Monday, September 15, 2008

Application to Mehta College for Student Volunteers

To
Principal,
Mehta College
Airoli

Dear Madam,

Subject: Request for allowing us to create awareness among the students, in relation to Right to Education for Slum-kids.



About 2 months back, I started a small activity in our area—teaching the slum kids of Sec-17 every Sunday. Touchy interactions with them, their incomprehensible enthusiasm for education and unremitting desire to get their kids out of this morass or bog - all these made me more determined and focused. The moments witnessed by me – greeting of the kids with wide open eyes and a ready smile, emptying out their life’s wisdom, about love, hope and faith in the face of odds are indescribable. Shortage of your time restricts us to paint out our other exquisite experiences. It was then I realized that just teaching them 2-3 hrs a week will hardly bring any tangible change in their life. We will have to go much beyond Literacy. We need to provide them ‘Education’ (Literacy, health, social, sex, environmental, etc.) to change their way of thinking, their way of living, not just that of kids but most importantly that of their parents!
I started sharing my goal, ideas and experience with my friends. After many disappointments, few caring hearts and committed minds stepped ahead and joined me. Today we have gradually grown to a vibrant team of 7. We rolled out our road map. First get the kids admitted to school! This besides providing a formal disciplined environment to the kids will also decrease the ‘emotional distance’ between us and their parents. We will then be in a better position to be heard!
Our arduous efforts (late night meetings with parents, discussions with school staff, facilitation of their meetings, making of the kids’ affidavits etc.) did fructify. 20 kids across 3 slum-areas(Airoli-Gaav, Sec-20, Sec-17) got admitted to a BMC school where besides education they will also get 1-time meal, books, uniform, raincoat and all basic necessities that a student needs. 6 more will be added to this number within a couple of days.
We had also organized a small event on 15th August in the school classroom to make these kids realize the significance of this date. Our Project--LEAD (Love, Education and Attitude for Destitute), as we proudly call it, is also recognized by the Ashoka’s Youth Venture Challenge http://www.youthventure.org, http://www.yvchallenge.blogspot.com – a program that recognizes, encourages and supports the exceptional achievements of young people who are actively promoting social change in society. YVC believes ‘Everyone is a change maker’ as a result of a global culture of young people initiating positive, lasting change. We were selected to attend the capacity building workshops in Nature’s Park, Sion by the YVC team. These workshops besides incessantly motivating us also helped create a greater depth and better understanding of our work. All this has been achieved just within a couple of months, underscoring the fact “Where there is a Will, there is a Way.”
Sustainability is the key-word now as Defection (already 4 kids have stopped going to school) can anytime pop-up its ugly head as these unfortunate kids hardly share any time with their parents (daily casual workers). So we need to timely and rightly harness these opportunities now to workout this emergency operation. School Authorities have, along with school-gates, opened up their hearts by allowing us to use their class-rooms for teaching these kids after school hours to catch-up with others and one of the politicians has promised us the hall for organizing any events for these kids {and girls (we are planning to get some vocational training to bit elder girls, who slog a lot in the ‘risky’ jobs, which will then fetch them a safe, secure and respectable jobs)}.
We have penned down all these things above not for flaunting before you. But it is to show you the complete picture. We have Plans, Support, Infrastructure, and for the time being Funds too. But we lack the most valuable asset, most valuable resource—Human Resource! This was realized few weeks back by even 60 of the most committed NGOs all over India and hence made them take a strategic move i.e. Look for the facilitator or mediator—Times of India! Teach India campaign as we all know now.
We have come to you with a similar request. A high-school or college can facilitate this urgent need by providing the required ‘out-reach’. We have intentionally decided to motivate three categories of volunteers. Teachers (Retired/Working) who have all the necessary skills to handle the kids, Aged people (either frustrated with their life, or bored of their inactiveness) who have a lot of leisure time and invaluable experiences to share with these kids and thirdly but most importantly STUDENTS, the youth. We believe the Youth today is already motivated and they do want to engage themselves in providing education to the less fortunate. But they don’t know how to and where to start. (I, myself, have witnessed this painful feeling). All of us understand the scope and limitations of our educational systems and curriculums. Students do become successful professionals but how many of them transform into responsible citizens? They have the passion, empathy and courage to do something different but it either gets bogged down inside the pages of the books or is wasted around coffee-shops, multiplexes, smoking-areas, late-night hangouts or home-favorite idiot boxes. They will not acknowledge the harsh realities of life until they are hit upon it (like what happened with us). The materialistic success as they would define now -- six-figure salary, car, home, hefty bank-balance, will not be able to pump enough adrenalin into their blood throughout their life. So this is the opportune phase for the society—Educational Institutions, seniors, corporate bodies, adults etc—to motivate them. Shepherd them and not Burden them! All have potential to make positive impact in their community, given the right support and encouragement.
Please don’t misunderstand us. We are not asking everyone to leave away their personal, professional, academic lives and become social workers. No! In fact all 7 of us, being working professionals, can give personal attention to them only on weekends. The key lies in ‘carefully balancing’ all these lives properly in one’s life. This will truly make these students or potential professionals a leader and not just a manager. They have to voluntarily give just 2 hours a week to teach these kids after their school-hours and then witness how they could give a puny girl a shot at changing her family’s destiny forever or a 6 year old boy the chance to polish his future instead of their shoes. This CHANGE-MAKING experience will radically change their attitudes towards their life too. The Educational institutions will then be known as breeding ground for the potential leaders and not just students!
Sounds Encouraging, isn’t it? But is it possible to turn this fanciful scene into a reality? Frankly speaking, we don’t know. But that should definitely not dither us from shouldering our responsibilities. We need to give our best shot instead of just leaving the things for fate. No one can force anyone to join this ‘movement’. The voice should straightaway come from one’s heart. So while making the presentation to these students about our project and their 2-hour per week commitment, we will make it crystal clear that this decision will be completely there’s and we as well as the college have no influence in it. In fact all of us will just act as plain ‘facilitators’ enabling to open these students’ hearts to open the other kids’ minds!

Thanking You,

Respectfully,
Rupesh
Project-LEAD

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