Unit in Bhubaneswar 




Drinking Water Tube wells:


-          Due to the availability of clean drinking water and basic health care, common illnesses have been reduced dramatically.

-          The villagers do not have to travel a long distance to obtain water for cooking and drinking.


Food through Micro Finance support:


A few dollar increases in their monthly income has given the villagers new hope and strength through different tradings. 


-          Started grocery and clothing stores

-          Soap making unit

-          Raise Goats and Cows

-          Improve farming

-          Numerous small businesses

-          Different training programs for improvements in specific trades

-          Due to the increase of earning, living standard has improved


Basic Education:


Through this program, we teach the children how to read, write, and do simple math and also create awareness of education among the parents and children.


Currently, eleven schools (out of 20) are now supported by the Crèche scheme (day-care system) of the Central Government, under the department of District Social Welfare (DSW). The schools are managed jointly by the Government and BISWA. The Government supervises the schools once or twice a year. Currently, most of the children of the villages are attending the village schools. The children are provided morning (soya milk and bread) and afternoon (Rice and dal) meals.  BISWA sends monthly progress report and quarterly progress and financial reports to the Government. The children are between the ages of 1 to 6. The school runs from 9 AM to 5 PM. The other nine schools are still managed by BISWA.


-          The same children who were wandering around aimlessly are now attending schools.

-          Illiteracy has dropped.

-          A morning meal followed by school for her child has reduced a heavy burden on the mother.

-          The mothers/women, now empowered, come forward with confidence to express their views, are willing to participate actively in discussions, and now make the decisions that can improve their lives and the condition of their villages.

-         There are Government schools in some of the villages. Unfortunately, the schools were not functioning due to the absence of teachers. After our schools started, it put pressure on the Govt. schools and some teachers have started to come regularly.

-         The children are now coming to school with clean clothes and combed hairs.

-         The basic education has given the children and parents hopes and dreams.

-         The children are exposed to outside world through different visitors visiting their schools.

-         The general knowledge of the children has increased dramatically.

-         The children are learning how to keep the environment clean.

-         Parents are bringing the children to schools voluntarily.







Basic Health Care:


-          Due to frequent health camps, early detection of serious diseases was possible

-          Decrease in common sicknesses

-          Free medicine was provided

-          Common sickness were cured at the beginning, did not become life threatening

-          Family planning was encouraged

-          The villagers did not have to travel to a great distance for simple sickness

-          Provided eye glasses (about 2855) and performed cataract surgeries on 488 patients without any cost.

-          Regular cleaning of the village roads, common areas, and around the  tube wells

-          Awareness of the causes diseases and how to take care of them

-          Through CBD centers, the villagers can buy common medicine at a nominal price





The total collection from donations to support the Basic Needs Program (from 2002-2007) was $130,700. The administrative cost, 8 to 10% of this amount, was given to BISWA. As the projects expanded, they needed more funding and attention. It became difficult to support the projects only with my collection. BISWA started to make major financial contribution towards different projects from 2005. My travel and other expenses are supported by me.


It is difficult for me to express the impact of the Basic Needs Program on the villagers in simple words. Unless one has eye witnessed the living condition of these children and the parents in 2002, it is hard to imagine the changes.  The same children who were wondering around aimlessly are going to schools with a hope for the future. The mothers/women come forward with confidence to express their views and are willing to participate in discussions about the improvement of their lives and their villages.  Now the men are also joining our group discussions led by the women without any hesitation. What charms me most is the impact of a very small amount of help (sometimes less than 10 dollars) on a woman, who returns with a smile and tells me that her life has changed and she is doing well. A five dollar increase in her monthly income has given her new hope and strength.  A morning meal followed by the school for her child has reduced a heavy burden on her and has given new hope for her child’s future. Due to basic health care, the common sicknesses have been reduced dramatically. It is also encouraging to see the increased attention of the Government towards these neglected areas. As you see, most of my work and communication are with women. I feel women empowerment is very important and crucial. The women can change the society in a better way. 


In summary, my vision is to see that every human being of the world has the basic needs and every child has a dream.