How crowdfunding saved the voice of a community from being | Milaap

How crowdfunding saved the voice of a community from being silenced

“Even though we didn't meet our target, our Milaap campaign was still success. It is what helped us tide over a very difficult time,” says Samantha D.S., the founder of Sarathi Jhalak – a community radio station 70 kms from Bangalore. 

A local lifeline
Sarathi Jhalak is a vibrant community radio station with the locals creating programmes for 63 villages in a 30-km radius. The station has an audience of about a million listeners. It services small villages on the fringes of Bangalore's IT hubs like Sarjapur, Whitefield and Electronic City.

The station creates programmes that matter to its audience by talking about subjects that are a part of the villages' every day life. The shows are about agriculture, law, welfare schemes, health etc. Their shows are interactive and any one can call in and participate. Sarathi Jhalak was one of nine community radio projects slated to receive funding from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. 

It was set up with an initial grant of Rs 10 lakhs and the expertise of government agencies BESCOM and BSNL. Since then, Shamantha and her friends had to pitch in over Rs 4 lakhs from their own pockets to keep things running. 

The crowdfunding ripple effect
The station went off air in September 2015, because of damaged equipment. They needed Rs10 lakhs for repair and the bills were accumulating. Shamantha decided to make a public appeal to help the station stay afloat. That's when she began a campaign on Milaap to save Sarathi Jhalak.

The crowdfunding campaign boosted Sarathi Jhalak's Internet visibility. Writers from online news sites who follow different campaigns reached out to her. Comprehensive articles about Sarathi Jhalak appeared in The Better India, The Huffington Post and DNA India.  

This had the effect of getting the word out. Many in her network began getting her in touch with people who could make large donations towards Sarathi Jhalak. The media coverage strengthened Shamantha's case when she met potential funders, some had even read about her before she met them. 

Shamantha started Sarathi Jhalak as a way to help locals share and develop knowledge that would help their empowerment and foster local connections and culture

One such a person who helped Sarathi get back on air after it went off air is Rajya Sabha member, K.C. Ramamurthy. “I have known Shamantha for a long time and know her commitment to making the world better. This one radio station has the potential to help so many people – it clearly means a lot to them. So I decided to help out when I heard about Sarathi Jhalak going off air,” he says. 

He made an immediate personal donation that Shamantha used to repair SJ's equipment, andthey were back on air, in two months. This came as a relief to the locals who find the station a great place of succour. The station has helped in locating a lost child, encouraging health check ups andeven does on-air peer to peer counselling. 

Not always about the money

Sarathi Jhalak still faces finance worries, but things are looking up for this station. Shamantha's work is supported by philanthropists who help out with day-to-day activities. Plans are under way to connect with and involve larger networks of philanthropists. 

Shamantha says, that the fillip given by the crowdfunding campaign helped her immediately get back on air and begin raising funds. “In a time of crisis, our crowdfunding campaign gave us visibility and credibility. Instead of me asking, my network saw my updates and decided to give me a direct helping hand,” Shamantha says.

Today, Sarathi Jhalak is back on air, with two new radio jockeys and a renewed sense of purpose.