Sampark was started in 1987 by Nilesh Desai in Petlawad Tehsil of Jhabua district as a unit of Social Work and Research Centre (SWRC), Tilonia, in Ajmer district of Rajasthan. Sampark was registered in 1990 as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1973.
The choice of the work area was made on the basis of nature and intensity of exploitation of the tribals, negligible developmental intervention and limited presence of voluntary groups.
A modest beginning was made by taking into account survival needs and aspirations of the people. In the very initial stages two critical decisions were taken about the target and mode of work:
- All work would be done only with the weaker sections of society.
- A participatory approach would be adopted for programme formulation and implementation.
These decisions guide the organisation till date.
Sampark began work by involving and organising local youth with a view to understand the problems of the people. Thereafter activities were carried out at two levels, viz., awareness generation and developmental. Under awareness generation activities, a group of local youth was formed and later the group was trained in staging street plays and puppet shows. With the use of these media, the youth tried to reach out to people with problems of the area, the philosophy of sangathans (organisations) and their role in development. These efforts were very useful in establishing a rapport with the people and in establishing an identity with the people. Every year the organisation held padyatras (short journeys over foot with some specific purpose) and street plays on various issues. As a result of these initiatives, groups of men and women were formed in every village and gram koshas (village funds) were established. People collectively started to think about social evil customs like bride price, high spending death feasts and rakhi pratha, talk about them and even resolved to stop them. People started to adopt beneficial traditions like adji-padji or halma (labour barter) and endeavoured to inculcate qualities and equality. As a result of these efforts the people felt the need to have a forum, which would fight for their rights.
Besides awareness programmes, Sampark simultaneously took up development programmes. Several stop dams were constructed, community wells deepened, hand pumps installed and local youth trained in hand pump maintenance. Besides these, solar lights were installed and local youth were trained in their maintenance. The next was to provide alternative means of livelihood to tribal youths. A number of such youth were provided training in 1991 in trades like weaving, tanning, motor winding and electrical light fitting, so as to enable them to earn a livelihood.
In 1992, Sampark started paying attention to the issue of women health and education. It held several workshops on preventive and curative aspects of diseases and imparted training to traditional dais. Soon health education activities were taken up.
And the journey continues. For major milestones, please click here.
Sampark’s programmes have been substantive learning opportunities for both the staff and the communities. Over the years the organisation has developed appropriate interactive solutions to local problems and in the process it has refrained from blindly implementing centralised schemes of the government and international developmental agencies. All activities have been carried out in the two complementary spheres of awareness building and developmental work.
For his exemplary work as Sampark Director, Nilesh Desai, was awarded the National Youth Award by the then Prime Minister, Mr V P Singh, in 1990.