Socially Useful and Productive Activity
- Pages: 23
- Word count: 5645
- Category: Abuse
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At the completion of my SUPA Project, I feel obliged to express my heartfelt gratitude towards all those who have made this possible. I would like to profoundly thank Fr. Sunny Thomas Uppan, Director, Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan for accepting my request to work as a volunteer with them and also help me throughout the project, guiding me whenever it was necessary. I would also like to thank Mr. Shibin, Manager, staff and residents of Sneha Bhavan Boys’ Home for helping me to work and complete the project. The experience was truly an eye opener for me. I would like to thank Prof. J. Philip, President, XIME for instituting this SUPA Programme which gave us a varied exposure which we had never imagined.
I also thank Prof. S.D Thyagraj, Dean, XIME, Dr. Panduranga Rao, Director, XIME and Asst. Prof. Vasanth James for their support and guidance. I am thankful and fortunate enough to work with such dedicated and knowledgeable people who enlightened me about the less privileged. I thank XIME for giving me an opportunity to do such a benevolent activity in my academic life and to serve and understand the way an NGO works. They made me understand the importance of such an activity and constantly encouraged and motivated me to do it. This created the urge within me and made me committed to my project. I also would like to thank my peers from XIME, Rahul Unnikrishnan and Subin Mathew Mammen, who accompanied me for the SUPA for their invaluable support and contributions. Above all I thank almighty god for providing me this chance to see and understand various initiatives taken by noble organisations like Sneha Bhavan for the upliftment of underprivileged children of the society.
SUPA – Socially Useful and Productive Activity is an opportunity given to each student of Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship (XIME), Bangalore to work towards the benefit of the underprivileged of our society. It’s a unique program in XIME, mandatory as a part of the course curriculum, whose aim is to sensitize the students towards the development and betterment of the poor and the needy. Such kind of socially useful activity is nowadays becoming compulsory in B-schools so that tomorrow’s managers understand their responsibility towards the society. The objective of SUPA is to observe and understand the working of an NGO towards various social causes. We are expected to work closely with the organisation in their various activities along with identifying the harsh realities of the society, which the poor and the needy face at present.
And moreover, to apply the managerial skills learned in the academic course without expecting any kind of monetary returns. The program also requires us to acquire skills required in this field and inculcate values and social culture during our stay in the organisation. This program also aims at developing a lifelong commitment on our part to contribute passionately and positively to the millions of underprivileged section of the society in all manners possible and help in nation-building in a broad sense. Keeping these objectives in view, I decided to work with Don Bosco Snehabhavan, an NGO based in Palluruthy, Cochin, Kerala for the underprivileged children. This organisation works consistently to provide the basic necessities and care (food, clothing, shelter, medicine) for these children and then rehabilitate them by training and educating them in any vocation in order to make them independent.
DONBOSCO SNEHABHAVAN “India without street children”
Every day, millions of children and young people across India are denied even the most basic rights of housing and protection. India is home to the world’s largest population of street children. UNICEF estimates that there are some 11 million children living on the streets at any one time. This shockingly high number of child homelessness is a tragic symptom of an array of often interlinked causes. Children may end up on the streets as they may have no choice – they are abandoned, orphaned, or disowned by their parents. They may choose to live in the streets because of abuse, mistreatment or neglect or because their homes do not or cannot provide them with basic necessities. Other factors include, famine, natural and manmade disasters, displacement due to armed conflict.
With the continued growth of the Indian economy, migration of families to urban areas in search of a better life has also contributed to this problem, as has increased overcrowding in these urban centres. The result is that street children live in extremely dangerous and horrific conditions. They are usually malnourished with limited to no access to medical treatment. On the street, they receive no education – India has the highest number of ‘out of school’ children in the world and some 39% of children do not make it past grade 5. In the cities, these children often turn to begging. In more rural areas they become child labourers on farms or alongside their parents in other agricultural labour. Marginalised by society, some children turn to drug and alcohol abuse or crime, whilst others are forced into prostitution or are physically and sexually abused.
