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					Site Visit : Sanketh Bhat

Contact Details : sanketh AT gmail DOT com

Chapter Affiliation : Asha Bangalore/ UFlorida

Project Visiting : Indian Mission for Children in Crisis (IMCC)

No. 1, Subedarpallyam Rd, Yeshwantpur, Bangalore - 560022

Date of Visit : 17th Sept 2011



Background :



Ms Elizabeth has been a social worker and professor for many years. The government of India under the Sarva
Shiksha Abhyaan (SSA) has set up a year long residential bridge school (RBC) and non-residential bridge (NRBC)
school programs which is administered by the states and run by different NGOs. The program is meant for children
who have dropped out due to poverty, migration of families etc. or those who have never been to school. In urban
areas, the main beneficiaries are children from the slums and lower strata of society wherein families are not keen to
send their kids to school. Last year (June 2010-May 31st), Ms Elizabeth enrolled IMCC for both these schemes.



As a part of the RBC, the state government has allocated IMCC a school (near the current set-up) and paid for the
living and educational expenses of 50 children and paid around Rs.10,000/child/month. Ms Elizabeth and some of
her students went about surverying the slums and enrolled these kids in this program. She also identified a slum
wherein most of the children had never been to school and were prospective first generation literates. Part of the
families were migrations from North Karnataka and the others were from Tamil Nadu. With the help of few locals,
she set up a shed for tutoring these kids under the NRBC for the year.



The idea of both these schemes are to give special training to these children so that they can me mainstreamed the
next year. But based on the social background from where these kids come from where alcoholism, child labour,
abuse and such are prevalent, one year is too less to work with these kids. Based on my limited experience, having
visited two other such schools in the past, these kids are very easily infulenced by vices and anti social behaviour
prevalent in society. Because of this and being a bit tired trying to deal with corrupt government officials, Ms
Elizabeth decided to continue working with these children from June 2011.



These few moths IMCC has survived based on the goodwill of well wishers in the locality. So the project has
approached Asha for funding two aspects of the program.



1. A residential hostel which houses around 50 children (many coming from battered families and few orphans).
These children go to school during the day and are given special training, tutoring in the evening and weekends.
2. Though Ms Elizabeth had enrollled all the kids from the NRBC to school and arranged for the transportation to
schools by autorickshaw, many of these children dont go to school and prefer loitering around during the day. (More
on this below). She wants to try and work more with these kids to try and bring about a change in their mindset
which can be enabled by some funding.



Description:



I reached Yeshwantpur at around 12:30 pm and Mr Dominc (the President of IMCC and husband of Ms Elizabeth,
the project point of contact) picked me from the bus stop and took me to the hostel (residential set up) and office of
IMCC. As soon as I entered, I was greeted by some enthusiastic and lively kids at the hostel. Since, it was Saturday
the kids had a half day and were back early.



After the brief greeting and introduction of the teachers/helpers, Ms Elizabeth, Mr Dominic, and I went to the trust
office. We spent a good 2-3 hours discussing about the project, briefly talking to the kids. Ms Elizabeth brought a lot
of kids one-by-one into the office, in order for me to understand their background and past. As I mentioned earlier,
few were orphans, few were abused by their family members (father of a couple of kids even tried to hang them
from the ceiling fan), few were working as labourers. It is difficult for us to imagine the plight and social standards
of children from these backgrounds. Almost all of the kids were introduced to me in this fashion. Most of the kids go
to the local government school. One senior kid who is very good at studies attends the English medium and two of
them go to the government aided school. There is no fees in the government school, but the other two do have fees
and I believe IMCC asks their parents to take care of the school fees. Not sure how many of them actually end up
paying. I am sure IMCC asks the fees just so that the families dont take the project partner for granted. This has been
the case with my limited interaction with different project partners. But it is not clear to me how many familes pay
what to IMCC. In general, I would like the chapter to have more clarity on the individual budgeted items, it is not
very clear to me from the project proposal. Possibly this can be taken up directly with the project partner in a
conference call.



