- 06 January, 2016
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“When I joined CRY in 2011, my interests were purely professional. As a law student, my goal was to gain practical experience in the development sector. But soon enough, it became personal for me, and long after my internship ended, I continued to volunteer with CRY.
My first visit to an anganwadi located in the slums of Bangalore, evoked both
excitement and despair. I was exhilarated to have the opportunity to visit a marginalized community on my own, but I was dismayed to see children crammed into a tiny space. Worse, the anganwadi was adjacent to a drain. In another anganwadi, I found rats running around sacks of ration stored to feed children. These experiences during my internship drew me to the ‘rights based’ approach to social change (as championed by CRY) as opposed to a ‘relief based’ approach.
As a volunteer, I took part in street plays and saw first hand the monumental effect it had in raising awareness in the community. Personally, as well, it played a huge part in ridding me of stage fright. However, my most memorable experience as a volunteer was of working alongside a CRY representative to set up an anganwadi in Yeshwantpur.”
– Anjali Shivanand (Volunteer, Bangalore)
“Enrolling children in school is easy. Getting them to stay in school is the challenge. In CRY-supported project Aakar, the community made up of homeless people in North Mumbai and it’s a challenge we’ve faced for a while. If there’s a festival or a function, the children immediately drop out and do unskilled labor to earn money. We tackled this challenge by accompanying the children to school every day, and it made a dramatic difference to the attendance in school. We also started a weekend fun activity for the children, to boost their interest in school. Today, after two years of steadfast effort, the children have begun to reciprocate. They eagerly wait for us to arrive and joyfully participate in the programme.”
– Malvika Saini (Volunteer, Mumbai)
“I was part of a 10-person team that conducted an in-depth Knowledge Attitude Practice (KAP) survey in Delhi among employers who hire children as labourers, either as helpers in tea stalls, mechanical workshops or in their homes. As part of our survey, I visited the slums in West Delhi, and was struck by the cramped living conditions and struggle for survival. I was glad that there are NGOs like Saksham and CRY that reach out to them. The survey was physically, mentally and emotionally challenging, but the experience was totally worth it. The memories of the children’s faces are something I will always take with me. The results of our survey were released at a press conference in Delhi and received overwhelming media coverage. I’m glad my efforts helped spotlight the challenges that child labourers face.”
– Anisha Shekhar (Volunteer, Delhi)
“When we met 7-year-old Naveen, he was a school dropout who drifted aimlessly in Notchikuppam, a shing hamlet near the Marina Beach in Chennai. His father was a fisherman, but also struggled with alcoholism. We worked at convincing his mother about the importance of education. While she was keen that he go to school, Naveen himself seemed indifferent. We didn’t give up but continued persuading and encouraging him. We shared with him the importance of education and the joy of going to school. Our efforts bore fruit and he finally agreed. We then approached the Head Master, who at first refused to enroll him as classes had already begun. However, when he heard Naveen’s story, he decided to give him a chance. Naveen is now a happy school-goer. His mother is extremely happy that her son is back in school.”
– Abirami Ramdoss, Shruti Mishra (Volunteers, Chennai)
‘Humney socha nahin tha ki humari beti phir se school ja sakegi’. (We never thought our daughter would go to school again), said the mother of 10-year-old Rina, as her daughter packed her bag.
It was a statement that echoed through Bellilious Lane in Howrah, Kolkata, an area that was plagued with a high rate of school dropouts, working children and children who didn’t go to school.
As CRY volunteers, when we stepped in to take stock of the situation, we realized that we’d have to tackle the issue on several different levels. First, we started weekly sessions with children, where we made learning fun again through craft, songs, dance and games. Next, we worked at building a rapport with parents and the community. Most often, it’s the lack of awareness or interest from the parents that somehow affects the children. Our next task was to make a list of government schools in the area, and contact the authorities to find out procedures for readmission of dropouts.
We then took on the toughest challenge yet: convincing the children and their parents of the importance of formal education. After several denials, dismissals and disappointments, we succeeded in changing their perspective. 10 children who had dropped out, were now back in school.
A small victory for us, but a bigger triumph for a bright student like Rina.”
Lalit Mundhra, Shreya Upadhyay, Pallavi Roy and Shubham Killa (Volunteers, Kolkata)