It all began with the vision of two youths of Kolyari village in Jhadol Block. Rajendra Gamath and Lalit Prakash Joshi dreamed of founding an NGO dedicated to providing education to the underprivileged children in the village.

In 1989, they established Mahan Seva Sansthan, which means ‘Serving with Greatness’ in English, for they believe that greatness is achieved through works of service. While their initial goal was to improve education in the village, they soon realised that there were many other factors that also need to be addressed if education levels are to be improved. These include health, natural resources, livelihoods and women’s empowerment. If a family is struggling to grow enough food to survive, or if they suffer from ill health then they will not be able to even consider education until these needs are met. Similarly, if a child is suffering from acute malnutrition or is regularly getting ill due to poor sanitation then their chances for a decent education is lost. As a result, MSS expanded its work to create a holistic development strategy working to target all major rural development issues in a sustainable and participatory way.

Mahan Seva Sansthan believes that it is not enough to just give people money; you must also educate them about the projects and practices so that they can in turn teach others and come up with future solutions on their own. Therefore, all of MSS’s projects operate through the following steps: mobilisation, organisation, awareness, group formation, participatory planning, implementation and monitoring. Through this approach, MSS involves villagers in all stages of a project and empowers them to begin thinking for themselves of ways to improve their livelihoods and make use of available resources.

As the saying goes, give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.