Their work seems to be well appreciated by the local community wherein well wishers do support them in kind or
resources. For example, a local caterer has started sending across some foodstuff like cake, pasteries, chapatis,
curries etc as and when they can. Few volunteers do donate perishables like rice, etc and one volunteer visits the
project every Sunday and interacts with the kids. Many of the kids make candles on Saturdays and sell it on Sundays
mainly outside churches. Some of the kids seem very excited to be involved in the work and do a good job selling
these candles. The children in the hostel come from Hindu and Christian families and I am told they are free to
practise their religion and most of the religious festivals are celebrated in the hostel. Thanks to Ms Elizabeth's
Master of Social Work (MSW) students, a local hospital also provides free health consulting and check-ups for these
kids as a part of their CSR. They send their ambulance to the hostel, pick the kid who is indisposed and take him/her
to the hospital and drop them back to the hostel. Of course, the medicines need to brought by the trust.



Just to highlight the stress Ms Elizabeth goes through, a boy (I think his name is Bheema) from the NRBC, (from the
slum mentioned earlier) comes every now and then to stay at the hostel for a day or two. About 2 months back , he
came by one night, had dinner and left the next morning. After a couple of days, his elder sister came by asking for
him in the hostel and threatened Ms Elizabeth of complaining to the cops if the boy doesnt return home. Apparently,
Bheema had stole something and his sister chastisted him fro that, due to which he came to the hostel. Ms Elizabeth
was searching for the boy for few days and finally after about 2 weeks they found him in another RBC setup run by
a different NGO known to Ms Elizabeth. Ms Elizabeth urged the boys family to leave him in the RBC as it is best
for him. (More on this later, but we believe his family got him back as they want him near them) Many of the kids
from the slum, go to the nearby wholesale market. When vegetables like onion, garlic are being loaded on the trucks
a good number of them fall onto the ground. These children pick them up, and sell them at nearby neighbourhoods
and make some quick bucks. After leaving that hostel that day, Bheema was doing this when he was caught (I guess
caught is the right word in this context) by the NGO and taken to the RBC. Another quick way for these kids to
make a quick buck is begging. There is a very big park near the slum and the kids go begging there in the morning
itself. Once, they get a few tens of ruppees, I am told they go to a internet cyber cafe to play some games. Once they
have exhausted their money, they go back to begging. Today they use that money for food, playing computer games
etc. but I wonder how long will it be before they use it for alcohol, drugs etc. Thats why I strongly believe the work
being done by Ms Elizabeth and the trust is so very important.



After spending a good 2-3 hours in the hostel, we went for lunch and then headed out to the slum where Ms
Elizabeth had her NRBC. I did meet up with many kids. All of them were loitering around. Though Ms Elizabeth
has arranged for a local auto driver to take them to the school and has enrolled everyone of them in the schools, it is
not clear to me how many actually go. I also met the teacher and helper, from the NRBC program. Both are
residents of the slum but seem to be a bit better off. Apparently, the families from Tamil Nadu do send their kids to
school and value education. But the families from North Karnataka arent too keen. Most of the families in the slum
arent too keen on hygiene and almost all the children are umkemt and sloven. Ms Elizabeth has been stressing
cleanliness and have been forcing the kids to go to the nearby borewell to take a bath. The principal of the
government school where Ms Elizabeth has enrolled the kids seems to be very appreciative of her efforts, but does
complain that the kids are unkempt and stink. Ms Elizabeth understand far too well that she will have to work longer
with these slum residents the one year she had funding from NRBC scheme is hardly enough. She will have work
more with the parents first and only when the community understands the importance of her objectives will there be
a systemic change in the area. Again, I really appreciate her selflessness and stress the importance of her work. I will
also highly recommend Asha to support IMCC's efforts. But I think I will need more clarity on what IMCC intends
to do in the slums and she plans to re-start her work there. The occupation of the familes from Tamil Nadu is mainly
being day labourers at construction sites and the families from Northe Karnataka are small merchants selling combs
and such small items. In general, construction workers get paid better on a day to day basis.



Just to highlight the project partners selflessness, she had stored some paraphernalia like black board, plastic sheets
(used to protect the shed when it is raining) etc in the slum when she ran her NRBC program and wanted it to bring
it back with us. The helper told her that she has used the sheet to cover her house since her makeshift roof has been
leaking. Ms Elizabeth was quick and quiet contended to let her have it. Mr Dominic later complained that the sheets
were a bit expensive, but Ms Elizabeth was seemed to be happy to have donated it, because it is being put to good
use. Such trivial instances during sitevisits, I think reflects the personality of the project partner and her strong will
and motivation to serve.



