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60 ASK Financials’ Volunteers Build With Eight Habitat Families In Western India

Local Financial Services Company Funded 100 Houses In Karjat

KARJAT, 14th March 2008: In response to the call by movie star and Habitat for Humanity India goodwill ambassador John Abraham to “let’s show we care”, ASK Financials did so in a very practical way. The local financial services company sent some 60 volunteers on a two-day build - their first with Habitat - in Karjat, western India. Together with eight Habitat home partner families, the volunteers helped to build eight core houses.

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Leadership by example: Asit Koticha (right), chairman and managing director of ASK Financials working during the build.

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Task-oriented: ASK volunteers painting the house of Habitat home partner Manibai Balu Pardhi.

Last October, ASK Financials presented a 3.6 million rupee (US$91,880) donation to HFH India to build 100 homes for tribal families in Karjat in Maharashtra state.

The tribal families in Karjat taluka (an administrative block of 90-100 villages) are mostly small farmers or landless laborers. Facilities such as housing, drinking water and electricity are considered primitive, the Academy of Development Science (ADS) said in a 2002 report. Habitat’s partner in the project, ADS is a local non-governmental organization that has been working on rural development issues in Karjat and Murbad for more than 25 years.

The Habitat build in Karjat was organized in partnering with ASK Financials’ social wing, Life Mumbai, a non-profit organization that serves rural families in health, education and environment sectors. The ASK Financials volunteers, comprising 30 staff and the remaining being high net worth customers, arrived to a traditional welcome in Dhareychiwadi village in early February. The volunteers were introduced to the Habitat home partners who belong to Mahadeo Koli, Thakar and Kathkari tribes and staff from Habitat’s local partner in the project, Academy of Development Science. By the time the site supervisors demonstrated the laying of bricks for the wall of a house, the volunteers were raring to go.

Division of labor ensured that every volunteer has a task at hand, be it passing the bricks, kneading the soil, delivering the kneaded soil to the masons or laying bricks to raise the walls. The volunteers were guided by skilled masons who also helped with the construction.

Activities such as taking a ride in a bullock cart, making clay bricks and learning about basket weaving added color to the construction program.

Over at a home that had been constructed, the volunteers did a fine job of painting the walls in two hours. At noon, the volunteers gathered for a simple traditional ceremony to dedicate the house and handed over the keys to Habitat home partner Manibai Pardhi.

The day ended with a treat for the volunteers back at their resort where villagers from neighboring villages performed a tribal dance about protecting the environment.

The next day, the volunteers did not let up on their pace. Teams of volunteers were rotated for them to experience different aspects of construction. Working together with the skilled masons and the Habitat home partners, the volunteers felt a sense of achievement after contributing their own labor. ” Visiting the village, interacting and working with the home owners and mason was a humbling but also satisfying experience,” said Asit Koticha, chairman and managing director of ASK. ”The trip and the work has shown us the value of life…My favorite experience was interacting with the home owner,” said Amit Jha, an ASK staff.

Their hard work was noticed by Pramilaben Koticha, the mother of ASK Financials chairman Asit Koticha, who was present at the build and likened the volunteers to her own family members.

Asit Koticha also noted: “It is important to give back to society and this is our humble effort to provide 100 needy families, in 30 villages in and around Karjat, with decent houses to live in. I am very happy to be associated with Habitat for Humanity through our social wing, Life, Mumbai. Habitat for Humanity is doing some real good work and I am very encouraged by their efforts, which is very much in line with our philosophy of empowering the underprivileged rather then just plain charity.”

ASK Financials is also partnering with Habitat to construct a school and primary healthcare center in Karjat. The project is scheduled to be completed by this June.