It was Vigyan Ashram at Pabal,39 km from the city,that moulded Magsaysay awardee Neelima Mishra in social work. The 39-year-old,who was conferred the award on Wednesday,says she cannot forget her teaching ground in Pune that helped her carve a niche in rural development.
Way back in 1995,it was her entry to the ashram under the aegis of the Indian Institute of Education that she believes gave her a direction as well as developed a commitment to work for the society especially the poor. I worked for eight years at the ashram in the field of education for poor children and it taught me a lot, Mishra says over phone from Jalgaon.
She did not forget to thank the late Dr S S Kalbag,a scientist-turned-educationist who started the ashram in 1983. I am truly happy; I owe it to my teacher Dr Kalbag and all my family and friends who supported my endeavours throughout my struggle. Mishra has been dreaming to work for people since 13.
She had,along with her younger sister Nirupama Mishra,opened an office in Datta Nagar,Katraj,three months ago,from where she plans to disburse credit loans to self-help groups in slum areas of the city soon. She says she wants to give back to the city that helped her set her base in social work.
Nirupama,who is based in Katraj area,says: My Neelu has just achieved the first stage of success; she has still a long way to go. I have started my journey with her.
With three sisters,a brother and her family itself involved in social work,Nirupama says it was but natural for her family members to be strongly inclined to do social work. The family,originally from Uttar Pradesh,has had eight generations staying in the state at Bahadarpur in Jalgaon. Their grandfather Ganeshprasad Mishra was the sarpanch of the village for three consecutive terms. It is all in the family. Our parents only encouraged us. Neelima was sure that she wanted to work for people and my father a school principal encouraged her when she expressed it to him.
Nirupama says her sisters self-help group movement in Bahardarpur has now spread to Dhule,Nandurbar,Nashik,Jalna and Pune. Her organisation has been supporting poor women through micro-financing as well as honing their skills for various entrepreneurial work.