HELP Foundation J&K is a Civil Society Organization (registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act VI of 1998 (1941 A.D) on 13th November 1997 vide registration No. 2905-S having its Registered Office at 16- Gogji Bagh, Srinagar, J&K) presided over by Ms. Nighat Shafi, with the objective of providing helping hand to the people affected by violence in the strife-torn valley.
The focus has been on providing quality education, empowerment and mental health counselling to women and children, who have been the worst victims of turmoil. HELP Foundation provides relief and rehabilitation to various sections of the society who are severely challenged by physical disability and/or economic deprivation. With a well-knit team of Dedicated Trustees, Hardworking Employees & Energetic Volunteers the Foundation has extended its activities to almost all districts of Kashmir Province and some areas of Jammu province as well.
Providing free and quality education to Orphans, Physically challenged, Poor girls and underprivileged has remained an effective strategy of the foundation to protect the Younger generation and youths from indulging in antisocial activities. HELP established its own secondary school at Kupwara and supported financially several other schools from various other districts of valley. HELP also supports hundreds of orphans annually who are attaining education within and outside the valley. HELP supports youths in pursuing professional courses at state, national and international level.
Encouraging women by giving them sellable skills and trainings for earning their livelihoods proved to be an effective tool for empowering widows and destitute instead giving them regular monthly financial assistance. HELP established several empowerment centres were women are given trainings in several skills like Garment designing, Surface embroidery, Renewable energy, Agro businesses, Crewel and Craft, Food processing so on an so forth. Hundreds on women have established their own income generating units, after attaining trainings from these centres, for earning their wherewithal.
Prolonged regional political conflict has victimized almost every second person of Kashmir directly or indirectly. Almost all society has been traumatized by this menace. HELP started providing psychological counselling and guidance to these traumatized patients and established a fully-fledged Mental health Centre in the outskirts of Srinagar. HELP provides free services for drug de-addiction, Suicide prevention and domestic violence.
HELP Foundation made a small beginning with the setting up of a primary school at Shanpora in the back waters of Dal Lake, Srinagar in July, 1998. This was immediately followed by setting up of a home for special children (orphan) at “SHEHJAR” Saida Kadal Srinagar.
A major step was taken in the educational field in 2000, when the Foundation adopted a small lower primary school at Khumriyal Kupwara, the most backward district of the State in terms of all socio-economic indicators. Keeping in view the dire need for augmenting the educational infrastructure in this district which has the dubious distinctions of having the lowest literacy especially among the females, this school was upgraded in several stages and named as Shah Anwar Memorial High School, (after a legendary figure Anwar Shah Lolabi, a Scholar and thinker of international fame hailing from the area). Initially, a small building was constructed to accommodate a primary school, but in course of time, the Foundation was called upon to build a massive building for converting it into a Secondary level school. This was made possible by a generous grant from the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation and donations from altruistic individuals.
In the subsequent years, the Foundation took multifarious initiatives for providing succour and assistance to the people from various sections of society and belonging to different age groups, of course maintaining its focus on orphans, widows and physically challenged people, who had been the worst sufferers of the prevailing situation. The first ever Mental Health Counselling and Guidance Centre was started by the Foundation in 2003 in view of the colossal mental health problems being faced by women and children as a result of the ongoing turmoil. This centre has since been converted in to multi-facility Mental Health Institute which caters patients of drug addiction, personnel with suicidal ideation, and victims of domestic violence and denial.
The Foundation came to the rescue of widows and destitute women by providing financial support but soon realized that it was necessary to enable them to take up some form of gainful employment so as to make them economically self dependent on a sustainable basis. Besides providing them small loans for setting up small ventures, the Foundation set up Craft Centres in 2001 where ladies were given training in different crafts and activities such as tailoring and cutting, screen printing, block printing, crewel, Sozni, Ari work (Kashmiri embroidery) and knitting. Continuing its march towards women empowerment, the Foundation has set up a spice grinding centre which was later converted into a full-fledged food processing centre. In subsequent years, women empowerment centres have been opened at Kupwara with the technical support from SEWA, Ahmadabad. The centre provides trainings in garmenting, surface embroidery, renewable energy, and agriculture to almost 120 girls daily.
The Foundation believes that it is not enough to acquaint students with the three R’s but they should be enabled to develop their overall personality. It is with this in view that the Foundation has been encouraging students under its umbrella and also those outside its own institutions to participate in extracurricular activities relating to preservation of ecology and environment, heritage, culture, theatre, adventure sports etc. A workshop on creating awareness about Kashmiri’s diverse and rich heritage, under the title ‘Discovering Kashmir’ was organized with the help of reputed resource persons of national repute where-under children from various institutions were made to visit heritage sites at several locations in the valley for three days every month over a six month period. This left deep impressions on the minds of the children, some of whom created beautiful posters based on the theme of heritage.
The Foundation organized the first ever children film festival in Kashmir in collaboration with the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation at Srinagar in 2006. In view of its huge success, the film festival was repeated in 2007, with the added feature of a children’s theatre festival, which was also the first of its kind. It has been decided to make these festivals an annual feature.
The Foundation has, with the assistance provided by RGF, achieved another first by setting up the first ever library in private sector in Kashmir. This library, apart from helping in cultivating the reading habit amongst youth, is also acting as a hub for organizing umpteen workshops on diverse topics including creative writing skills, painting, theatre, music, storytelling etc. The Foundation was called upon to launch a massive relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of October, 2005 Earthquake. Relief in one form or another was provided in 300 affected villages. Twenty prefabricated structures were also set up for the victims in various villages.
The Foundation wants to ensure that financial constraints should not be allowed to come in the way of brought children from the less endowed classes who want to pursue goals of higher education. With this in view it has provided financial support by way of loan to twelve talented students who had been able to obtain seats for various professional courses on their own steam but lacked the resources to pursue their cherished goals. One of such beneficiaries is presently pursuing a post-graduate course of study in London.
The other initiatives taken by the Foundation include setting up of a computer centre at Kupwara for providing instruction in IT, and a centre at srinagar for providing education and skills to visually handicapped children using Braille and other modern techniques. The Foundation is also keen to bring the youth of the state, especially, from rural areas into the mainstream of development and progress, by inculcating in them positive thinking and towards this end, the foundation organizes workshops regularly.
The Foundation is the only NGO in the state working in both the divisions, Kashmir as well as Jammu. It has also been working with and helping the members of the minority community who are staying back in the valley, even after the general exodus of community after 1990.