While working with Concern India Foundation, I got the opportunity to visit one of their programmes, the Joining Hands Training Centre. Located in Badarpur, what sets this vocational training centre apart from the rest is that the primary focus of this institute is to enhance the overall employability and personality of its students in addition to basic skills. It aims to improve their confidence and communication skills so that they are able to create a positive impression on prospective employers. The students are enrolled in a comprehensive three month course which comprises of IT, English and soft skills training.
On entering the center, Ms. Aparna Singh, Head of the Programme introduced me to the students who were already in class. Sitting in the classroom with them, it felt like I was in just another class where the students talk to each other, get scolded by the teacher for interrupting the lesson and learn with enthusiasm. Only after I interacted with them later, did I realize how different the situation was from what it appeared.
Umesh who looked like any other 18 – year-old boy was actually the sole wage earner of his family, desperate for employment so that he could help his mother and raise his three younger sisters. I learnt that Kavita walked 3 kilometers to the centre every day to attend her classes in spite of protests from her family so that she could work in a place other than a factory. I realized that the quiet Amit was forced to drop out of school due to his epilepsy and chose to continue his education at Joining Hands after spending more than a year confined to his home. All of them, along with the other students were working hard in the hope of improving their future through the jobs they would get because of Joining Hands Training Center.
I also visited the homes of two students, Krishna and Shabnam with Ms. Aparna. While Krishna lives in a relatively comfortable home, her situation is far from ideal due to her father’s recent medical problems. Visiting Shabnam’s home however, was the most profound experience of my entire visit. She along with her family of four lives in a single room,measuring approximately 10 square feet, like other 23 families in the building, sharing 2 toilets and 3 bath rooms between them. They have been living there for the past 16 years. Even though they suffer from severe financial problems, Shabnam’s mother served us cold drinks and biscuits they purchased specially for us despite our protests. Her sense of hospitality and efforts to make us feel welcome in her home, considering the situation of the family, were nothing short of remarkable. My first experience visiting the program at the grass root level, meeting the people who actually benefit from it and how it changes their lives for the better is one I can say with certainty, I will never forget.
Communications, Intern, Delhi
We were at a programme in Palghar that was set up to aid women and children. Rural areas have little to no access to health care services. The distances the residents have to travel, to reach these are vast. They have practically no form of transportation services and terrible roads to tackle when they do.
The project runs a mobile medical vehicle that visits 17 villages in the Palghar district over 10 days, providing routine check-ups, medicines and nutritional supplements for pregnant women and newborn infants.
By taking the clinic to the patient, they ensure easy access to their facilities and regular progress reports through the entire pregnancy term.They also train community health workers (CHV) to raise health awareness in the community and to act as a point of contact between them and the main clinical centres.
Naresh the Multi Purpose Worker took us around the hamlet and we arrived at the well. There were two teenage girls sitting on the wall of the well with their pots and ropes in hand. We peeped into the well with much expectation and found that the bottom of the 20 foot well is visible… all we saw was black stone at the bottom. The well was dry except for a small patch where a little pool of water had collected. We were told that the water trickles in through the crevices at the bottom of the well and little by little collects into what we would call a small puddle. The moment it can be pulled out the two girls sitting on vigil, lower their plastic can into it and pull out whatever little water can be drawn out. Then the vigil begins again.
Naresh informs us that the water situation in the summer months is miserable. The hand pump which we could see in a field further down was completely dry and it is a daily struggle for the families to get water. There is a big dam not 30 Km from there, but the water from there is piped to the megalopolis of Mumbai which is about 100 km from there. Sometimes the contradictions in life baffle you!
Programmes Team, Mumbai
Concern India Foundation organised an interaction between the volunteers of Google as a part of their ‘Google Serve’ initiative and the elderly at an ashram located in Badarpur, Delhi. The 11 volunteers were accompanied by foundation members and were shown the facility by its founder, Mr. G P Bhagat. The old age home has been operational since 29th November 2003 and is currently the residence for over 100 elderly people who have been abandoned all over the city of Delhi, from roads to railway stations, by their families. The elderly are given a home at this centre along with the care and attention they require after being found on the streets.
After viewing the ashram, the volunteers interacted with the elderly and they played card games, clicked ‘selfies’ and talked. One of the volunteers entertained them by playing the guitar and singing along with his colleagues. They also helped serve their lunch for the day. Finally, all the volunteers shared their experiences with each other, the foundation members and Mr. Bhagat at the end of the day.
-Communications Team, Concern India Foundation (Delhi)
“There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.” W.E.B. Dubois
Located in North Mumbai, Malwani is the second largest slum in Asia. With mounds of garbage piled in every corner of the slum, the slum dwellers live in an unhygienic environment with inadequate infrastructure and lacking proper sanitary and drinking water facilities.
In such a dismal environment, a programme supported by Concern India Foundation is working relentlessly to uplift the quality of life of women and youth residing in the slums. The programme conducts vocational training courses in computer literacy, mobile repairing, beautician tarining, mehendi application and tailoring. Apart from this, awareness sessions are also conducted to sensitize the women on health and hygiene issues.
Most of the women in the area are high school dropouts, since they are not allowed to go out of their locality for education. Since the mobility of the women is restricted, the classes are conducted within the community. The courses are taught by people experienced in the fields.
The programme encourages every woman to complete her schooling through the open schooling system. In fact many young girls there are now pursuing graduation courses through Yashwant Rao Chavan Open University.
I met Sabiha, a girl who could not speak a word of English a year ago and now explains the benefits of knowing the language in fluent English. This transformation is a result of the personality development courses; the programme conducts for the women.
The women of Malwani slums are slowly broadening their horizons. They want to be a part of the family decision making process and they want to contribute to the family income through the work they do.
It is heart warming to see the alumni of this centre eager to train new students. They want to share their knowledge and they want all women in the community to come to the forefront.
One cannot miss the pride in their eyes when they demonstrate their skills. More power to women!
-Sagarika Mohanty, Communications Team, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)