No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.
Not far away from our center entry, I see our student Sania Mirza waving at us with her gleeful eyes and chirpy smile. Its time for her to arrive at school sharp by 10.00 am. Since last week, she has been excited to learn the apple and banana song from Lisette, our overseas volunteer from Lehman college, New York. Saying so, she has neatly combed her hair for a change after two weeks at the Lakshyam center realizing that her teacher has instructed it is an essential routine of her daily life.
At Lakshyam, we not only identify at-risk communities and push them towards education, sustainability, and skill development but we motivate them towards inculcating a hygienic and holistic life for themselves. Its not only about text books, schools or slates but playgrounds, habits and reflections.
The new community undertaken by Lakshyam includes families inhabiting an area of land near arthala, Mohan nagar at Ghaziabad.
All members of the community earn their living by rag-picking. The ragpickers daily rummage through discarded (waste) material from the nearby
developed localities, dump it right outside their respective makeshift homes and begin the
tedious task of sorting and allotting the material according to need, usage and sale value.
The makeshift homes of this community are compromised of little more than what can be found among the waste material.
For the children (those who are in school), must leave the village to attend classes. Most of the children begin rag picking along with their parents to supplement the household income at an early age.
Of the adult inhabitants of this community, none of them have had an education. The average income per household is about 5,000 INR per month. All income is attained from rag picking.
The particular community does not use soap for sanitation of hands and eating materials.
Unable to afford soap, dry sand (next to the drainage) is used for washing hands,
bathing, and for cleaning the utensils. Water used to clean dishes and other eating vessels is the same contaminated water riddled with toxic waste. In the event of an illness, the nearest
hospital is several kilometers away. As there is no government funded hospital in the proximity of this area, women are unable to
travel to deliver the baby. Therefore, to deliver safely, a trained birth attendant or nurse visits and helps during the delivery.
Lakshyam entered the arthala community with a small patch of land two months back which is now known as the Ghaziabad center for education and skill development.
The initial few weeks before commencing the program were the most tedious since the first step was to create awareness amongst parents to send their children for remedial education. Most of the families being Bengali muslims from the rag picking community were not keen to send their kids to a school. With gradual surveys and door to door discussions, we finally garnered 52 children in two months from 150 households who are regularly attending classes every week in the morning and afternoon batch.
Their curriculum is designed according to their need and follows a holistic approach in learning. Apart from stationary that is distributed amongst kids, we encourage them to take weekly extra curricular activities such as drawing, colouring, learning to speak about themselves, playing sports activities, singing and group dancing.
Young enthusiastic volunteers from all over Delhi and U.P enrol with us on a monthly basis to teach and learn from the running centres. They generate interest and garner extreme enthusiasm from the students at Lakshyam centres. In two months, we have had 6 volunteers who worked towards educating the kids and making it an experience for them. They go through an orientation process for the first two days with us, start teaching through the syllabus given, create activities for the overall development of the kids and finally take a small test to encourage discipline and regularity in kids.
Two teachers from within the slum have been employed to give classes at the center. This practice has been extremely motivating for the people of the community who get inspired to be self dependent, financially and holistically. Also, this initiates the drive of educating their upcoming generations.
Apart from child education, we have encouraged a new program for women welfare and skill development in the afternoon batch.
Women who take care of the household, families and their work, they cannot fully sustain an entire family through bare minimum wages. To boost their confidence and financial independence, we have employed an expert who teaches stitching, embroidery and garment making to them. The dupattas, cushion covers, napkins and bedsheets produced after the classes are further sold and the proceeds go to the women students who have created the beautiful pieces of creativity.
Recently, students of Lehman college New York agreed to spearhead a summer camp in association with Lakshyam kids at the Ghaziabad center. Full of fresh ideas, they started with painting the boundary wall of the center. Moving to creation of a solar system and family tree in the classrooms.
The team from lehman segregated themselves in 3 teams respectively. The first took care of health and hygiene workshop where they surveyed 20 families to identify the challenges. It ranged from sanitation, menstrual cycles in women and adolescent girls, bathing, cutting nails, combing your hair and daily life habits. The second group is making a documentary and video footage of the entire center which will be impactful in our future pitches and would also be uploaded on our website. The third team comprised of students interacting, learning poems and doing structured summer activities with our children.Language being a tiny barrier, we have a program coordinator aligned with them who also plays the role of a translator. As observed, the enthusiasm of the kids has risen and their attendance has become regular with this program!
Health and sanitation is another concern for the Arthala community and we are trying to bring about a sensitised change within the families of the slum area. To install 2 mobile vans with five toilets is our initial target and it is in process this year. This step will begin a learning drive for each member of the community comprehending the idea of a hygienic life for themselves and their children. It starts with using a toilet, washing their hands before eating or after using the toilet. Small habits of an individual can bring a herculean change in the entire family.
Lakshyam as an enterprise has worked towards transforming thousands of lives since its inception in 2008. With the increasing team and creative soldiers of our organisation, we will continue our oath to spearhead initiatives based on foundations of love, trust, kindness and generosity. Uplifting one community at a time after a tenure of every 3 years is our target and each smile added to our family is our vision. Join our family and visit our centres to bring a change in your lives.