Our History

Rural Aid is a registered voluntary organization involved in social action and economic development. It was formed in 1987 and later registered in 1989. It got registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in 1995. The organization is also registered to be entitled to receive Tax Exemption for the donations received under section 12A and 80G of the I.T. Act, 1961. The work of Rural Aid focuses on ensuring the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable sections of the society through sustainable development. The goal is to empower individuals and ensure they enjoy equal rights and have access to basic services. Issues related to rights of women and children, literacy, health, water and sanitation, food security, livelihood, Disaster management, environment, governance have been the focal points of interventions made by the organization. Rural Aid today has staffs having expertise in various sectors.
Rural Aid works for the poor, marginalized, vulnerable and deprived sections of society in tea gardens and forest areas in Jalpaiguri and in remote areas of Sagar Island in South 24 Parganas. Its target community includes poorest and most marginalsed section of society with emphasis on women, children and people belonging to backward and minority communities. It works in Sagar Island in South 24 Parganas district and in Satali and Mednabari Panchayat in Kalchini Block. They have initiated work on trafficking and Child Rights in 5 G.P’s in Kumargram Block. R.A is working towards providing a platform to the community for leading a dignified life. 
Rural Aid was formed in 1987 by a group of enthusiasts of Belpukur village in Kulpi Block of South Parganas. SovonDutt along with some likeminded youths of the village initiated the effort to work for the uplift of the area with inspiration from the local High School head teacher. By virtue of being remotely located Belpukur lacked services and Government amenities pertaining to health, education and livelihood. The area did not have the basic amenity of potable drinking water. The group came together to work on the development of the village. However, the work was initiated in an unstructured manner without a clear blueprint for development and how to go about it. The group had the passion to do something for the area and they began with water and sanitation programme.
The organisation was registered in 1989. The first funding with regards to development of the area was initiated for installing tube well in the area for safe drinking water.  Subsequently in 2003 a programme for pond excavation was undertaken with aid  in Sagar Island. Sagar island was chosen as the members of Rural Aid knew the area very well and there were ponds in the area which would benefit from excavation.  R.A also gradually extended to sanitary toilet programmes under the ambit of sanitation and hygiene programme. Apart from community they worked in schools so that children could access toilets rather than having to use open spaces. In due course Rural Aid expanded its work with the help of Central Social Welfare Board’s Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for 25 children in Kulpi Block of South 24 Parganas district. RA started a programme as the conditions of children were poor with regards to their health, education and development. This not only gives children a chance to get nutrition and avail pre-primary schooling but also helps mothers who are working to get a safe space for their children.
During that period Ms. Sutapa Dutta (Chakraborty), Programme Manager (now the Secretary of the Organization) of Rural Aid was located in North Bengal because of poor condition of Teagardens.  It was encouragement they initiated a programme in North Bengal. Thus while continuing the work in South 24 Parganas, the organisation with the initiative of Ms. Dutta (Chakraborty) started assessing the situation of people in villages and tea estates in Dooars area of Jalpaiguri district now in Alipurduar District. Rural Aid initiated an assessment of the situation in North Bengal. The plight of the tea gardens in North Bengal was grim. It was also found that the situation of the significant tribal population was also grave. In 2003 Rural Aid initiated work for the uplift of the tribal and marginalized through exploration of an agricultural Income Generation Programme. The organization started focusing on the development of the marginalized section with special emphasis on women and children.
Rural Aid focused on sustainable agriculture with emphasis on mixed cropping, bio intensive garden, vermicompost and growing medicinal plants. The other focus was on formation of SHG’s where vocational skills were imparted and the groups took their products to various exhibitions and fairs. In addition Capacity building of the groups, building linkage and strengthening people’s participation with the PRI and working on disaster management were the areas Rural Aid started focusing upon. In North Bengal flash floods and inundation of the rivers are a perpetual phenomenon which cripples the functioning of life. Organizing vocational trainings with children and people with disability so that they could become self reliant and less dependent on the family. In due course RA started working on the aspect of vocational training for providing livelihood options to women in sick tea gardens and forest villages.It was through the assessment they came to know that trafficking and unsafe migration was rampant in the areas of North Bengal more so for the vulnerability of the sick tea gardens, remoteness of the places, ignorance and poor economic condition of the people.
