I want to share few ideas/suggestions related to the Community Connect program which can add some value to our projects:
1) Detailed profiling of parents: While usually our emphasis is on tracking the progress of children, we should also spend some time on understanding the root causes behind the prevalent condition of the parents of the children. For this we would be gathering some information about the parents which will include their current income level, the reasons behind their migration of moving from a rural area to an urban area, the details about their wider family, the facilities they have or don't have in the villages, etc. to enhance our own learning and connecting with the bigger picture of poverty and issues faced by migrant population. Mansi, Dileep, Sneha and myself have prepared an exhaustive questionnaire to collect the related information. Mansi would be soon sharing the questionnaire with the group for a general feedback.
2) Programs related to Adult Literacy: In the long run we should also come up with some programs related to Adult Literacy. While we might be making our best efforts to work on the education of the children, it is equally imperative that we engage the parents who don't know to read and write to enhance their learning. One of the impediments we face that usually both the parents are busy with their work, and they many not deem important to learn alphabets because of their age. However, we should keep underscoring to them regarding the importance of learning to read and write and how this can help them in being more aware of their rights and that they won't be fooled by others who may try to take advantage of their illiteracy. For this, may be we can take help of some teacher who has experience in dealing with adult literacy programs. Along with this, we can also keep some small awareness talks in the basti itself from time to time related to health and hygiene, family planning, importance of balanced diets, their basic rights as migrant population, schemes of the Govt. for the poor, etc. If we are able to work on enhancing the knowledge level of the parents, then it would be a lot beneficial for the well-being of the children in the long run.
3) Raising the income level of the parents:While this could be a very challenging task, we should still keep brainstorming on how we can help in raising the income level of the parents. This can include the livelihood programs we have started with viz. making of spices, sewing classes, etc. We should also come up with solutions which can help in more skill based learning for the male members through some microfinance initiatives or skill building. Another aspect can be of encouraging them to save some money on a regular basis (may be as low as 100Rs per month) and if needed helping them in opening accounts in banks or post offices. If we come across cases, where the father of a child wastes excessive money on drinking, and the onus lies on the mother to sustain the family, then we can also help them to open a separate savings account. Any kind of initiatives helping in raising the overall income level of the parents will in turn benefit the children as the parents will be able to spend more on their education, nutrition and overall well-being.
4) Need of female volunteers for Community Connect: Though going inside the slum areas and bastis may be more challenging for the female volunteers (sorry no gender bias intended), to make the Community Connect program overall more effective, we would be needing more female volunteers in the group to come forward. During the visits, the female volunteers can discuss with the women folks gender specific issues ranging from facing domestic violence, health issues specific to women ( e.g. cases of anemia, osteoporosis, etc.), need of balanced diet and the general precautions in case of any pregnant women around, making the women folks aware about the adverse effects of malnutrition in young kids, how much is their say in family planning, how the women folks see the need of education for girl child, etc. The female volunteers can be of great help in tackling the gender specific issues under the Community Connect program.
5) Distributing hard copies of Community Connect pics and of Unnati/Disha: Though we keep capturing tonnes of snaps from time to time, usually the parents of the children don't have access to the pics of their children we take at Unnati/Disha, or any pics captured during Community Connect. We can get some selected pics printed from time to time and handover to the parents. We can also get some pics of the children along with their parents. This will help the families in adding something to their family album (if they keep one) and also the children can keep them as memories when they grow up.
6) Making a documentary related to Community Connect: If someone has a camcorder, then we can make about an hour long documentary, essentially filming in the bastis we visit and covering the lives of migrant population, their living conditions, the issues they face, etc. This can also include some interviews with few of the parents and some children. Later on, we can upload the documentary to youtube and will also help in publicity of AID Gurgaon along with educating the general public about the lives of slum dwellers.
If you have any more ideas/suggestions to make the Community Connect program a more effective one, then please feel free to share them.
Moreover, to expand the scope of the Community Connect program, we would be needing more volunteers, and the people who are interested should get in touch with Dileep (9310556612) or myself for this. We will also try to make the Community Connect program more effective at Prerna and Shiksharth.