Partner Spotlight: Using Technology to Empower Vulnerable Populations Across India

Petra Barbu

Petra is a content marketer passionate about social enterprise, impact investing, and microfinance.

Maher Ashram is a nonprofit in India working to help women and children suffering from violence or despair. Maher Ashram recently hosted an Experteering professional, and we sat down with the team to learn more about its inspiring work, the change its creating, and what it’s like to work with an Experteer.

Sister Lucy and the women of Maher smiling outside the ashram.
Sister Lucy and the women of Maher smiling outside the ashram.

What problem does Maher Ashram solve?

Maher’s mission is to help women, children and men from all over India exercise their right to a higher quality of life, irrespective of gender, caste, creed or religion. As a UN-registered NGO, Maher does this by offering meals, psychological and personal counseling, medical attention, and work training to help these women become self-reliant.

How does Maher Ashram create social impact?

Maher strives to enable sustainable communities by addressing the economic, educational, health, and environmental issues in villages and slums. We are committed to welcoming all with open arms, regardless of faith, caste, class, and ethnicity. The lives of more than 5,000 women and children, as well 200+ men, have been transformed through their residency at the Maher community. All children receive health exams and vaccinations and 100% of school-age children attend school. Many are the first in their families to attend school. A number of the young people at Maher are attending college and several have received advanced degrees. Maher is present today in more than 90 rural communities through its self-help groups, which have more than 10,000 members. The organization provides preschool and early childhood education for village children living in poverty. Founded in 1997, Maher currently has 44 homes in three Indian states.

Why did Maher Ashram choose to host an Experteer?

Maher has grown to care for 1,200 women, children and men – but to continue scaling impact, we needed to improve our IT. Our previous database required our social workers to send information on each admission to our Administrative Office for entry into the system. The database was developed when Maher served only women and children, and it could no longer fully fill the needs of our work as we continue to grow. We needed an improved database that could be updated at any Maher location, and that also addressed the needs of the men at Maher, too.

The children have quickly outnumbered the women at Maher Ashram, so they have opened satellite services including a kindergarten and workshops.
The children have quickly outnumbered the women at Maher Ashram, leading them to satellite services including a kindergarten and workshops.

How did the Experteer add value to Maher Ashram?

Ferenc Kamras was our Experteer, and he helped us develop a database that can be used in any of Maher’s homes. This saves our social workers and staff valuable time and reduces errors. He even worked with us on the project prior to his arrival and he’s still helping us when we identify possible issues or problems. Our staff was most impressed because he came to the office early and stayed late to make sure he completed the project. We are most grateful to Ferenc and MovingWorlds.

Sister Lucy and some of the children in the ashram.
Sister Lucy and some of the children in the ashram.

What advice do you have for finding and working with Experteers?

Take time to plan and clearly set project scope and goals. Ferenc was very focused and in the three weeks he was with us he developed a database that is having a tremendously positive impact on our ability to do important administrative work more accurately and efficiently.

[Editor’s Note: often times, we see Experteers and organizations feel that they don’t have enough time to plan. But take a lesson here from Maher and make sure to invest in the pre-trip planning!]

Maher Ashram also caters to men, and helps by offering training services to encourage self-sufficiency.
Maher Ashram also caters to men, and helps by offering training services to encourage self-sufficiency.

Anything else you want to add?

Experteers with specialized skills in needed areas, like Ferenc, have – and can continue to – make a profound difference in Maher’s ability to serve India’s vulnerable people. We welcome you with open hearts and hope you will always be part of our Maher community.

Want to support Maher Ashram and other partners working to empower communities? Check out these available opportunities working with children, education, and women’s empowerment.

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