In 2007, the Indian Government published the results ‘Study of Child Abuse: India 2007’ – one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated carried out in collaboration with Save the Children and UNICEF – on child abuse. It reported that around two thirds of children across India have been victims of physical abuse – the majority are beaten in school and over half are forced to work seven days a week. Half of all children have experienced emotional abuse. The report also suggests that India has the world’s largest number of sexually abused children with over 50% of children having faced some kind of sexual abuse and some 20% of them severe abuse. Shocking statistics show that a child below 16 years of age is raped every 155 th minute, and a child below 10 years of age every 13th hour.
Street children and abuse go hand in hand. Recent studies have shown that the overall incidence of abuse amongst street children, either by a family member or by others or both, is a staggering 66.8% across India. Many children living on the streets end up there as a result of running away from abuse at home. Sadly, many face even more on the street by exploitative individuals, forcing them into child labour and prostitution – there is estimated to be around 5 million commercial sex workers under the age of 18 years old, which forms 40% of the total population of commercial sex works in India. 500,000 new children are forced into this appalling trade every year. Abused children are left emotionally scarred and suffer from physical injury. As a result of these traumatic experiences, which sometimes last for years, many children become withdrawn, refusing to speak and engage with others including those wanting to help. Their already low self-esteem and confidence becomes shattered and they often blame themselves for what might have happened thus becoming consumed by guilt.
There are an estimated 12 million child labourers in India, the world’s highest number of working children, often subjected to exploitative and hazardous conditions. They can work for 12-15 hours a day and are paid less than 3 rupees ($0.10). 80% of these are involved in agriculture, whilst some work with explosives, metals and poisonous gases from early ages. These large numbers engaged in underage employment are due to numerous factors. Children work primarily because there is a demand for cheap labour in today’s increasingly competitive environment. Millions also work to help their families as parent and other adults in the family do not have enough income to support everyone, or because there are no other options – i.e. there is no access to schools. In more extreme (but not uncommon) cases, those families living in poverty often ‘sell’ their children to contractors who promise the children lucrative jobs in cities.
Tragically, they end up being employed in brothels, hotels and domestic work, whilst others run away and find an equally miserable life on the streets. Those on the street often make ‘a living’ rag-picking. They can be seen on rubbish dumps alongside animals, rummaging for recyclables which they then go on to sell for a handful of rupees that are quickly spent on food and entertainment, or squandered due to an inability to manage money. Other ‘trades’ they are involved in include street vending, begging, working in workshops or factor units, firewood collecting and prostitution. The major impacts of child labour relate to both education and health. These child labourers forfeit their right to schooling and other training whilst they continue to work, and are also denied the opportunities to play and rest. Healthwise, many of these children suffer from exhaustion, work-related injury, as well other physical and mental afflictions.
Girls face significant discrimination in Indian society. Many female babies are aborted, abandoned or deliberately neglected and underfed simply because they are girls. This can be seen in the fact that female mortality rates are much higher than male mortality rates, and there is a continued decline in the male/female ratio 1.09:1. Reasons for this are numerous, but the key factor is because girls carry the liability of a dowry (money paid to the family of the partner whom she weds), and leaves the family home after marriage. Child marriage is still a regular practice in India, and culturally acceptable amongst many communities. According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children2009” report, 47% of India’s women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas.
The report also showed that 40% of the world’s child marriages occur in India. As well as limiting educational opportunities and stunting personal development, marriage at a young age also carries health risks. A girl under 15 years old is five times more likely to die during pregnancy than a woman in her twenties; her child is also more likely to die. Discrimination against girls is particularly evident in education where boys are more likely to attend school and to do so for more years. In India, the traditional place for a woman is in the home and so many families consider education for girls to be a waste of time, especially when the child can instead be working or performing domestic duties.
A Brief Overview
As a part of the international Don Bosco network, Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan is a Registered Charitable Society based in the state of Kelara, primarily operating in the District of Ernakulam to help youth at risk*. It was founded in 1974 in co-operation with the City Municipal Corporation of Cochin to rehabilitate children and youths found on the street, and has continued to grow ever since. Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan offers a diverse range of services to vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people through five core rehabilitation centres as well as other community-based projects.
