Growth of RFS(I)

“RFS has come a long way since its humble beginning in 1986.”

Dr. G.N. Narayana Reddy
Founding Chairman and Mentor

One could call it serendipity or the work of Providence. When I was at NIMHANS as Director in the year 1985 in the midst of intense period of exploration, education and expansion, one Ms. Elly Jansen visited India. She was the Founder of the UK based mental health charity, the Richmond Fellowship, and had come to visit friends. Before coming to Bangalore, she had visited Bombay (now Mumbai), Madras (now Chennai), Delhi and Calcutta (now Kolkata), to explore the possibilities of setting up of RF India. This was a crucial period when the rehabilitation facilities for persons with mental illness were almost non-existent and none of these places could give her the desired supportive atmosphere.

She came to Bangalore when I was away on official duty and met my colleague the late. Dr. Channabasavanna and with him visited the occupational therapy department at NIMHANS which was started in the year 1971. This department was being managed by a Rehabilitation Committee consisting of industrialists, philanthropists and government officials. Amongst those Committee members was the late M. Krishnamurthy of M M Industries, whom she met and put forward her idea of RFS(I). He spontaneously agreed to provide the land and suggested to open the house. Thus the Richmond Fellowship sprang its roots in Bangalore in 1986. The usual procedure for registering the organization as a charitable NGO was followed with eight members initially signing the registration document, i.e., four from Bangalore, two from Bombay, one from Delhi and Ms. Elly Jansen. With an eye to develop as a national level organization, the registered office of the Society was located in Delhi.

The first house called “Vikas” was located in Puttenahalli, then outside Bangalore, now very much within it, and it opened with just three residents and staff. One of the characteristics of our work is to include the family as a part of rehabilitative program which was the basic difference from the RF UK model.

As Vikas grew, RF UK was able to secure funding from the then European Union to buy a house with greater capacity. The broader aim was to develop a model halfway home for RFS India. In 1989, ‘Asha’ opened its doors in Jayanagar. Over the next two decades, RFS India expanded, both in Bangalore with long-stay and day care centres, Jyothi ,Chetana and RFPG College and beyond Karnataka with a branch in Delhi. Facing the frustrating yet perhaps the inevitable, external and internal politics of a growing organization seemed only to crystallize the aims of the NGO. When we work together, nobody works under anybody else. But that was how the National Board came into existence in 2001 to co-ordinate the activities of all the branches with powers for branches to function as autonomous units with the additional branches at Lucknow and Sidlaghatta.

In addition to halfway homes, we have developed day care facilities and out-reach programmes to cater to the local needs at all centres.

Presently the work at RFS (I) and that of other organization in the country is simply a drop in the ocean. RFS (I) must broaden the range of its activities and act as a catalyst for governmental and non-governmental organisations. It is capable of developing appropriate, self-sustaining models in Psychosocial Rehabilitation for a variety of agencies. The RFS(I) as a National Organisation which has established its credentials and credibility will be ever ready to support the local community to start rehabilitation care needs of persons with Mental Illness in any part of India. Manpower development in Mental Health must be hastened to meet the increasing need in the country.

RFS (I) is probably the only national-level non-governmental organisation successfully delivering services in the field of community mental health, and in man power development and research.
Many dreams of RFS(I) are yet to see the light of the day. The scope of its work is enormous. There are about 50 lakh persons with mental illness in need of rehabilitation care facilities.