Vangaveeti Neeraja hails from a poor family and was married at the age of 16. She lives in Maripeda village along with her husband and three sons. Unfortunately her husband died when her children were still young. The death of her husband left Neeraja’s family almost destitute. She also faced social exclusion and harassment that is usually shown to the widows in the rural society. She could not afford to feed her children and no one came to her aid. She, along with the kids, moved to the nearest town, Maripeda Bangla. She took up coolie (labour) work in order to feed her children.
It was in those miserable days that Neeraja came across Bala Vikasa, where she found solace and courage. She soon joined the group in the year 2000 and started saving Rs.50 (about one dollar) per month. As Neeraja came from Komati (business) family by tradition, she was encouraged by Bala Vikasa to start a petty shop. All the training she received in the group gave Neeraja courage and confidence. She started a petty shop with Rs. 1000 (about $20) and developed it gradually. Neeraj took a total of 9 loans from Bala Vikasa group at different times in the 10 year period and improved her business transforming her petty shop into a provision store that catered to the household needs of the neighbourhood families. She purchased some land and gold with the profits she made, took a life insurance policy and provided good education for all her children. Her shop is now worth Rs.500,000 (about $10,000). Neeraja has taken a lead role in organizing the Solidarity Day for orphan children in her town. She now donates Rs.1000 (about $20) towards the needs of orphan children every year.
Neeraja is one among the 15,000 widows 200,000 poor women with whom Bala Vikasa works on a regular basis. Neeraja Says “I was poor and was on the verge of destitution before Bala Vikasa came into my life. But through their regular trainings I lost my fear, gained confidence and started the petty shop. I have not only overcome poverty but have also gained social respect today.”