Their purpose is broad, and they aim to: Restore children found on the street with their own family. Provide shelter to those children and youth at risk who have no home, and provide them with opportunities for holistic growth. Improve the overall educational status of youth at risk. Spread awareness and elicit understanding among the general public about the issues of street children and other issues. Protect street children against all forms of abuse and exploitation. Their key challenge is to reach out to the most vulnerable and socially excluded children and youth. They aim to create an environment that not only protects them, but also supports and nurtures them so that each has access to opportunities and education for their holistic growth and development. Through different stages of their rehabilitation process, their ultimate objective is to reintegrate these disadvantaged children and youth back into mainstream society.
Mission and Vision
To collaborate with likeminded partners and individuals, collectively acting as catalysts to transform society into one that offers all children a safe childhood and enables all children and young people to become responsible citizens.
To reach out to and rescue children and youth at risk*: to protect them; to educate them; to rehabilitate them; and to inspire them towards realising their full potential, supporting them at every step back into mainstream society.
A WALK THROUGH THEIR HISTORY
“I have no remembrance of my home, my parents…. I was on the streets from my earliest memory. We were a group of children that lived around the Marine Drive….picking, begging… I don’t know how I reached the streets. May be I didn’t have to reach …. I was already there from my beginning,…may be. One day we were all rounded up by the police. ` Beggary is prohibited. You have no more right to be on the streets, because you are beggars.’ they told us. In the police van we were transported to the Relief Settlement of Corporation and locked up. Men and women, sane and insane, children and aged…. A big number of so-called ‘social rejects’ just survived there…. and life there was difficult….very difficult. “Those days a couple of priests used to visit us. They came with a cinema projector and showed us films. They would spend time talking to us. Their visit was a ray of hope in the otherwise drab lives we lived there. Then the priests told us about how they and the City Corporation wanted to take us (children) away and educate us.
We waited in eager expectation. Then the day of our eager waiting ended. In an ambulance, 45 of us, who were children, were shifted to sneha Bhavan. It became my home from then on”. The narrator of the above story is a boy who grew up under the care of Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan until his graduation in B.Sc. He continued his studies, on his own and went on to do a masters degree in Business Administration. He got married and then has returned to the streets once again to initiate a mission for the rehabilitation of children on the streets of a city in the south India. He has moved ahead in life and has made a mark in life as an accomplished professional, a very sensitive human being and an honest citizen. The beginning of Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan and the story of this boy are much connected and well bonded. To complete the beginning of this moving story of collaboration the commitment of the City Municipal Corporation of Kochi must be taken note of. This is what is documented in the records. After the banning of beggary, the Corporation showed its strength of character and the spirit of concern by deciding to start a home for the street children rounded up by the Police.
On the 6th August 1973, the Corporation council unanimously decided to entrust the task of running this home to the Salsesians of Don Bosco. On 31st May 1974, Fr. Varghese Menacherry SDB and Fr. Gouzou SDB proceeded to the Relief Settlement and brought in the first batch of boys for training, character formation and rehabilitation. In consultation with the Corporation authorities, Fr. Varghese Menacherry named the centre, `SNEHA BHAVAN’ (Home of Love). Thus began this unique collaborative venture, which, as the years passed by, have grown as a movement on behalf of the children/youth at-risk, especially the street children in and around the city of Kochi.
Milestones in the history of Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan In 1974 – Sneha Bhavan was started for the street and working children / youth of Kochi city. In 1978 – Bosco Bhavan was started to offer better facilities to those who pursued formal education. In 1979 – Bosco Nagar opened for rehabilitating street children and their parents. In 1986 – Bosco Nilayam was started for those who have graduated from the High School and for working youth. In 1987 – Bosco Nivas opened for those who enter into family life and established their own homes. In 1990 – Sneha Bhavan Annexe (Shelter Kochi) was opened as a Night Shelter and as a base for street contact. In 1992 – Don Bosco Vocational Training Centre was inaugurated as a centre for technical education and skill training. In 1994 – National Consultation on Salesian activities for youth in difficult situations especially for street boys and girls, and other young at-risk.
