It’s important to be educated. Goa has the distinction of having one of the highest literacy rates in the country. But being educated and being literate are two different things. And there are a lot of people that are still neither. Which means fending for themselves and handling their day-to-day activities is almost non-existent. And so, to do something for these people, the poor, Street Providence, a local NGO, also runs something called a Scheme Bank. They also have a Food Bank for the Poor and most recently, have set up a free home for destitute women in Saligão called Sanjoe Niwas.
What is this Scheme Bank?
Technically, the Scheme Bank set up by Donald Fernandes and his team isn’t a real bank. It’s more of a system that they have come up with to help the poor understand what kinds of government schemes are available to them.
A lot of the time, the government has schemes whose terms and conditions are difficult to understand. Now imagine what it’s like for a poor person to enter a government office with no understanding of what is happening or what they need to ask for. This is where Street Providence has stepped in and created this free Scheme Bank to help out.
Here’s how it works
Street Providence volunteers have been hard at work for the last 3 months making sure that the Scheme Bank runs smoothly. Three full-time volunteers have been going through all the details of all the State and Central government schemes available to the poor, the marginalized, SC &ST communities, handicapped and so on.
This is a free service and the only payment to be made is towards the form that has to be filled in in regards to the relevant scheme.
The volunteers will sit down with each person hoping to avail of whichever scheme and explain everything about the scheme and even fill in the form themselves. They will also ensure that the person carries all the relevant documents which have to be submitted along with the form. After the process is complete, the person can file these with the relevant department.
The Scheme Bank is a service offered to all in need
The Scheme Bank process has been running since April. In the first month, the volunteers did their homework on the schemes and the paperwork involved. May was when all the groundwork was done through various churches, going about getting in people that were in need of such a service. After all that hard work, June showed results. The Street Providence volunteers at the Scheme Bank managed to get in more than 700 people from at least 50 churches across the state. From these, around 350 people sat down with the volunteers and got the necessary information along with filling forms.
As Donald says, “We are not restricted to Catholics only. In case any temples and mosques wish to avail of this service, we will send our volunteers. Usually, we observed that there are various schemes but since our community is not keen to avail of them, we thought of taking these schemes to their village doorstep.”
He adds, “Lots of poor and marginalized are unable to fill the forms, understand the procedure, know what documentation is required etc. and we step in and do the needful. Huge budgets are provided by the government for the poor and needy and it’s our taxpayer money so why not get it to the poor & needy.”
The Church has supported the Scheme Bank service wholeheartedly
He’s also observed that the Catholic community doesn’t seem to avail of these schemes for various reasons. So, he has decided to step in and use the goodwill of Street Providence to actually reach out to the community through the Catholic church. He says that this project has received overwhelming support from most parish priests along with the Archbishop of Goa.
While the schemes are mostly applicable to Goans only, people from any religious community can approach them. In fact, Street Providence is more than willing to help the poor and needy at any time. It brings them immense satisfaction and joy to provide this service.
Of course, in doing this kind of work, there are often hurdles. Which is why Donald requests the public to help wherever they can. In this case, there is a request for space for them to work out of when the Scheme Bank is holding a session. He asks, “All we require is a ventilated room where 50 to 70 people can sit and be explained the schemes. The room should have fans, lights, tables and plenty of chairs along with washroom facilities for the volunteers as they work from 9:30 am to 5 pm.”
Additionally, there is the necessity of acquiring donations towards making sure that the service is not interrupted. He says, “We had a benefactor who had volunteered to foot the entire bill of the Scheme Bank i.e salaries, traveling expenses, stationery etc. but backed out due to various reasons.” Therefore, there is a request to contribute something small and keep everything going. Donations are accepted only by NEFT or cheque.
So if you would like to help, you can follow them on Facebook. They also have a weekly timetable displayed every Sunday, where the volunteers are available in different churches.
Donald Fernandes at Street Providence