When Garima, my MumbaiMag.com Editor, told me that for the New Year we should look for stories of people from Mumbai who have brought about hope, positivity and change in our society, I really was in two minds about whether I should or should not commit to this project. I do fashion, lifestyle and pop culture, an article like this is so out of my comfort zone, it’s like asking Barkha Dutt to do an item number!
In all honesty I would not have written this piece if not for my friend, Nisha’s innocent mention about her mother’s organization Prem Seva. Mrs Stella Morais, the Founder, and the cause she had dedicated herself to, Prem Seva, are the reasons why I found the confidence to write this story.
I have always known Stella aunty as an immaculately well-dressed, happy-go-lucky ‘ma’. I have always seen her as a loving mother and an understanding wife, with a warm smile and radiating positivity. In the course of writing this piece, I discovered another side to her. A woman who does not only love her own, but also happily spreads and shares it with the less fortunate ones through her organization, Prem Seva Mahila Mandal (PSMM), Kalyan. She has, with love and a strong will to help and serve, changed the lives of many underprivileged women and children.
With a name that literally means ‘Love Service’, Prem Seva is a secular, non-profit women’s organization that aims at providing a healthy and safe environment for women and children who belong to tribal as well as socially and economically backward groups. The brainchild of Mrs Stella and Mr James Morais, the main motivation for starting Prem Seva is to provide equal opportunities for women of lower income group, widows, underprivileged children and domestic workers.
Like every thing good in life, Prem Seva too had its share of challenges when starting out. Being a new organization, women and children initially resisted their attempts. The Prem Seva team faced multiple emotional and mental crises during counseling sessions and interventions. It was difficult for them to bring women and children out of their abusive, yet familiar environment. But, over a period of time and realizing its potential, more and more women and children started embracing Prem Seva.
Just as the challenges came, so did the volunteers. Prem Seva was blessed to have women who were willing to give their time and support to help bring about a change in the lives of those who are less fortunate. One of the biggest champions and supporters of Prem Seva has been the Bombay City Red Cross.
The beauty of an organization such as Prem Seva Mahila Mandal is, that it does not aim at temporary solutions. The goal is to provide every woman and child whose life it touches with long-term results. Since their inception, they have been able to provide medical and outreach camps for people belonging to tribal groups. They have also managed to fight malnutrition by providing adequate nourishment for severely malnourished children. A healthy combination of mid-day meals and education is provided for those children who are left out at the construction sites in remote areas.
The ‘Livelihood’ program aims at empowering women by teaching them a variety of skills. Courses in Montessori teachers’ training, beauty and beautician courses, tailoring and dressmaking, lessons in English speaking and computer education are taught so that the women can be financially independent and provide for herself.
One such lady benefited by Prem Seva is Hansen’s disease survivor, Subadra Chavan. She is a mother of two young girls who has been rejected and social ostracized due to her medical condition. After being adopted by Prem Seva Mahila Mandal she is now able to earn and provide basic necessities for her daughters. Besides helping her, the Mandal has also been able to spread awareness and educate people about the disease.
One thing we all can learn from Mrs and Mr Morais is, that you do not need to be a billionaire philanthropist to help others. All you need is love, compassion, will power and a desire to help those who are not as blessed as you. In her own words, “Mother Theresa was & is always my idol. My dream is to see every child educated and the women to be empowered and the contentment and the feel good factor after a long day with them gives me immense joy”.
Alright Mumbai, now that you know about this wonderful organization, here is your chance to be an instrument of change just like these ladies. You can volunteer to be a counselor or help teach children or conduct street plays for raising awareness about social evil such as violence against women or organize events and outing sessions for children and women. Financial contribution for their mid-day meal program is also welcome. You can also contribute to the setting-up of a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit that will not only provide women with employment but also educate them about female hygiene. In many ways, this is the biggest, most positive and hopeful contribution one can ever make. For more information about Prem Seva Mahila Mandal visit their website.
All photos by Garima Sharma (except Mr and Mrs Morias’ photo)