In 1995 – Don Bosco Open School was started for street children and school drop-outs. In 1997 – Valsalya Bhavan, a home for girls on the street came into being. In 1999 – Sneha Bhavan Silver Jubilee Celebration was inaugurated in presence of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Royal Edinburgh. In 2001 – Childline – The free telephone helpline for children in distress has begun to function from Sneha Bhavan Annexe. In 2005 – Yuva Marg – Advocacy, Research, Documentation, centre for Awareness Creation, Networking and training in youth/child related issues was launched. In 2006 – Navajyoti Counselling Centre & Training Centre for counselors – A centre offering counseling service for children and youth and giving professional training in counseling was inaugurated. In 2008 – Chaithanya – a 24 hours free tele-counselling services for HIV/AIDS victims. In 2010 – Hotel management course for youngsters in collaboration with MoRD and Taj International.
Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan realises its multiple objectives and mission through five core centres: Sneha Bhavan Annexe The Sneha Bhavan Annexe is often the first point of contact with children on the street. It is a welcoming place for them to drop in as and when they choose. For many, it is a shelter where they can spend a safe night off the street. An understanding ear and compassionate heart is the first step in guiding these street children towards a new and better life. Counselling, centre. In addition, Childline, the free 24 hour helpline run by Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan is also operated out of the Sneha Bhavan Annexe. Sneha Bhavan Literally translated as the ‘home of love’, Sneha Bhavan is a home for the children from the streets and for those from unhealthy and risky situations.
It was the first centre to be established, and it houses around 75 young boys between the ages of 6 -13 years. The main aim is to provide the children with a wholesome environment where their psychological, physical and spiritual well being is looked after. It provides shelter, food, clothing and education support for the children. Children attend a public primary school close to the centre. As well as vital education facilities, Sneha Bhavan also offers recreational activities like band, outings, yoga, meditation, prayer, and group games for the boys to be engaged in for their personal and social growth. This is a collaborative venture with The City Municipal Corporation of Kochi, who graciously provides the land, building, School materials and supplies of the Sneha Bhavan centre. recreation facilities, home placement, advocacy, literacy programmes, medical help, job placement and life skills are all facilitated through this
Don Bosco Boys between the age of 13-16 are provided with residence at the main Don Bosco centre. Like at Sneha Bhavan, the boys are furnished with all the opportunity to complete their education, academic and non-academic. They are given a chance to expand their horizons in both intellectual and extra-curricular activities, such as sports, games, camps, meditation, yoga, prayer and music. The residents at Don Bosco attend a local high school to complete their education to at least 10th standard. There are around 40 boys at the centre, many of whom have come through the Sneha Bhavan centre. Bosco Nilayam Young adults from the Don Bosco centre who wish to continue their studies after high school or find employment are able to reside at the Bosco Nilayam centre. Those who chose to study are supported with lodgings and food. The working youngsters support themselves from their personal earnings.
A time limit is set for the amount of time residents can stay at the centre to complete their studies and start employment. At the Bosco Nilayam centre, resident young people are expected to manage their own lives. This is a key strategy in the rehabilitation process as it is from this institution that many will return back into mainstream society. Saving their earnings is a key requirement if they are to stay at the centre. Support for job placement, building a home and starting a family is also offered, based on an individual care plan. Valsalya Bhavan The Valsalya Bhvan centre is solely for the young girls who are rescued from the streets. Runaways, street children, children of sex workers, abused children and child labourers all live here. Along with primary and high school education at a local school, the centre provides shelter, food, clothing and educational support. Other services offered to the girls include counselling, recreational activities, healthcare, yoga, and personality development programmes. Those young girls who are ready and who have become capable are gradually placed into appropriate institutions as part of the rehabilitation process as they make their way back into mainstream society.
