Dear friends, supporters, and well-wishers,
It is with great happiness and honor that I present this book, which will highlight VSSU’s achievements over the last 27 years, and the many things we hope to accomplish in the future.
Since our formal inception in 1986, VSSU has grown tremendously both in our effectiveness at implementing change in our communities and in the scope of activities in which we engage. Starting with a simple mud-structure as our head office in Ullon, we have evolved into an organization that not only works in microfinance, but also in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, sports and culture, elderly support, and soon, eco-tourism. We have blossomed from a small organization to a larger group of committed staff, still with the sole intention of improving the communities of South 24 Parganas and the Sundarbans, in West Bengal, India. Our vision is “Community development through community resources,” which closely aligns with the ideals espoused by Abraham Lincoln, that community development should be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” This vision and belief in the abilities of the communities of South 24 Parganas is VSSU’s guiding principle.
Our activities have expanded greatly throughout the 30yrs of lifespan of VSSU, yet there are still many initiatives and activities that we wish to expand our reach to include, as well as improve the services we already provide. In the coming months, we will complete our eco-tourism project, which has already resulted in the construction of a canal, and the partial-completion of a building which will house a gymnasium, galleries of information about famous Indians as well as Nobel Laureates, and an area for cultural drama performances and weddings. This project will continue to develop the livelihoods of the individuals living near Ullon by providing space within the eco-tourism project for people (mainly women) to make and sell local handicrafts to the visitors. In addition to new initiatives such as this, we continue to strive for the improvement of our existing projects, particularly our microfinance services, so as to better serve our clients and community members. Our microfinance services now reach more than 16,000 individuals in 400 villages across South 24 Parganas, and we continue to boast a repayment rate of 96.5%. Throughout the many years of our work in South 24 Parganas, VSSU has planted trees along more than 140 km of roads to enrich the environment and prevent soil erosion. Additionally, VSSU has provided more than 1,500 interest-free sanitation loans to promote the continued protection of the environment. VSSU also operates several educational programs including the VSSU International School for primary aged children, the Oceanic Library, and Ashok Nilay, which provides pre-primary education, among other things.
Though we have made remarkable progress in the communities of South 24 Parganas and the Sundarbans throughout the life of VSSU, we acknowledge that there are still areas that require much attention. We look forward to the challenge of expanding our range of activities and continuing to strive for the holistic betterment our communities.
It has only been with the continued support and strength given to VSSU by our friends and well-wishers that we have been able to flourish over the years. I know that this support has been integral to our success, and I cannot express my thanks and gratitude deeply enough; the support we have received has truly been the driving force behind our achievements. I look forward to the continued support of the communities of South 24 Parganas and the Sundarbans, as well as the international community as we continue, expand, and improve the work we are so passionate about here at VSSU.
My sincerest thanks go out to each of you.
Kapilananda Mondal ( Ashoka fellow, W. G. Member, Planning Commission GOI)
Founder, CEO, and Secretary, Vivekananda Sevakendra –O- Sishu Uddyan (VSSU)