The work on prevention of trafficking was initiated through Rural Aid in 2006 whereby community awareness and formation of Reflect groups within the community has been developed to prepare a preventive and pressure building mechanism in the community while establishing linkages with the local self governance, block, sub division and district level for seeking redress of the deprived community. They have been invited to be a part of the Anti-trafficking Committee both at the Block and District level. 3 staffs have been included in the R.P.F MitraYojanaprogramme whereby cards have been issued to them for joint rescue of trafficked children. Rural Aid gradually expanded its scope of work from care and welfare to development and rights. Issues pertaining to women and children, literacy, health, food security, water and sanitation, livelihood, governance, disasters have been taken up by the organisation. On the basis of the baseline findings work was initiated on the formation of Child Protection Committees. Children’s groups (Star groups with adolescents) were formed subsequently to orient them and the community on Child protection issues. Rural Aid started working on Child Protection issues in Kumargram Block District Alipurduar with emphasis on trafficking from 2009.
Identifying the root causes in these areas where unequal position of women, food insecurity, absence of livelihood opportunities led the organisation to focus on these aspects. In the purview of their work they found that empowerment of children is essential for them to develop holistically and enjoy their rights. They realized work in the realm of trafficking can be addressed if other aspects of education, health and livelihood can be furthered with the help of Government services and entitlements. Rural Aid while empowering the community on their rights in one hand through sensitization and awareness programmes with the help of groups, on the other hand worked with the LSG and Government officials at the Block and District level to lessen the chasm that existed between the community and Government services. While initiating the rescue of children and women who were missing either as a result of unsafe migration or trafficking, they started delving on the deeper underlying causes. It has resulted in regularizing the anomalies in the payment of contractors for work being undertaken, stop gambling in tea gardens with the help of Police and Panchayat (one major reason for workers losing their earnings), enabling women to voice their protest against alcoholism and domestic violence, seek information and put across their demands before the Local Self Governance for entitlements and schemes, initiate the habit of sending children to schools and understand the relevance of education. , Rural Aid has come a long way, each year becoming more and more relevant to the context and each year dedicating itself to the development agenda of the poor and marginalized rural people of West Bengal with renewed vigor.  Rural Aid has, over the years, evolved development interventions that aim at addressing multiple vulnerabilities and have multi-sectoral linkages. From an initial reactive approach to coping with disasters in the Sagar Islands,  the organization has gradually grown to a greater understanding of developmental issues and taken up actions to address the issues affecting the lives of the marginalised specially the women and children in North Bengal.
In the long and short journey of 27 years from a small step taken with conviction to walk the Path of Development and to especially work with and for the marginalized women and children for addressing their issues and needs, Rural Aid has come a long way wherein it has learnt a lot from its supporters, well-wishers and the society with whom it has engaged with while carrying out various development programmes. We as an organization have learnt from many unforeseen challenges – organizationally, financially and programmatically too due to which we have been able to gather our strengths and convictions with renewed energy each year to work more and more for the causes of Children and Women under deprived, marginalized and hard to reach situations. We have been able to take up more and more pressing issues relevant to the context and each year dedicating ourselves to the development agenda of the poor and marginalized rural people of West Bengal. 
Rural Aid has, over the years, adopted different approaches and strategies and evolved development interventions that aim at addressing multiple vulnerabilities and have multi-sectoral linkages. From an initial reactive approach to coping with disasters in the Sagar Islands and North Bengal. We have gradually grown to a greater understanding of developmental issues and taken up actions to address the issues affecting the lives of the marginalised specially the women and children in North Bengal. We still have a lot to learn and a lot many miles to go,. We would like to thank all our partners in change who have stood with us – our donors, local communities and local Self Government bodies, National and State Government and allied agencies, individuals and other civil society actors. With the belief put upon us and the strengths gathered from our well-wishers and the financial as well as technical supports extended by our valued Donors, we are enabled to continue to work objectively for the positive changes and sustainable development together to make a Lasting Change for the benefit of our children in particular and the marginalized society at large!  
We also take this opportunity to thank the Governing Body (Board) Members of Rural Aid for their regular support and guidance in organizational matters. We are also grateful to our dedicated and untiring staff members, who have been with us to fulfill our Vision, Mission and Objectives and without whom it would have been not possible to meet the challenges, assimilate the new learning, take up the new horizons and be what we are today in our 28 years’ journey.  
Rural Aid’s other sectoral interventions in Children’s Education, Rights and Protection; Health and Nutrition; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Livelihood and Women's Empowerment.