We recently met Padma at the Agalakari village carers group, set up in 2015 in Koppal district in the Indian state of Karnataka. She is one of seventeen family carers who attend monthly meetings as part of our work with local NGO SAMUHA to discuss the challenges they face and work together to find solutions.

Padma told us that before she joined the carers group, she felt isolated and alone in her struggle. Because of this, at first, she didn’t see how the carers group could help her – or others who were experiencing the same issues that she was.

She told us that for many of the group members, decades of caring meant that they had become almost invisible. Not only to society but also to themselves.

“Carers are so focused on the people that they are looking after that they don’t think about themselves. Their health suffers, they become depressed and they lose their place in society.’ she told us.

Unlike some of the carers, Padma has been able to juggle the responsibilities of caring with employment in a local government office.  This is a lifeline for the carers group as she brings her knowledge of navigating the confusing government systems to help others to access vital support and assistance. She attends official meetings with the other members if they are experiencing challenges in having their voices heard, ensuring that the collective needs of carers in her group are recognised.

“Finally we feel listened to. We all help each other and offer support to those that are struggling.  We go to the government together…demand to be heard and try to get the right funding for the people not being properly supported.”

Padma also contributes to the group savings initiative, which offers a level of financial certainty that many of the carers have never had before. Applications can be made to the carers group for small emergency loans, or to cover unaffordable health costs.

Since 2015, the group has evolved into a tightknit community who are invested in each other’s lives. When the son of one woman died of complications linked to cerebral palsy, the rest of the group stepped in to help. With funds from the group savings, they paid for his funeral and gave her the support that she needed at such a difficult time.

Without them, she had nowhere else to turn. Soon she will become a livelihoods trainer, helping other carers who are in the position that she once was.

“How could we not have supported her. She needed us more then than ever before. She will always be part of our community.” says Padma.