Four Dimensional Interventions
INTERVENTION ON THE STREETS
The street based intervention is anchored on the existence of Vidiyal on the Streets. The thrust area in the street based intervention is the PROTECTION of vulnerable children.
Our programme staff and Childline team goes on street visits to identify street and working children. Visit to populated joints including the railway station, bus station helps in identifying the uncared street urchins and runaway children. Through developing street contact points and regular visits staff develop rapport with these children and invite them to the drop in centre. Runaway children, abandoned children and child labourers are rescued immediately. Immediate needs like food, clothing, shelter and medical aid are provided to them as part of the street intervention. Children also identify our staff as caring adults and share their issues and concerns. Counselling needs in children are identified and attended immediately. The Juvenile aid police and Railway police are part of the street based interventions as they have a legal mandate.
INTERVENTION IN THE CENTRE
Once the child’s confidence is won by our team members, he are she is brought to the Drop in centre run exclusively for street children. In the centre based intervention the thrust area is REHABILITATION of children coming from vulnerable backgrounds.
An Exclusive Centre for street children:
This centre was started in the year 2003 exclusively for rehabilitating the street and working children. On an average 30 children make use of the facilities provided at this centre between 9 am and 5 pm. Each child comes according to his convenience and the break he gets from the restaurant he works. Children from other unorganized sectors also drop in during the day. Children enjoy playing indoor games, watching television, a cool shower, wash clothes and sleep in safety. They also speak to the adult facilitator about their issues and concerns. They are also educated about effective way of handling adolescence and protecting themselves from HIV, AIDS and drug abuse.
Children coming to the centre are attended by specialized staff members and their needs are analyzed in detail. After understanding the varied needs of each child a rehabilitation plan is worked out with informed choices. The following choices are given to the child for making informed decisions.
• Residential care in the Reception Home
• Home placement and Reunification with the family with the orders of the Child Welfare Committee
• Residential care in Government recognised Children’s Home
• Readmission in school and continuation of education
• Pre Vocational training and referral services
RECEPTION HOME FOR CHILDREN IN NEED OF CARE AND PROTECTION
The Department of Social Defence of the Tamilnadu Government since March 2004 has recognised Vidiyal as a ‘place of safety’ and entrusted to Vidiyal the Government Reception Home for Madurai district under the auspices of the Child Welfare Committee. The Home has been established under the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act 2000 to provide rehabilitation and restoration to children in need of care and protection.
INTERVENTION IN THE COMMUNITY
There has been lot of research studies conducted on Street children which proved that the phenomenon of street children is very much associated with urbanisation. The researched data further reveals that predominantly those children from poor socio economic backgrounds only drop out from school and become street children. In our experience we have seen this very much in reality. The community based intervention centres around PREVENTION strategies which takes the major chunk of our work.
CHILD RESOURCE CENTRES:
Vidiyal had a very simple beginning on the streets of Madurai and began its community intervention with the community living in Melavasal slum which is known as the biggest slum in Madurai. We started Vidiyal in September 1996 just with 20 children who were working or living on the streets. After a month we found refuge in D.M.& R Middle school and effectively used the school premises after school hours. This was our first drop in centre which functioned between 5 pm and 8.30 pm on all week days and from 9 am to 8 pm during weekends. This became a place of safety for children and they developed a kind of belongingness to the centre. It also served to fulfill their security needs to some extent. When we started our work with girl children in June 1997 this centre became an exclusive centre for girls and the boys have moved to the new centre at Rathinapuram. Now the work has been expanded and we reach out to many children through Child Resource Centres located in the closest proximity of slums.
• The Main Centre :
This centre was started in August 1997 at Rathinapuram. Earlier it was also served as the shelter home for children who stayed in the nights. Children from Melavasal, Heera Nagar, Aladin Thoppu and Subramaniapuram attend this centre. Though the centre is open from 9.30am many school going children attend the centre between 5.00 and 8.30 pm. Most of the common programmes and weekend activities are planned and executed here. On an average 100 children attend this centre.
• Melavasal Centre :
We started a centre inside Thideer Nagar in the year 1999 which is now shifted to Melavasal slum. The community owns the centre and sends their children regularly to the centre. 25 children attend this centre. Our volunteers look after this centre and helps children with their study and other basic needs.