The SNEHABHAVAN Boys’ Home
Top: A view of the beautiful playground from the rear end of the campus; Bottom: A view of the campus from the entrance
On our first day, I, Rahul and Subin introduced us to the Director of SnehaBhavan, Fr. Sunny and talked with him about our objectives and willingness towards the volunteering service. With a cordial smile, he gave us a warm welcome to the institution. He later introduced us to one of the managers, Mr. Biju and Sister Mary – the working staffs at Sneha Bhavan. It was they who briefed us about the history of Donbosco Sneha Bhavan, its daily activities and how the students are exposed to different spheres of life. We also met a few lovely kids and spoke with them for quite some time asking them their names, background, interests, what they want to be and was astonished to listen to their ambitions and outlook towards life. Each had some unique talents and wanted to reach great heights in life. But we started realizing that there were no enough trainers or staff enough to support and satisfy everything they want. So we decided, we should do our part and try to make, how much ever slight it is, an impact in their lives. So hence we started our journey.
As already mentioned, Sneha Bhavan was started for the residence, care and rehabilitation of all male residents and boys who have been left into its care by the Childline. It is located in Palluruthy, in Ernakulam, which is part of the water bound West Kochi lying westward to the Kochi mainland. It provides residential facilities and an area to call on their own to around 85 boys rescued from the streets and hands of other people. Here they house boys from the age of 6 to 12. School education is provided to these boys by enrolling them in nearby schools.
Started off with the Manipuris
It was vacation time when we started our stint over there. So all the children were available at our disposal to engage with and get involved in their activities. There were around 10-15 Manipuris among the boys and some other boys among whom some are from Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Hyderabad, etc. Although these students were getting used to the local language, Malayalam, and might understand what some words mean, they were still finding it very difficult to read, write and speak. So the first task that was entitled upon us was to teach them Malayalam.
Top: During one of the Malayalam tuition sessions; Bottom: Some of the Manipuris during their play time
In a few days of our pedagogy, they started picking up quickly and became quite comfortable in some basic spoken Malayalam. It shows how easier it is to teach something new to someone during their childhood than after they grow up. We also came to know of some extra-ordinary talents that these kids from Manipuris possessed. One of the kids among them named Semmi, was the winner in the sub-juniors category in the All Kerala Judo Championship held at Fort Kochi, Kerala. We also had an opportunity to witness some of the stunts that these kids showcased before a group of foreigners who came to visit these children.
Onesimus, another Manipuri child has won many prizes for his outstanding skill in playing the keyboard. Many of these children are excellent football players and have even made it to district level tournaments. Another boy, named Bagalpuria, from Gujarat was the one who attracted anyone’s attention and win their love and care for what he is. He is a smart, naughty little 6-year old, who just does whatever he wants but at the same time is so loving that he loves everyone at Sneha Bhavan and wants everyone around him to be happy because of him. It was just 6 months back that he was brought in there, but no one would believe that if one watches out how fluently he speaks Malayalam. Renovation Work of the Volleyball Court
The volleyball court that they had was not in level and not playable. Also it had stones that can cause quite a harm to players if in barefoot. So it was decided that it has to be levelled and we managed to get a load of sand and we, together with the help of the boys and staff of Sneha Bhavan completed the levelling in a day’s time. The Football Match On another day, there were a group of students from ITI College, Kalamassery who came to Sneha Bhavan as part of their NSS activity. Myself, Rahul and Subin took the opportunity to organise a football match where Sneha Bhavan boys would take on the boys of ITI. It was a bright sunny day, where both the teams were gearing up for a challenging face-off. The first half was evenly poised where both the teams scored a goal each. But in the 2nd half, the Sneha Bhavan boys proved their metal and completely dominated and thrashed the visitors to 4-1 when the final whistle was blown. It was an awesome display by the boys of Sneha Bhvan of some real sporting extravaganza.
A ‘Beautiful’ Movie
During our SUPA tenure, there was a movie named ‘Beautiful’ in which actor Jayasurya plays the lead role and has been perceived to be a great hit in the box office. So we thought these kids should get a chance to watch this movie in the theatre and it was our duty to take them. We tried getting in touch with the All Kerala Jayasurya Fan’s Association and managed to get the sponsorship for the entire 85 boys of Sneha Bhavan for an exclusive show. We took them over to the Padma theatre at MG Road and it was a humongous task bringing them all over to the theatre in a private bus. It was a delightful day for the kids as they enjoyed each and every bit of the movie and the Director specifically thanked us for our help and effort.
