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Powai slum children: Empowered with vocational guidance and a world view
The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay is located in Powai, a suburb of Mumbai. Across the road is old Powai and the slums. A professor of Humanities after his retirement, along with his spouse decided to do something of lasting value for the community, as they had spent more than three decades in that neighbourhood. They zeroed on to the poor slum children, to whom neither their parents nor anyone else could provide any sense of direction.
Of course, the children went to the local municipal school, where the quality of education was at best indifferent. One suspects, that the children were sent more for the free mid day meal, than for education. There was no way that they could envision their future with a secure job. Other retired faculty couples and alumni of the Institute joined them, and figured out how to go about enabling the children, with all round development and employability.

The NGO was registered six years ago with 30 children. Donation and services in cash and kind followed. Space was rented out in the slum and classrooms readied. The walls were brightened up with Shantiniketan motifs. Former students provided computers and other audio visual education aids. The professors, their spouses and students spent time giving personalised guidance to the children. Almost the way, parents and siblings would have done!

 To be employable, the children needed intensive guidance in English, basic Maths and to be computer literate. Afternoon onwards, the children spent daily about six hours at the premises. Apart from the instruction, the children were given all round exposure in matters of culture, arts, sports etc. Most of the children came from troubled households – like domestic violence, alcoholism and delinquency. The volunteers treated them affectionately and helped them to cope with their traumas. Where necessary, the homes were visited, to counsel the families.

It was also noticed, that all the children were malnourished and consequently their IQs very low. Special care was taken to provide them nourishing food daily. This improved their health as well as their scholastic performance. Initially, the NGO was met with a lot of scepticism by the parents. Soon the love and labour of the volunteers bore fruit.

Children's performance improved, they were less maladjusted in society and were also becoming aware of their heritage and culture. It is heartening to see, the sort of love and care which is showered on these children by the local community. One lady sends a few hundred home cooked chapattis for the children daily and so on.

Visits to factories and nature parks and other places of interest are being regularly made. From their small world of the grimy slums and squalor, they get a broader view of the wide world. Their exam results are steadily improving and they are also being given guidance about the sort of vocation possibilities which lie ahead. Here, the companies of the former students of the I.I.T. are fertile training grounds.

Starting from 30, this year the NGO has 180 happy children. Every year on Founder's Day the children put up a cultural show, where the families of the children and other members of the Powai community are present. It feels like one excited, happy and noisy family!

The children stage plays on social problems like dowry, women's issues etc. Marathi folk songs and dances to Bollywood numbers follow! This year they surprised us by also presenting Western dances right up to Salsa! Please see accompanying photo. From their body language, can one say that they are slum kids? They exude confidence. Now they know that there is a wide world out there. Their horizons have expanded! There is Hope!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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