As we walk past the swanky office of international pharmaceutical company Sanofi in Mumbai, we notice children with beaming faces waving and cheering for their respective school teams participating in the quiz competition Gyan Express.
An education initiative started by Concern India Foundation and Sanofi India Ltd in 2013, the Gyan Express entails a three month long preparation conducted by employees for children from various NGOs across Mumbai.
After the end of the preparation period comes the final quiz contest. In fact, after last year’s success, the Gyan Express format has been replicated in eight different cities namely Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Ankleshwar and Goa.
“Gyan Express was designed by Concern India Foundation and Sanofi India to fulfill our desire to personally engage with and contribute to the community. Instead, we have found that what we’ve gained outweighs our contribution. Our employees are amazed at the intelligence of the children we meet, and in turn, are rediscovering compassion and determination to make a difference in the lives of each child,” said Aparna Thomas, Senior Director-Communications (South Asia) & Public Affairs (India), Sanofi.
The event began with a 10 minute session on meditation to make the children understand the importance of concentration and to calm the anxieties of the final participants. This was followed by a Bollywood song that culminated in a mini dance performance by the children and the Sanofi employees.
The quiz comprised of four rounds. The children were confident. After every correct answer one could hear loud cheering in the hall. The competition was a close one, but ultimately the winners were announced. Angel Xpress (Andheri West) came first, Vatsalya Trust came second and Angel Xpress (Juhu) came third. A comprehensive photoshoot was followed after the announcement of the results.
“This not only increased their general knowledge but triggered in them the spark to compete with other students from different schools. This has left a lasting effect on the minds of children who now believe in themselves and their capability,” said Glenn Vaz, Regional Coordinator at Each One Teach One.
The quiz was followed by a sumptuous lunch and later the employees took the children on a guided tour of their office. The evening ended with the hope of meeting soon for Gyan Xpress 2015.
– Pearl Edmund, Resource Mobilisation, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)
Dr. Janaki Desai, the director of a health programme supported by Concern India Foundation in the slums of Mumbai, tells us more about the programme and its impact on the various communities.
What made you start this programme?
There was a high percentage of absenteeism in Balwadis run by various NGOs in the slums. We realised it was because of illness due to malnourishment among children. An intervention was designed and our programme was initiated in June 2001.
We stared our intervention in Deonar, which is the city’s oldest dumping ground. There are several slums in the periphery of the dumping grounds exposing them to various health problems. Rat and dog bites, infections to small injuries, viral fever, scabies, rashes, asthma, bronchitis, hay fever and malaria are common ailments here.
Our programme offers iron supplementation and regular de-worming medication to the balwadi children and their mothers. Growth charts are maintained for all the children. This is supported by annual medical check-ups, cooking demonstrations of nutritious recipes and health education about anemia, worm infestation and nutritional powder supplementation.
What are the challenges that you have faced so far?
Firstly the mothers refuse to believe that their children are malnourished as they look healthy. Also, with thousands of people migrating into the city every day, they ignore their health as it is their last priority.
Another big issue is the shortage of water. People have to buy water every day, so drinking clean water and maintaining hygiene goes for a toss.
What impact have you made so far in your community?
The main changes we have seen so far are:
– Programmes Team, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)
One of the programmes supported by Concern India Foundation in the slums of Mumbai works towards the development of slum dwellers, using health as an entry point into the community.
The programme started with a clinic in 2003. It initially faced lot of resistance as the community was hesitant to open up to ‘outsiders’. To overcome this, the clinic decided to hire local women and train them so that they in turn, would reach out to the community to spread awareness. The efforts were successful and gave the clinic a foothold in the area.
Much of their work focuses on the women’s health, particularly their reproductive care and rights. They also found that people were either unaware or indifferent about contraceptive methods and family planning.
Their activities include home visits, monitoring growth, providing non-formal education for women, guidance, family planning utilities by providing contraceptives and awareness building about a range of social and legal issues.
Health wise, it is easy to comprehend why the area is inundated with so many problems. The pathways and bylanes of the slum are narrow and dingy, sunlight unable to reach some parts; houses stacked without proper foundations, and no semblance of decent toilets, let alone proper sewage and drainage systems.
The clinic distributes medicines at highly subsidised costs, something the community seems to appreciate. In the case of an advanced illness, the patients are referred to nearby doctors and hospitals. All families have a dedicated file that is updated with each visit.
The clinic also offers vocational training in the form of beautician classes, mehendi application and tailoring courses.
– Shyamali Patel, Resource Mobilisation, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)
Mamtha attempted suicide by setting herself on fire after being unable to get over the shock of failing her 10th grade examination. Although she survived, her face was completely disfigured. She felt frustrated. She attempted another suicide and was under severe depression.
It was during this time that Mamtha came across a programme supported by Concern India Foundation. It goes to slums and residential areas to sensitise people about burn care.
The field organiser who went to meet Mamtha was herself a burn victim. Mamtha saw her as a person with a mission in life – to identify others like her and support them. This gave her hope that she too could lead the kind of life she wanted, given the requisite treatment and support.
After undergoing treatment, Mamtha was given an opportunity to counsel other burn victims.
In the last two years of working as a counsellor, Mamtha has motivated and inspired many victims. She also started working with a women based self-help group supported by Concern India Foundation.
She works towards sensitising students in creating awareness on prevention of fire accidents, de-addiction and importance of social entitlement such as procuring ID cards along with interacting with the family members of burn victims in the community.
“I have gained confidence and motivation to work and I am able to manage different aspects of my life well,” says Mamtha.
Mamtha, who once hesitated to face the members of her own family, now interacts not just with burn victims but also key stakeholders in the society. She has met councillors, politicians and key police personal among others. She is now persevering her graduation degree and has plans to complete a Masters in Social Work.
She feels like an achiever having been gone through transformation in her life and supports her family cheerfully.
– Programmes Team, Concern India Foundation (Bengaluru)
25-year-old Prakash Zinzurde belongs to a tribal family that owns a small land and depends on rain-fed agriculture for a living. He lives in a small village in Mokhada in Maharashtra.
Lack of infrastructure, heavy rainfall during the monsoon months followed by water scarcity otherwise and unreliable electricity supply render Mokhada as an unattractive proposition for any investment.
Like most farmers here, Prakash could barely feed his family of six through farming, and every year after monsoons he would have to migrate to the near-by towns to work as an unskilled labourer.
However, since last year, his and the life of many other farmers in the region have changed.
A programme supported by Concern India Foundation has made this possible by providing them with financial and technical support to cultivate bitter-gourd which takes them only 45 days to harvest and fetches a decent price in the market.
The programme helps them with financial loans and purchasing fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. They are also trained about new agricultural techniques and pest management.
With all the support and assistance, Prakash has been able earn a higher living and does not have to migrate in search of work anymore.
– Programmes Team, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)