Marella village is located far away from the main town of Thuggali. There is no road or public transport. Most families there are marginalised, living below the poverty line. Carers were totally isolated and neglected in the community.
After SACRED began implementing the carers programme in October 2014, Marella was one of the first villages they decided to target. However, the carers were reluctant to come together and talk about their struggles. The SACRED staff worked with each of the families individually and also met with village leaders to raise awareness of the role of carers, the impact of caring responsibities and the benefits of forming a group. It was an intensive process but eventually, in February 2015, 13 carers came together to form the Venkateswara Carers group. They met monthly to discuss the impacts of caring on their health, social wellbeing and household finances. Though each carer’s situation was different, they understood the similarities between them and realized that together, they could be a strong voice.
The carers had been excluded from other village groups and initially, it was hard for the group to gain recognition. With persistence and the support of the SACRED staff though, the group gained in visibility and credibility, to the point where the bank approved them to open a bank account. This meant that they could initiate savings activities.
Since then, each carer has saved Rs 10 a month – a tiny amount for us, just manageable for these individuals who struggle below the poverty line. To date, each carer has accrued savings of Rs 1300. Added to this, they have advocated for support from other sources to enable them to manage their lives. They have accessed the government health insurance scheme, which has helped carers suffering from medical issues to seek treatment that is affordable. The group supported one of their members, Lakshmidevi who cares for her severely disabled son, to access financial support from the local Integrated Child Development Services who award based grants to families in particular need.
Due to the severe poverty in this village, three members received financial support directly from the SACRED team. They are now running a vegetable selling business and a chicken centre together, earning Rs 2000-3000 each per month and making regular repayments on the loan. As well as bringing valuable income into their families, engaging in a livelihoods activity has brought these carers recognition. Other family members have realised the impact caring has had on their wellbeing and have offered to provide respite care to the disabled children.
Two years on from the start of the project, this group has come on a journey from isolation to inclusion. The members are united, recognised by their community and addressing their issues.