Education Outreach Program
The outreach program began in July 2006 to extend the service of Ashraya Initiative for Children and its community involvement. The main intention of our program is to provide material, emotional, and, primarily, educational support to young children ages 3 to 17 from our vicinity, who show the most pressing needs. They are selected on a case-by-case basis through fieldwork. During the past few years, our education outreach program has grown substantially. The number of children in the program has increased to more than 150 (with an equally long waiting list!) and we hope to soon be able to build a school for them.
The outreach children live well below the poverty line - in the bottom-most income brackets with household incomes around 30 dollars per month supporting as many as 10 to 12 people in one household. Due to these factors of poverty, these children are the most vulnerable to drugs, prostitution, domestic violence, etc. Many of these children work or beg on the streets, others are at risk for child marriage, as the communities in which we work often arrange marriages for children as young as twelve. The vast majority of these children are from the Waghri and Sikligar slums, two areas that we have identified as 'communities of origin' for street children, which is why we focus our efforts on breaking this cycle through education and other focused initiatives.
Most of the children in the program had dropped out of, been pulled out of, or had never been enrolled in school. Initially, we registered them in local Marathi-medium government schools, as this time-intensive, bureaucratic process can be daunting for their parents or guardians, nearly all of whom are illiterate themselves. Beginning in 2009, however, we decided to really push the envelope by enrolling all new Education Outreach children in English-medium private schools.
As you might imagine, it is no small project to take children from the streets and the slums and enroll them in some the top English-medium private schools in the city, where they will sit next to and be expected to perform on par with much more privileged children. All necessary material support for these children to attend school - shoes, schoolbags, tiffins (lunch boxes), school supplies, textbooks, clothing, etc - is provided by AIC. We require that the children attend school daily (we check their attendance and meet with their teachers regularly) and come to the Education Outreach Centre daily to participate in activities there.
Health and Hygiene
Many of the children in our outreach program have health problems, of varying severity, and almost none have been exposed to adequate, consistent hygiene. Therefore, in addition to regular academic tutoring, the children participate in workshops on basic hygiene. We also provide health checkups at local hospitals, administer medication, and assess the health care needs of each child on a case-by-case basis.
At each outreach session, the children receive two hours of tutoring in maths, geography, history, civics, and other subjects in Marathi by our caretakers.
Once per week, the children partake in arts and crafts and activities and/or computer training led by the staff. Activities include drawing, coloring, painting, and collages.