Yesterday we went to our client organization, Chaitanya Charitable Trust, (CCH) that is located in the slums and began working with them on the project. Our goal is to analyze and suggest a plan for growing their education centers, called Happy Children Centers (HCC) to serve 3000 in 60 slums. Currently they serve 150 children in 3 slums.
In this picture you see part of one of the slums that lines the railway tracks. This slum shown is for the for Rag-pickers who harvest paper and plastic from garbage and beggars. Structures are at best wooden shacks but mostly just sticks with tarps and other rain-blocking materials over them. In all about 25% of the population of the city lives in slums which seam to vary in terms of level of condition.
CCH offer a wide variety of services to server 3 of the 67 slums in the area. Their support and outreach covers the complete spectrum of needs and a partial list includes:
- Medicine dispensing
- Government paperwork assistance and advocacy to help basic gov support for those that are not in the government registries
- Health checkups – monthly for each child enrolled
- Championing for infrastructure in the slums – which is a big need since for some reasons some of the slums fall outside the authority of any one government official , daycare services to allow mothers & older children to work and attend school
- Daily food program for the children and funcing can allow
- and of course Happy Children Centers – our focus
The two founders, Hitesh and his wife Kajal and the teachers they employ are completely inspirational and the work they are doing and impact they are having on the community is remarkable. They were professional that decided they needed to focus their lives on others so they left their jobs and used what money they had to create a shop and some rental proplerty that provides them a verly small income to look after their daily needs, thus freeing them to focus on this amazing work.
Our journey to work was via a 20 minute Auto Rickshaw drive that was made a bit longer as we got jammed in a Jamnager traffic snarl waiting for a train to pass.
Once we pulled up the gates we great excitement and hospitality. We are clearly very interesting to all the locals and I’m sure the topic of the week. We were able to meet with Hitesh and Kajal for a extended time, as well as spend time in both the daycare and also later in the day the HCC. First in the one run in their facility and then in the one that is a “open air” center being run in the rag-picker based slum.
The children were expecting us and children had prepared sort demonstration of their skills in English language and counting, as well as showed how they write in Gujuarti and Hundi. During this next month they will use us as “Inspiration” for the children to practice their English and each child during the month as been given a mandatory assignment to prepare 5 English questions for each of us. It’s a great idea since it gives some practical application to the English portion of their curriculum.
I also handed out some Canada pins I had brought with me to the children and they were a big hit. It was fin to somehow happy they were with such a small thing and how the immediately pinned it on. I told them it meant Canada and I think a few understood, but for most I’m sure they might be wondering just what the heck Canada is? During my stay here I get to teach one class apparently. So that might be my topic. I’ll have to figure out how to do a picture show of some type, matched to a spelling or identification exercise to explain Canada in a way that requires basic English only. If there are any educators reading this please send me your ideas!
The slums themselves are contain people of amazing beauty and but also such saddening poverty. The daycare children and the Happy Children Center (HCC) students are well dressed and very respectful but filled with energy and chatter. It was amazing to me how clean and well cared for they were in the midst of the mud and squaller. Logistically I have no idea how this can be given the level of dirt that is all around (especially in the Monsoon season), but I’m sure this requires a high level of effort by the parents and shows respect for the school and the efforts Hitesh and Kajal are making. I did get many pictures and they but I wont be posting them right away due to my concerns about respecting their privacy, but when I have approval I will post some pictures to the blog.
Leah – let me know if you want me to get some beautiful traditional clothing. Kajal was wearing some wonder clothing and she has offered to take Emily (and even Peter and I) this Saturday to go shopping in the local markets.
Anyway, I had an eye opening experience today and I’m a bit overwhelmed with emotions. I’m sure it will get easier and it certainly makes the focus on the need to grow the client organization that much more real and urgent.
Peter, Emily and I are off to the slums again this morning so will post more after that. On Thursday, Aug 15, is Independence day which is a nationwide celebration and holiday. On that day we will be going to the school to watch some festive events that are happening. Apparently it’s very interesting and filled with energy.
Please keep reading and commenting. As time allows I’m happy to expand into any question or topic that you might have for me. My only concern about this blog is I might have to slow down on the postings as the work on the project deliverable ramps up.