ASSIST came into being on the initiative of a group of individuals – social scientists and workers, educationists, doctors, advocates and spiritual leaders – who had been debating the question of how to most effectively improve the lives of the poor in India, especially those marginalised and alienated from the national development process.
This quest culminated in the birth of ASSIST, a secular NGO founded in 1985. Among this group of individuals were J. Ranga Rao, (Operational Director) and K.S.R. Murthy (Executive Director), who have been leading ASSIST since its formation.
The founders of ASSIST were inspired by the ideology of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, who said that “there is no freedom for India unless its villages are free” and that “independence must begin at the bottom”.
ASSIST’s work strongly reflects this ideology. We are convinced that development in India can only take place when its most underprivileged members are able to fight with strength, courage and confidence for their own political, economic and social needs. We believe that rural communities, when given a chance, will find solutions for their problems and bring positive change to their own lives, and to those of the future generations.
ASSIST’s work since its formation has proceeded in two main stages:
The issue of child labour was identified as crucial as this problem was widespread in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana at the time of ASSIST’s formation in the mid 1980’s.
At that time, it was common in industries such as lime production in Piduguralla for children to work in dangerous conditions down quarries, at kilns and in factories. ASSIST hired social outreach workers and started intervening in this situation, speaking with parents, and providing alternative options.
For two decades, ASSIST provided day schooling in its centres for up to 250 children per year and mainstreamed several thousand of them into formal education.
Despite the achievements of the first 20 years, ASSIST realised that there was more work to be done beyond children’s education. While child labour has been greatly reduced within local communities in ASSIST’s operational areas, many families continue to migrate several hundred kilometres across India to work as day labourers due to economic hardship.
Through its close partnership with communities like those in Piduguralla, ASSIST has started to implement alternative livelihood options are needed to enable families to diversify their income and for young adults to find jobs outside of the day labour industries. Today ASSIST’s programmes include a range of livelihood activities inside villages, and its facilities that once held 250 children per year have been repurposed into vocational training centres.
In the initial years ASSIST played its role of implementer, later it was transformed into a facilitator and now ASSIST has assumed a role as a guide and trainer, working in partnership with village committees.
Most importantly, every intervention designed by ASSIST reflects the ideas which inspired its founders: that independence must begin at the bottom, and societies most underprivileged members must take the lead in their development process.
Combining these ideals with practical experience, ASSIST devised the approach of promoting the comprehensive community development of its target communities through community action and full participation.
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR- FINANCE
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR – HR
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR- PROJECT