We then returned back to the hostel. Family members of some kids come by to take the kids home for the weekend.
An old grandmother and a maternal uncle has come to take their respective family members home for the weekend.
Ms Elizabeth knows far too well, that there is a high chance the kids may not come back to the hostel. The least she
can do is counsel the person taking the children about the importance of education. She also makes sure the children
take only a few clothes sufficient for the weekend, so that there is higher chance that they may return. She also has
the person taking the kids sign that they are taking the children and IMCC is not responsible till they come back.
Many of the boys had been to the nearby school compound to play while I returned to the hostel. 3-4 younger female
kids showed me some dance choreographed by an older student. The older student is also very interested in crafts
and I think it learning to make embroriedered purse etc. (I stand to be corrected on this)



I was then kindly dropped to the bus stop by Mr Domnic at around 7:30 in the evening.



A brief note about the teachers/helpers. Ms Elizabeth is there in the hostel every day from morning till the
night.Apart from her, there are 3 people staying in the hostel. One of the helper stays with her kid, her husband
separated from her and she dint have anywhere else to go till she came to the hostel. A second is am elderly
Gujarathi lady whose sons are not willing to take care of her. She had been to her daughers house, the day I visited
for a monthly medical check-up. I missed seeking details on the third teacher. I also missed checking the facilities
around the hostel like the bathroom. But in general, the children seem very happy to be there. As mentioned by the
project partner, the facility does seem to be a bit small. Perhaps Asha can do something to help IMCC with a bigger
set up in the coming years. Another point I missed asking, which is for my curiosity. The project partner mentioned
that she ran an orphanage in early 2000's. I missed asking her where are the children from the orphanage now. I
would be glad to know if the children are sufficiently well settled and are on the way to lead a better life for
themselves and their families.



On my way to the bus stop, Mr Dominic took me to their house. Their house is pretty close to the hostel which
works well for Ms Elizabeth. Mr Dominic has several years of experience in counseling addicts of alcholism, drugs
etc and trying to wean them of the habbit and has plans to start an 'Alcoholics Anonymous' chapter close by. Ms
Elizabeth, through a close friend has partnered with a garment export and manufacturing unit to train around 150
battered women and widows in order for them to earn a livelihood. Currently, they are surveying to find such
women from villages on the outskirts of Bangalore.



Recommendations :

As mentioned earlier, the work being done by IMCC is extremely important for society in general. Asha has and
must support such initatives especially earlier on. From what I saw/heard during my visit, I am extremely pleased
and grateful to IMCC for having taken this cause up and for the wonderful work they are doing. I would encourage
Asha Kansas chapter to continue considering this project for funding and aim at building a long term relationship
with the project. I would also aprreciate if the chapter can take up the action items mentioned by me in the
description along with few more below (many of them may have been taken care of already, but it is not being
reflected in the project page)




Suggestions :
1. The project name on the page has Shri Raman Maharishi etc. I am not sure if this is a mistake. Please have the
name of the project corrected by contacting the Asha central projects co-ordinator.

2. The project partner mentioned that she has given the details about the Residential bridge school (RBC) and the
non-residential bridge school (NRBC) from which this project has spun off, to the project steward. Please update the
details either on the project page or upload a separate document.

3. I got to know that the project steward is related to the project partner. Though the intentions of the project steward
and the chapter may be best, it is our responsibility, as volunteers, to make sure that Asha's values are upheld and
every penny of donors money are accounted for with utmost scrutiny. Just to avoid any issues in the future, it is my
suggestion atleast to have another volunteer as a project co-steward from the chapter and update the contact details
in the additional contact. I understand that Kansas chapter is a relatively new chapter with perhaps limited
bandwidth. Again, the intention of the steward may be the best, but this may help mitigate some unpleasant
situations in the future in case the chapter decides to support this project.

4. We as volunteers can learn a lot from such projects and project partners, so I would request that the chapter
volunteers to have a call or two, present the minutes of the call in the chapter meetings and then take a decision
regarding the project (if it hasn't been done already). I think this will give a lot of confidence to the chapter
volunteers regarding the merit of the project for funding and will help foster long term partnership with the project.



Disclaimer : This report is based on my limitied interaction with the project steward and based on what I have seen/
heard by visiting the project once.

				
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