Contribution to Orderliness – A Technological solution
By Jan 2nd, all the schools re-opened and as a result we could meet the kids only in the evening when they return. So we thought of concentrating more on the administrative functions and activities going in and around the Sneha Bhavan premises. Sneha Bhavan receives a lot of donations especially that of clothes and stationary. The quantiity sometimes becomes too huge that it in fact donates it to some other such organisations in need. There are only 2 store rooms in the building where all such loads of clothes are dumped in sacks. There was no proper order and no record of how many clothes or stationary do they have in stock. They absolutely had no clue as to how to go about with the excess stock of clothes. It had always been a cumersome task for the staff to keep a record of such stock and how to leverage with the options they have. We made an attempt to regularise this disorder and bring in a more efficient way to handle such vast stock. Being former software engineers, we thouth of dealing with this using technology.
First of all, we took all the clothes out and cleansed the store room. We then arranged all the clothes on the racks according to their types, say all the T-shirts on one side, etc. Finally, we created an online spreadsheet through Google Docs which kept a record of all the materials that had been received as donations. This spreadsheet was accessible from any internet enabled computer. The materials thus received which were first received at the head office of Don Bosco group were earmarked for transportation to the intended institution like Sneha Bhavan or Valsalya Bhavan. Once they receive the consignment, it would be entered into the spreadsheet. Anything that was not useful there would be sent back to the head office or another institution where it would be useful. A complete track record of each donation was thereby available online. This would help in reducing wastages considerably and saving a lot of storage space. On another day, we chose to do a bit of painting work of some of the boys’ recreational facilities. Some of the playthings like the swings and the seesaws had their paint coatings worn out and it was high-time that they were refurbished. In 2 days we made it look shiny and prettier as ever before.
“So you think you can dance ?”
On Jan 3rd, some of the students came back from school saying they have a cultural programme coming up on Jan 14th. They wanted to perform something new. We were instructed to come up with some sort of cultural item to be taught to the kids which can be performed under the Sneha Bhavan banner. The first thing that struck me was to teach them something that I was most passionate about, which is dance. I wasted no time and soon enquired about the boys who had a natural taste and interest towards any dance form. I was confident that I could teach them within the stipulated time. So together with the help of Subin and Rahul, I started my task of making a difference to their show and decided to teach them a hip-hop number. The song chosen was a Black-eyed Peas number which goes like, Bebot bebot… Initially though there were some hitches and glitches, it eventually face out by the 4th day of practice. The children were so happy they could do this bit and was one of the greatest moments of pride for me.
An Unfeigned Experience
As this short duration began, I was unsure of what to expect from them and what I could possibly do for them. But since they were children with not much care and with quite a reckless behaviour, they were extremely welcoming and loving. They really did not find any hindrances and barriers when it came to interacting with people. They were quite open about their experiences and were not judgemental about the people that came to meet them. A need for companionship was very obvious from their actions. They always wanted to maintain a close contact and were hard to let go. From observing them and being and interacting with them, they showed all the qualities that any other child their age would have. This was pleasantly surprising to me as they had gone through a lot and have seen more hardships than any other child their age would have seen. The wounds may heal but it will leave scars. This is where the Sneha Bhavan comes in. I find that they are doing the right thing and that is providing these children with a childhood and preserving it because every child has to go through it. There should be no adult burdens on small shoulders and immature minds. So here the Sneha Bhavan mission helps them to grow as normally as possible.
On a personal note, this experience was an eye-opener. With this SUPA activity we are exposed to the world. It is not only the enormous amounts of profits that a company makes, but also of the existence of a society. This helps us, as individuals, provide a broader view and with the impact that was made possible through what each of us went through will always be on our minds when decisions that could affect society are to be made. Also with the experiences that one went through with this will help in the future. When one interacts with kids, the need to simplify everything becomes necessary and everything has to be in detail. This attention to detail and simplification will prove useful when one has to be a manager and deal with various people from different walks and backgrounds. It also made me aware of the things that were taken for granted. Normal and ignored things like attention is highly valued for them. The need for a touch in a caring way, a hug, and an act of kindness are some things that were lacking for them but could only be given by someone who is not judgemental. There is more than what meets the eye. We know what we have when we see those who don’t have.