Sowing Seeds for a More Hopeful Tomorrow
Through our on ground interventions, we are able to observe firsthand the challenges and barriers experienced by vulnerable communities. This is true of our current work in urban slum neighborhoods of Gurugram and four other cities where our field teams are operating Community Response Centres (CRCs) in an initiative supported by HSBC. Through CRCs, we are able to establish a physical presence to truly understand the culture of a community as well as the challenges of residents when it comes to overcoming poverty. This understanding of real issues also enables us to develop new ways to shift the needle when it comes to building motivation for individuals and families.
Large sections of the urban population live on the fringes of cities in India — in slums such as the one in Gurugram. For the most part, slum dwellers lack basic amenities and opportunities to access education and this often results in youth disengagement. Many go down a path of petty crime and substance abuse, and are unable to lead functional and productive lives. Families are not equipped to motivate their young members in ways that can alleviate and break the shackles of their circumstances.
In the slum of Basai Chowk (near a Gurugram flyover), our field team member Upender came up with a new form of engagement that also challenged the stereotypes that surround slum communities and their residents.
With the help of youth who are currently part of our training program at that location, he started a week long school program for children within the slum. The goal was to create a learning-based environment in which these children could channel their creativity, showcase their skills and gain confidence from the experience.
A group of 70-80 children attended the week-long classes and participated in the learning process through activities such as play for peace, total physical response, poems, drawing, singing, dancing and much more. They were provided refreshments during the day to keep their mental and physical energy levels up. Youth from our program helped to facilitate all of these activities and were key to bringing the community together around this initiative. Many of them also shared their stories of empowerment in a group setting.
Upender says: “It was difficult initially since other people in the neighbourhood living in ‘proper’ houses claimed that it’s a waste of time to have any activity for the children. Their view was that they are lazy, thieves and that they will never learn. We were determined to stay on this mission and it was amazing to see all these assumptions annulled since each child would return their distributed stationery after the day and they would then have questions for the next day. Each one of them had the focus and determination that we want to see in every learner. We understood, through this week-long experiment, that it is possible to kindle hope, joy and aspirations.”
A young program trainee said: “We now know how important it is to communicate effectively. During this week, we had to get out to start conversations with people to make them understand what we were trying to do. It was a great experience to be part of this community activity and full of moments to remember.”
Upender and his team wrapped up the week with a prize distribution that was attended by many residents. He also identified five young adults who will now join us for our youth transformation program at that location.
Most importantly, the initiative was noticed by the Power of Human Right Foundation (TPHRF) which has decided to intervene at Basai Chowk to support parents in enrolling their children in schools.
What started as an innovative idea for community involvement from our field staff member in Gurugram has sparked a shift in more ways than one. Clearly, giving children and youth a view of what they are capable of opens their minds to greater possibilities. This is a core premise of our transformation program and it has been further validated by the Gurugram experiment.
This story was gathered by Mouli Chatterjee, our current communications intern.