Jeevika’s founders and future come together at AGM

by Mark Hoda, Jeevika Trust Trustee

I had the honour of being re-elected to Jeevika’s Board a couple of weeks ago at our Annual General Meeting.

As ever, it was a very interesting, thought-provoking and enjoyable event. Board members, patrons and supporters were updated on Jeevika’s current life-transforming livelihood projects and discussed the strategy needed to sustain and grow them. We did this while enjoying the wonderful surroundings of Hampton Wick’s riverside and the very generous hospitality of Jeevika’s driving forces, Andrew and Christine.

However, this year’s AGM was particularly poignant for me personally. It brought together some very close friends of my father and uncle, who started India Development Group (IDG) – the organisation which later became Jeevika Trust – with new Board members, supporters and Jeevika employees full of fresh perspectives on Jeevika’s future.

As well as my Father’s very dear friends, Diana Schumacher – who keeps her father-in-law’s legacy strong – and Dick Gupwell – who champions Jeevika’s cause through his work with the European Institute for Asian Studies – we were joined by George McRobie, who founded IDG with Fritz Schumacher and my father and uncle in 1970.

George was one of my father’s and my uncle’s closest friends and associates which is why he penned Guardian obituaries for both Mansur  – who died 15 years ago this week – and Surur, which encapsulated their life achievements so well. It was great to see George soon after his 90th birthday and wedding to his partner Suzanne last year.

IDG’s original focus was on developing appropriate technologies and training young men from villages in how to use them on campuses in Lucknow. I think this partly reflected the engineering backgrounds of my father and uncle. This is different from Jeevika’s approach today, which is to harness the multiplier effect of empowering women and girls in villages – though the focus on appropriate technologies & solutions to development that fit the local context remains to this day. Jeevika works through grassroots Indian NGO partners to deliver livelihood projects centered on women’s income generation, health and nutrition and water and sanitation.

Though Jeevika’s approach has developed and changed since the days of IDG, much remains constant from when George, Fritz, Surur and Mansur founded our organisation; the desire to provide sustainable, poverty-free futures for India’s rural masses and the inspiration drawn from Schumacher and Gandhi on how to do so, as well as – unfortunately – the scale of India’s poverty challenge.

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