(This is a guest post written by Goutam Gurha for a social endeavor by ISB and iDiya http://www.isb.edu/idiya/)
The paradox of our times is that we have premium hotels and luxurious condominiums on the forefront but ugly slums in the background. We have air-conditioned schools for the affluent but no access to education for the underprivileged. Nowhere else do we get to see the stark contrast the way we do in Gurgaon, the Millennium city. How many of us care to find what goes on in the life of construction workers who sweat and toil to give shape to the modern structures?
It took a small boy to drive me out of my comfort zone. It was lunch time and I was waiting for a friend to go for a movie. I saw children emerging from a day care center with parents who worked at a nearby construction site. Casual chit-chat revealed that a seven year old could do addition sums with amazing ease. “Who taught you this?” I asked. The impish kid pointed towards a day care worker and said, “Didi."
This is how I found out about the remarkable efforts of ‘Mobile Creches’ an NGO which works with the children living on the construction sites of Delhi and NCR. The Construction Industry in India employs around 30 million workers who work in extremely dangerous conditions where unequal wages are paid to men and women. The childcare and educational amenities are completely absent as are maternity benefits for women. Conservative estimates tell us that there are 300,000 children in and around Delhi alone. ‘Mobile Creches’ has more than six hundred day care centers partnered with builders like Ansal, Vipul, Raheja, Vatika and Unitech to make sure that each child matters.They provide child care services to more than 14,000 children through multiple partnerships.
Had it not been for Mobile Creches, the seven year old boy I met, could be looking after his younger sister and not studying at the center. The same is true for other children. The older kids can attend school since volunteers and day care workers from Mobile Creches take care of their younger siblings.
There is strong rationale behind the initiative to ensure health and quality life of children living on the construction sites. Every child matters. Growing up, it was an unspoken understanding that education is the only way towards accomplishment. Without emotional interactions and intellectual stimulations during childhood, there was no way of knowing who I was.
No wonder they say "if children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight. If children live with shame they learn to be guilty. If children live with acceptance they learn to love. If children live with recognition they learn to have a goal. And if children live with approval they learn to like themselves."
What are our children living with?
Undeniably, early childhood stage is the most critical period when the foundations for health, learning capacities and social behaviors are laid. Research shows that approximately 90% of brain development takes place during the first five years of a child’s life. Hence an early intervention enables children to develop into capable and confident individuals.
Nurturing Childhood, Sowing Change
Mobile Creches uses a proactive strategy which aims to provide a level playing field for disadvantaged children and strengthen the human resource of the country. Impressed with their work I visited a community crèche which had provisions for immunization, health care for pregnant women, sick children and young toddlers. Meetings, street theater, melas and campaigns by volunteers ensure health and education of children in urban slums.
What's remarkable is that a great deal of comprehensive research, policy analysis and documentation goes in to provide a just and caring world for young marginalized children.
Get Involved to Find Solutions
The best part is that one can get involved by having fun and not necessarily by contributing funds.
· Running in a charity marathon and rediscovering the athlete in you.
· Working on a community project with children and building their self-esteem.
· Start an employee volunteer club and retain talent for your company.
Like me, if you believe that every child has a right to the joys of childhood, you can visit a centre, become a volunteer, sponsor a child or support the Mobile Creches Corpus Fund. Mobile Creches is accredited by Credibility Alliance, a consortium of NGOs, hence accountability and credibility are well established.
Unfortunately, I was unable to volunteer for this organization but it inspired me do my bit.The fact is that child labor, illiteracy and poverty are so intertwined, that if we do nothing about it, all three will continue till the end of time. And the unfairness in our system when it comes to health and education is distressing. While we have equal rights, a level playing field is clearly missing.
When Gita, a nine year old girl living in an urban slum says, “School is fun. I don't like to do the household chores,” or when Ram Singh, a labor from Bihar says, "I want my son to be a doctor," we owe it to them. And it is not about charity. It is about equal rights.
For me, these are immensely satisfying stories. It’s time we did better things and not necessarily bigger things.
Pic Courtesy: Mobile Creche
Phone: + 91 11 23347635, 23363271