Action Village India (AVI)
started life in 1988 as Friends of ASSEFA, a discussion group for people who had lived or worked in India. The name was changed to Action Village India after the group grew and slowly took on a fundraising role to support ASSEFA and other partners across India.
There are now six partners running a wide variety of rural development projects in different parts of India.
From discussion group to funder
In 1990, Friends of ASSEFA (FoA) decided that it wanted to take on a limited fundraising role and asked ASSEFA if it could suggest a suitable project. They chose Vadugapatti, a village in Tamil Nadu, where weavers needed looms. Two years later, FoA was asked to take on another project in Tamil Nadu, co-funded by the UK Government.
Over time, FoA became primarily a funding agency. The pressure of finding money for the projects meant there was less time for social meetings and discussions, but these activities remain an important part of the AVI ethos.
Taking on new partners
As FoA gained strength, it decided to support four other Indian NGOs known to members. In 1994 Chris Wilde brought in CRUSADE, Philip Jackson introduced KGSN with its organic farming programme, Elaine Morrison recommended Lakshmi Ashram and Ivan Nutbrown introduced NBJK.
In 1997 FoA became Action Village India (AVI) in recognition of its new partnerships and soon after, Ivan Nutbrown took on the role of Coordinator.
AVI's sixth partnership started in 2001 when it provided a small grant for Ekta Parishad's peace march through areas of Bihar affected by violence. The march was started on 11th September, the birthday of Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi's spiritual heir and the founder of the Bhoodan land reform movement. ASSEFA and NBJK also have their roots in the movement.
Since 2001 AVI has consolidated its relationships with its partners and developed a mutual trust and understanding. This enables funds to be directed to where partners need it most, and where it will do the most good.
Whilst long-term sustainable development is at the core of AVI's work, the strength of our partnerships has also meant that we've been able to respond very quickly to disasters - such as the Tsunami in 2005 and floods in Bihar in 2007 and 2008. Unlike bigger agencies, we know that all of supporters' money will go directly to relief work.
AVI's close relationships with its partners mean that the voluntary effort of AVI's supporters is really noticed and appreciated. After a visit to the UK one partner, amazed by the number of volunteers and how hard they worked at the Madras Cafe at WOMAD, went home and told his co-workers that AVI was not composed of rich people with deep pockets, but of people who have a deep commitment to the rural poor of India and are willing to get their hands dirty to help them.
Over the years, AVI has introduced many people to the splendour (and agony) of rural India. And, just as AVI's founders volunteered when they were young, opportunities have been made for more recent generations to visit the partners in India. Although a relatively small organisation, AVI has a strong, and growing, corps of dedicated supporters.