Friday, May 9, 2008

A brief glimpse about Unnati !!!

This write up on Unnati was written by Sanchit few days back.

How the seeds were sown - Unnati was started by AID Gurgaon volunteers in Jan 2007. It was on their way back from Mobile creches that the volunteers came across a slum besides Rajeev Chowk. They decided to visit the basti and found enormous scope of improvement in the lives of the people. The most striking aspect was the need for education of the innocent children who spent most of their time playing or helping the parents in their jobs. So the volunteers decided to do something for them and hence came the idea of setting up a school near the basti itself. So it turned out that on Republic day, the school was started without any shelter on a piece of land lying vacant very close to the basti. Very aptly, the school and the basti were given the name "Unnati", meaning progress.

The beginning
- It's been a long journey for Unnati marked by lots of ups and downs. The first real progress was made when the volunteers were able to find a room in Jharsa village (walkable distance from the basti). It was a significant milestone but was followed by another one when with kind help from Literacy India, the volunteers were able to find a regular teacher - Sumanji. Without doubt, a lot of credit goes to her as traveling everyday from Palam Vihar to mainstream Gurgaon is not an easy task.

Keeping the momentum going
- Once the school started, the volunteers realized that the inhabitants lead a very hard life. It could not be taken for granted that once the school had started, the children will keep on attending on their own. The parents as well as the children had to be kept motivated all the time. So the volunteers kept visiting the school as well as the basti on a regular basis. This ensured that the attendance did not drop significantly at any point of time.

The Independence Day 2007
- With Independence day approaching, the volunteers saw an opportunity to hold big celebrations which the kids would hardly have seen and experienced till now. And it did work! There was flag hoisting, singing of the National Anthem, sweets and lots of fun. The amount of fun that the kids had was evident from their faces. And it was realized that such events do mean a lot for the kids especially if they haven't had too many opportunities.

More bastis and loosing out on the original Unnati
basti - As the days progressed, the regular drop in attendance started to give a few headaches to the volunteers. Even regular visits to the basti were not enough to keep the kids and their parents motivated. This was of-course coupled with the frequent migration of some of the families in the basti. Thus the volunteers had no other option but to look towards more bastis. If you've visited Gurgaon, you would know that there's no dearth of construction sites and thus the bastis. So they found out not one but three of them, located near the school. Today the school has a strength of around 60 children and the classes are held in two batches - 9.30am to 11.30am and 11.30am to 1.30pm. But there's a bit of an irony - that not a single kid comes to school from the basti from where it all started. The volunteers though have not given up and keep visiting the Unnati basti once in a while.

Republic day turnaround
- Last month, Unnati celebrated its first anniversary on Republic Day - 26th January 2008. This time along with the flag hoisting, singing of the National Anthem and sweets distribution, the volunteers thought of something special. So the idea of holding a sports event came up. The events included relay race, ball-in-the-bucket and spoon-race to name a few. After the games, a prize distribution ceremony was held where kids coming out in flying colors in the games as well as academically were awarded medals and prizes. Apart from this, with the generous help of Hero Honda sponsors, school-bags, water-bottles, tiffin-boxes and study-kits were distributed. In the end, it was a well planned and executed event and the smiles on the faces of all the kids throughout the day said it all!

Looking forward
- The volunteers are working hard to maintain the momentum that has been gained with enormous amount of hard work and dedication put in by the whole team of AID-Gurgaon. There are plans in coming April-May season to get a number of students admitted in recognized schools. If we can pull this off, it would another milestone in the chapter of Unnati!

Glimpses from Unnati:

Children busy at Unnati's School !!!

Volunteers also involved in interacting with children along with their teacher Sumanji !!!

Every child gets a limelight :) !!!

It takes time to build rapport with children !!!

Kids of Unnati !!!

Children doing the tasks given !!!

Children happy after getting benches for their school !!!

An empty shop which was converted to Unnati's school !!!

More such ad hoc schools are needed to bridge gap for the children who don't receive regular schooling !!!

Volunteers also visit the basti to encourage children to come to school and to interact with their parents !!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Republic Day Celebrations @Prayas, Gurgaon

Given below are details of the Republic Day celebrations at the Prayas centre, Gurgaon in January 2008.
Volunteers from Evalueserve and Sparsh organized Republic Day celebrations at the centre to interact with the students. Varun, Abhinav and Ankit from Evalueserve and Sumit, Priyanka and Shweta from Sparsh volunteered and conducted the program. The volunteers kick-started the celebration by educating the children about the importance and relevance of the day by recapitulating the historical events surrounding the day This was followed by a brief round of introductions.

The volunteers organized a host of activities such as flag-making, poetry recitation and prize distribution. The flag-making session was started off by dividing the children into teams of five students. Each team was encouraged to choose a representative name and assigned a volunteer to guide them. The children were then educated about the structure of the national flag and each student was then provided paper and colours to make one flag. The children were told that their teacher Mr. Devendra would adjudge the best three flags and the students who made them would be acknowledged. The children spent considerable time and effort to make their own flags. The end result was terrific and choosing the top three flags proved to be a very difficult task. The students were then given their flags and photographed with their flags.

The flag-making activity was followed by a poetry recitation activity. Each student was encouraged to recite poetry in front of everyone. The students then came up and recited poems learnt in the school.

Finally, much to the delight of everyone, sweets were distributed to all students at the centre. This was followed by a prize-distribution ceremony to acknowledge the hard-work put in by the students in the school. Essential stationary materials such as pencils, sharpeners and erasers were provided to all students who are capable of writing. The volunteers concluded the session by stressing the importance of attending the school regularly to all the students present.

The activity was well received by the students and saw good participation. The day provided the volunteers a great opportunity to interact with the students, who with their friendly demeanor lent warmth to the otherwise chilly day.