• Muthupatti centre :
This centre was started in August 2002 and functions within the premises of our shelter home. Our shelter home is situated inside a hamlet called Muthupatti. There is a Dalit settlement near the shelter home. These children attend the Muthupatti centre regularly. 60 children attend this centre.
• Centre at Ambedkar Nagar:
Though we have been interacting with the community at Ambedkar nagar for long time we could establish the child resource centre only in 2006. This slum is located in a remote area close to the main centre. The habitats are originally from Melavasal slum for various reasons they have moved in to this area. 30 children attend this centre regularly.
• Centre at Mapalayam:
The centre at Mapalayam was established in the year 2011. We had to establish this centre because the Melavasal community got displaced due to the reconstruction plan initiated by the government and settled in Mapalayam. 30 children attend this centre from the neighbouring Othapatti and Vaithyanathapuram areas.
A MEANINGFUL ROUTINE IN THE CHILD RESOURCE IN CENTRES
Children are given a meaningful routine which helps in learning boundaries which does not exist in the slum or street life. Children are received with warmth when they arrive at the centre between 5.00 and 5.30 pm. Children are helped to complete their home work and study between 5.30 pm and 7.00 pm. Between 7.00 pm and 7.45 pm they have a variety of programmes scheduled for each day. This varies according to the age group of children. The variety programme includes singing, general knowledge, television time, story time, dancing, book reading, games and child rights education. Children enjoy this variety programme very much. At 7.45pm they are served with a supplementary meal which they enjoy the most. After that children belonging to a particular forum which is responsible for the cleanliness during a particular month engage in cleaning and make the place tidy. This also inculcates the value of civic sense and responsibility over keeping their surroundings clean.
Every day a supplementary food is provided to children attending our child resource centres. When we started Vidiyal in 1996 we found that most of the children are malnourished due to lack of nutrients available in their diet. Many street children do not get proper food and for the slum dwellers balanced diet is a dream. Thus at Vidiyal we decided to bridge this gap by providing supplementary food to the children. This takes the major share in our budget. Supplementary food is nothing but a food item that is locally available, seasonal of nature and has a specific nutrient value. Each day the food item varies to give a variety of taste to the children to avoid boredom. It includes pulses, vegetables and fruits of the season, egg, dates, sweet puff, peanuts etc., On Sundays the children who attend the main centre eat a healthy meal with rice, curry made of lentils called ‘sambar’ and proteins like chicken or beef. We do consider this as the right of the child and give careful attention to ensuring their right to nutritious food and fine health.
Quarterly periodical health checkups are conducted in every Child Resource Centre with qualified medical practitioners. The height and weight of each child is periodically recorded and monitored. Children who are weak or malnourished are given special care and attention. Children belonging to the intermediate age group are trained in first aid and other aspects of medical assistance. This group attends to the needs of the children on a regular basis. We do have a panel of doctors for emergency health care. We admit our children in their hospitals for any major illness. We have special provision for vaccinating our children if they are bitten by dogs. This helps us to protect our children from Rabbis attack.
ENSURING RIGHT TO EDUCATION:
Children who come to the streets in search of livelihood mostly belong to the socially excluded communities. Social exclusion based on caste is widespread in many parts of the country. The caste system subjugates millions of children in India. Our prevention intervention focuses on preventing children from dropping out from school and preventing them from becoming child labourers. To achieve this we partner with excluded communities living in the slums in Madurai. 92 percent of our children come from socially excluded communities who have been denied of right to education for many centuries. Our children need lot of support and encouragement to sustain their interest in accessing education.
The support education offered in the Child Resource Centres enable children to manage the difficulties in each subject and compensate the accumulated deficiencies. A tracking system is in place to ensure regular attendance in schools.
We work closely with 34 schools and educate the teachers about the situation of our children. Childline intervenes if anything goes wrong in school. Since most of our children are first generation school goers much effort is been taken to protect them from all forms of discrimination. Our presence in schools protects our children from corporal punishments and discrimination. Those children who are absent for school are followed up through home visits.
A computer centre functions within the main centre which provides the basic knowledge and training in computer education. Children enjoy using the computers in the evenings which give them an advantageous position in their schools. Children just play with word art, paint and power point with creativity. Senior children are given classes in Photoshop during weekends which enable them in designing photos with creative skills. The basic idea of having a computer centre is to make technology available for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and to make them feel at ease with the technological development.
