If you have been a regular reader of my blog you would have noticed the small write ups I keep doing often about various NGOs which are following the quotation "Be the change you want to see in the world " to the T. By writing about them here I try to spread the word about them and their various activities in a constant endeavor to give back to the society in whatever little capacity I can. This lead me to Mumbai Smiles - A Mumbai based NGO which works for the development of the select slum areas of Andheri (East).
International Literacy Day. Not really a day which is celebrated by the general public. But it exists; so then it must be something important, for someone, somewhere?
Chewing on the name of the day, it denotes the importance to spread awareness about literacy. But then don’t we all have the Right to Education, as per the UN Charter? Aha, this is where most of us fail to see the line between literacy and education. While education means, well, to get educated and be able to think and reason for oneself with the knowledge one has, literacy simply means the ability to read and write.
Simple example: A five year old child, who can hold a pen and write her name on a piece of paper, is literate. When she attends school and starts learning, she starts getting educated.
So why dedicate a day to literacy and not just aim for education for all? Good question, but then how practical is it? Considering all the factors of our world, like overpopulation, poverty, unemployment, corruption of official authorities and so on, how practical is it to be able to impart education to all? But at least, helping one person to at least become literate, so he or she is able to sign their own name on a document for work or personal purpose anywhere, is a little more practical, isn’t it? And that isn’t so difficult; we can all start with our house-help, or with the cleaning bhaiiyaaji who can then use it to at least fill the form of his child’s school application when needed to... We all have the chance and the opportunity to contribute to the society, in return to what we receive from it; question is, how willing are we to do that?
I remember my nanny who had started working at our place when she was as young at 8. Today her kids are well educated and are pursuing decent jobs too. She ensured history didn't repeat itself. And we did all that we could when she decided to work hard to give her children a better future. Not to forget that today she knows 4 languages, earns a living through tailoring and has her own tiffin services too. Maybe this was our way of giving back to the society so much that I decided to continue with that practice.
When I was approached by Mumbai Smiles I was more than happy to have discovered yet another flower of hope in today's times. I went through their websites and scrolled through thousands of pictures each more beautiful than the before. And every one of them witness to one fact - joy. Joy of giving, joy of teaching and joy of living. If you don't believe me, then check out the pictures for yourself! They are a testimony to the fact.
‘Balwadi Project’ is designed with the motto of ‘Cultivating Healthy Habits through Education’ in order to address the Educational as well as Health & Nutritional needs of slum children between 1 to 6 years of age. The project is run through 30 Balwadis spread across seven different slum areas of Mumbai which have an approximate population of close to half a million. Due to problems of low income and unemployment, the parents are unable to provide pre-school education and proper nutrition to their children. The project helps address these needs along with preventing school drop outs in the future.
This project was started with the objective to facilitate immunization of the Balwadi children and to reduce the malnutrition level among them, thereby improving nutrition as well as attendance in schools. In all, 3000 + children are enrolled in the Balwadi since 2010.
There are several activities that are organized regularly at the Balwadis aiming at a holistic development of the children. Academic progress is ensured through activities like monthly and annual evaluation of the children and regular parent-teacher meetings. Health and developmental aspects are taken care of through the daily nutrition meals provided to the children which includes different items like Poha, Rajgira Ladu, masala bhat, lapshi and fruits. Balwadi children’s personality development is ensured through several extra-curricular activities like Celebration of National festivals, Sports day and drawing competition. The project, at a broader level also aims at integrating with the community by giving opportunity to the community members to involve as teachers or assistants at Mumbai Smiles. Mumbai Smiles trains them regularly on various teaching methodologies to ensure quality education being imparted to the children.(From their website)
You can associate with them in whatever capacity you deem appropriate. With the support of their partners, collaborators and volunteers they constantly strive to better their best for these kids. Needless to add they welcome anybody who would like to donate or collaborate with them in any way. They even have visitors coming in to meet our Balwadi kids and believe me when I say , that meeting will be something you will cherish for long. Those smiling faces will stay etched in your memory. For any information, their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can also reach them through social media at: