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 !!!


  1. I would say it is really a good thing. I hope Unnati keeps on doing the good work and more and more basti kids are getting free education.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I also wonder if more of us would educate (pay the fees and oversee the studies even a few times in the week) the kid of our maids in India, many more kids would end up in school.

    I have linked your post here-

  3. Cool and great! We would like to write about you and/or link to your info at This kind of a thing would inspire a lot of people.

    Please leave a number/email at for us to contact you.

    Best wishes with what you are doing.

    RS at

  4. this is super good, hats off to Rajesh who introduced me to this (Mobile Creches) and to Anshul for re-introducing me to this (Unnati).

    Anshul, Puneet and rest, you guys are real insipirations for a lot of people.