It has been a dream for our children to learn formal music. This was made possible in the year 2009. Mr.Ravi, a qualified music teacher has been appointed at Vidiyal to teach Keyboard and guitar to our children. Weekend classes are offered and children learn with enthusiasm. At present 6 boys and 6 girls learn Keyboard and 4 boys and 6 girls learn guitar. They have performed at our anniversary celebrations and still a long way to go. The most important thing is that they feel satisfied and feel happy for what they achieve. We have seen even children with low self esteem have become confident about themselves after attending the music class for a considerable time.
Vidiyal reaches the community through a tailoring centre which offers a six months tailoring course for women and girls living in the slums. A qualified teacher imparts skills in tailoring trade with dedication. These women and girls learn to stitch 40 dress items. When they complete the course they are awarded with a certificate and a sewing machine which gives them an occupation at home. Some of them do join garment manufacturing units and earn out a living. This income supplements the family’s income and enables the parents to send children to school.
THE MOTEHRS FORUM
Vidiyal believes in community participation in the development of children and we strongly believe that the family is the basic unit of a society which takes care of the security needs of children. Since 1997 it has been a fruitful interaction with the mothers. The mothers are significant care givers in the lives of children. A mother in the slum or street community plays a vital role in the integration of the family and takes care of the basic needs of children. Vidiyal’s efforts in educating them in effective child rearing practices and social issues have been making history. Though these women are uneducated and affected by the brutal reality of the caste structure, they have great hope and colourful dreams for their children. Once a year mothers with regular attendance are taken on a picnic which they thoroughly enjoy. The mothers shed off their family responsibility for a day and enjoy just being what they are.
THE FATHERS FORUM
Though efforts have been made in the initial years, the fathers’ forum has become a reality only in recent times. Efforts have been made to nurture ‘fatherhood’ in men and to promote healthy parental practices in them. The fathers’ forum meets every alternate month and fathers are encouraged to participate in discussions on role of fathers in effective child rearing. Social analysis is done and they are motivated to become role models for their children in the ever changing social scenario. Once a year fathers are taken on a picnic along with one child from their family which enables them with role reversal.
THE COMMUNITY MENTORSHIP
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the role of a mentor as a counseller, trusted adviser, guide, tutor and teacher. It is very clear from the definition that the mentor is a multi faceted personality who cares for the younger ones. Though all of us experienced some kind of ‘mentoring’ which enabled us to grow into wholesome personalities, it was never formalised in the Indian context. Vidiyal aimed at community mentorship because it believes in community participation in bringing a transformation in the society.
In this context of our experience of working with marginalized communities for 21 years now we have identified 17 people from Melavasal, Thideer Nagar, Heera Nagar, Surbramaniapuram, Aladin Thoppu, Ambedkar Nagar and Muthupatti to play the role of mentors for the children living in these slum communities. No organization by itself can reach out to the complex issues of increasingly varied socially and economically disadvantaged population. This partnership initiative aims at ensuring child protection and enhancing the growth potential of children in these areas through community participation.
Through the community mentorship programme it is also aimed to study and begin initiative that will promote growth and development at the community by recognizing community leadership, competencies and promoting neighbourhood social network, which would lead to programme focused on youth and children with special emphasis on adolescent girls. Holding programmes at the community itself, with community involvement will help us to reach out to a wider number of youth cliental directly. More number of children will be able to access resources and we will be able to focus on issues relevant to the community on a day to day basis.
Some of the issues emerged in the recent past are ‘ child sexual abuse, children dropping out from school, corporal punishment, physical abuse, drug abuse, substandard education, peer pressure and mental stress etc. Through the community mentorship programme these issues are addressed by the mentors with community participation and support. The children and youth living in the slum communities will have better access to these ombudspersons in solving their issues and resolving some of the conflicts. Thus Vidiyal aims at ensuring sustainability in our development process.
INTERVENTION IN THE SOCIETY
The vision of Vidiyal gives a clear mandate to build a culture of child rights in the larger society. The thrust here is the PROMOTION of Child Rights in every sphere of the society. Vidiyal operates in the larger society with various stakeholders to sensitize them for the protection and promotion of child rights. The following are the significant strategic interventions made by Vidiyal in promoting Child Rights.
• Inviting the general public to share their resources to provide and protect children and their rights
• Building solidarity with people’s forums to include children’s agenda into their functioning
• Media advocacy through popular dailies, weekly magazines, FM radios, and Television channels are done periodically.