/ INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Source: Toxics Alert, Date: March , 2009
14-year-old Julekha is very hard working and diligent. She comes from Bangladesh and has a family of 8 siblings and adoring parents. She loves to paint and likes bright colours. Like any other child of her age she loves to dress up and wear pretty trinkets! Her charm is infectious to say the least. She still does not have any clear view on what she wants to do after studies but has expressed desire to teach. Her hobbies include cooking, watching movies and eating “Illish” maachh.
Meet Julekha at her school, a busy shopping area corner in posh south Delhi Basant Lok Market Complex that transforms into a school for special kids on weekends. You can see Julekha, Shahnaz, Rinky, Raju, Ravi and Vikas pouring over Maths, English, Hindi or Art assignments.
Julekha’s school is a school with a difference. This is a weekend school for the children who are engaged in rag picking trade in South Delhi area. These children are between 4 and 15 years and cannot afford to go to a regular school as they have to spend long eight to ten hours scavenging for trash in the busy market centre for resalable items such as plastic bottles, which would fetch two meals for the entire family. For Julekha and her kinds this is the only livelihood option.
There is division of labour in this trade if one might indeed call it so. Children pick up the trash, women usually segregate and men sell it to dealers of scrap. On a daily basis each makes Rs. 70 to 100 after rigorously collecting, segregating and reselling the trash.
Five years ago four responsible and aware citizens got together and started a weekend programme, which today has taken a shape of regular school. Here NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) syllabus is being followed and there are trained teachers taking the day classes. Big changes often start small. This was the brainchild of Bishalakhi Ghosh. Being a mother herself she always felt she could take care of one more child, a needy child perhaps .So the weekend classes began with her 11 year old son in tow. Initially it was just a face-to-face interaction session with the children with a nutritious breakfast of bread ,eggs and bananas shared with them at the end of chat sessions.
Gradually the number of children joining the class on Saturday and Sunday increased. Some just came for the breakfast and some for the interaction where they were for once taken seriously and were not disregarded as invisible.
Soon the children expressed their wish to learn and so began the journey for Faith Foundation. Dr. Rajeev Sood volunteered to provide health camps and others helped out in supervising up to 70 kids in these sessions every weekend. More citizens joined in with their time and money and soon it became a serious weekend activity for the group. Initially all the money and till date most of it is from founder members pockets but more and more citizens and friends and friends of friends started contributing. One can sponsor one child’s education, breakfast and meal for a day for as little as Rs. 25.
Over the last five years Faith Foundation has received small grants from Dutch citizens as well. This led to the opening of the regular school at Vasant Vihar with hiring of premises, teaching staff, support staff and books and uniforms for the day scholars. Every winter uniforms as well as blankets and shoes are also provided by the foundation to the scholars and their families. Today it boasts of 41 day scholars and 50 weekend scholars. Some 15 kids wait their turn to join the school. The vision for the founder members is to initially integrate the brightest of the children onto mainstream education and provide an opportunity to complete education till high school level. This might take time but for Bishalakhi, Rajeev, Kaushik, Akshay, Shubhodeep and Orko there is no rush, as they know any change takes time and patience have come in handy for them. These children might not become tomorrow’s astronauts or scientists but at least they have hope, and faith in love, work and life. For all of them it will be a dream – come true when Julekha and her friends reach for the rainbow and live their lives in respect as they deserve.