I remember that every Hyderabadi took pride when Hyderabad airport was newly opened in the year 2008, including me. Today, when I fly in and out of Delhi and Hyderabad, I am still in awe at the massiveness of these projects. Of course, I did know about GMR as a business giant during my college days too but visiting their CSR initiative GMR Varalakshmi Foundation was indeed a revelation.
GMR and modernisation of airports are synonymous with each other. In an age, when private companies hesitated to invest and tie -up with government projects, GMR took a bold plunge and came up with state-of-the-art airports in Delhi and Hyderabad as part of Public-Private Partnership.
An insightful visit to GMR Varalakshmi Foundation
Recently, I was invited by Varalakshmi Foundation-the CSR initiative of GMR, to visit their ‘Centre of Empowerment and Livelihoods’ (CEL) near Delhi Airport and I was more than happy to accept the invite. This visit was in conjunction with Teacher’s day and marks the completion of 25 years of Varalakshmi foundation’s efforts to bring a change in society.
On 5th of September 2017, as I entered the CEL premises, there was an aura of positivity and happiness around, both among students as well as people working there.
Upon arrival, Ms.Meena Raghunathan, Director, Community Services at GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, walked us through GMRVF activities and we were informed that the CSR unit in Delhi has been working with a population of approximately 20,000 covering three locations. The key thrust areas include education, health, hygiene and sanitation, and empowerment and livelihoods community development. Implementation of various activities under these three verticals is being carried out directly by DIAL CSR with technical support of Varalakshmi Foundation (GMRVF), from planning to execution.
Facilities at GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, Delhi Airport
The GMRVF runs CEL to provide market relevant employable skills to under-privileged drop-out youth in the age group of 18-30 years. The CEL that I visited was established in September 2009 with a built-up area of more than 10,000 sq ft. The centre is well equipped with classrooms, hostel, mess, work shed, library, seminar hall, playground and other facilities.
Some of the salient features of the Vocational Training Program that is offered FREE of Cost are:
- Providing skill training in 10 different trades in collaboration with credible industry partners and giants like Voltas, VOLVO, Schneider et, al.
- Training is provided for candidates ranging from the fifth pass to graduate level.
- The program is usually a 3-month course dealing with theory and 45 days of practical training.
- Since its inception in 2009, a total of 4000 youth have been trained and about 3374 been placed. Almost 15% trainees are working at IGI Airport in Delhi through different vendors.
- Residential vocational training centre having a capacity to train approximately 750 youth per year with the settlement success rate of 84%.
- Integration of Soft skill training, English speaking and Personality Development to ensure job readiness of trainees.
- The centre has a well-developed system for the mobilisation of youth, counselling training on soft skills, placement and post-placement support.
- Some of the courses that are offered ranges from computer operation, quality check in garments, customer service associate, refrigeration and A/C repair course, electrical, Facility Care Management, excavator course et al.
- Recently introduced courses include Driving and Multi cuisine cooking owing to market demands.
My take on CEL of GMR Varalakshmi Foundation
We had an opportunity to interact with seven students who are undergoing the course at CEL of GMR Varalakshmi Foundation. They were brimming with confidence and happiness for being given a chance to get trained and earn a decent livelihood. Upon interaction, we got to know that they belong to economically poor families and unable to pay for any vocational training. One of the students got to know about CEL through a friend and landed up at the centre from as far as Bihar. This goes on to prove the trust these youths have on GMRVF.
Finding a ray of hope at CEL, Delhi Airport
Another student, who was widowed with a child and is in her early twenties was oozing with positivity for being given an opportunity to prove her capability. She has taken up the course on Quality Check and is sure of a placement and confided that a job will enable her to earn a living and lead her life with dignity. It was heartening to hear and see the wonderful work that GMRVF is doing in moulding the youth from these underprivileged families.
Also, as an educator myself, I was able to empathise with the string of emotions these youth are going through and I appreciate the commendable work being done by CEL faculty under the able guidance of Ms.Meena Raghunathan.
Various CSR activities of GMRVF
If you think that GMR is involved in just skill enabling projects, then you are in for a surprise. Apart from CEL, GMRVF is also into Adult Literacy Program, After-School Learning Centres, Life Skill Program for adolescents, empowering the differently abled persons, community development and also in an initiative called EMPOWER.
Social responsibility, being one of the seven core values of GMR group, employees of the group are encouraged to contribute personal time, attention and effort towards community development and social causes.
GMR Varalakshmi Foundation’s EMPOWER
An initiative by GMRVF termed EMPOWER ( Enabling Marketing of Products of Women Entrepreneurs) facilitates training, production and marketing of a range of artefacts made by self-help groups. These groups comprise of women from underserved communities across locations in India and include Delhi, too. Activities and training include – making of jute-based products, handmade paper products, weaving and embroidery, stitching and marketing.
Currently, the products are marketed through two EMPOWER shops located at Hyderabad Airport Level C and Departure. The products are also available online through e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart.
So, if you get a chance to visit Dwarka or the adjoining areas of Delhi, feel free to drop in at GMR Varalakshmi Foundation’s CEL to get a glimpse of the commendable work that GMRVF is doing. You may also offer to contribute your services if required by the centre!