SEWA Rural: Helping Realise Potential Through Selfless Service
By involving its employees in decision-making and in sharing responsibilities, SEWA Rural fosters in them a sense of ownership in the organisation’s successes and failures
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The Society for Education Welfare and Action (SEWA) Rural is a voluntary development organisation that has since 1980, been involved in healthcare and developmental work at Jhagadia, a tribal area in the rural part of South Gujarat. The not-for-profit organisation is inspired by the principles and ideas of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi.
SEWA Rural’s mission is to reach healthcare and development programmes to the poorest of the poor. Its programmes are tailored to the needs of the community and the manpower available. The organisation’s high ethical and moral values also make it a great place to work in.
SEWA Rural has over the years managed to garner the trust and support of its stakeholders both within India and abroad. The stakeholders include agencies like governments, philanthropic organisations, industries and academic institutions, as well as individual donors, friends, well-wishers and members of the local community.
Headed by Pankaj Bhai Shah as managing trustee, the organisation has been nurtured in ideals. Shah says SEWA Rural genuinely cares for its employees and their growth. He emphasises that concern for its employees is not a means to an end (of making profits or social welfare). It is an end in itself. Shah’s claims are borne out by the organisation’s growing strength at every level.
“Karyakars (as we call our employees) own the organisation, commit their lives towards value-based work for the poor and in turn realise their inner potential of spiritual upliftment through true karmayoga (selfless service) – thus internalising the spirit of our theme song Jivan anjali thajo (Let life be an offering),” explains Shah. Employees aspire to put the ideals of the organisation into practice in the real sense and translate them into action in their daily routine.
SEWA Rural offers an environment that enables active involvement of its staff in decision-making and sharing of responsibilities. Giving the staff a sense of ownership in SEWA Rural’s successes and failures is among its inbuilt practices.
When the venture first began, its members were primarily medical professionals. They began small, with a 30-bed hospital at Jhagadia and a staff strength of about 25. Over the years, like-minded professionals joined in and dedicated themselves to serving society. They began to own and inculcate within themselves the spirit of the organisation.
SEWA Rural has established a model for professionals to emulate and has demonstrated that a career in working for the poor and the disadvantaged can be more rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying than one in the rat race. The organisation’s philosophy rests on three pillars, work for the poor, value-based work and self-development of employees.
What makes SEWA Rural distinct is the near absence of attrition of its workforce. “About 40 per cent of our staff are with us for more than 20 years. Most of them have decided that this will be their first and last job,” says Shah.
Even so, we decide to seek the testimonial of a member of the SEWA Rural staff . “This workplace is like none else. I enjoy coming to work here. Working here is like being in Eutopia. I don’t think there is any other work place like this one,” she tells BW Businessworld. “I wish more of my family and friends had a chance to work here. This organisation is like my maika (parental home).” We felt that it was vindication enough of the work culture there.