Sahyog Vidya Kendra – Community Learning Centre

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A chance meeting at the SNDT University in Mumbai led to an introduction to Ms. Harsha Parkeh, the executive trustee of the Bombay Community Public Trust (BCPT). This city based NGO is dedicated to the improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of Mumbai and has partnered and supported a large and varied number of NGO initiates throughout the city.

This led to an association in late 2006 with the Chehak Trust and their community based program – “Sahyog Vidya Kendra” which works in the field of primary education and healthcare through community based intervention and training.

BEI, together with Sahyog decided to sponsor the establishment of a Community Learning Centre for underprivileged children in the low income residential area (slum) area of Dindoshe in Shantiniketenan, Goregaon in East Mumbai. This slum was created for around 2000 households (about 18,000 people) which were relocated form the huge Jari Mari slums surrounding the Mumbai international airport, and consists of 33 high rise apartment buildings.

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The buildings are badly built, in very poor condition and utilities are minimal and not always connected resulting in the creation of a “vertical slum”.

The project is supervised by the highly motivated and qualified staff from the BCPT and from the Sahyog Chehak Trust. They have conducted a serious base line study which provides the necessary information for the continued and ongoing development of the project. The project director in Ms. Neha Madhiwala, who is the Managing Trustee of the Chehak trust.

The Community Learning Centre is intended to provide an easily accessible space open to all children in the neighborhood, which will provide access to information, educational and recreational resources.

Specifically a library and resource center have been opened which provides opportunities for learning, self development and recreation for children and adolescents. The centre provides a safe and friendly meeting place and helps out-of-school youth ingrate with the formal and open education system.

The project has set up a library and recreational unit, a learning unit, counseling centre and a computer centre. Emphasis is placed on community mobilization, involving parents and developing a group of peer leaders who will serve as the link between the cuter and the larger population of young people in the area.

Premises allocated for the centre have been cleaned and painted, books, furniture, shelving and other equipment has been purchased and the library is functioning effectively.

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A school for girls who have not had any previous schooling functions in the centre and is attended by about 60 girls with an additional 100 girls participating in various afternoon activities at the CLC. An outreach program has started to attract young boys to the centre and is showing some positive initial results. The teachers are all recruited from the area as they are best in touch with and understand the people here.

Teachers training seminars have been held as well as a number of workshops (painting, photography etc.) which were attended by 400 children.

A clinic is now run twice a week providing free check ups for the children and regular afternoon workshops are conducted. A system of Peer Leaders has been introduced to publicize the center’s activities and encourage children to participate.

The recent development of the playground has added one more important dimension to the project which now attempts to meet the intellectual, social and recreational needs of the children.

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Currently there are 12 children between the ages of 3-12 attending the early intervention programme regularly. The developmental disabilities range from hearing impairment and vision impairment to autism, orthopedic disability and mentally challenged. This programme is managed by 2 women from the community who have undergone a rigorous 6-month course to become Child Development Aides. The course is offered by Ummeed in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences and it equips the trainees to identify children with or at risk of disabilities and introduce simple interventions to advance their developmental milestones.

In addition to conducting structured play and educational activities with the children at the centre, the two staff members hold parent meetings; conduct awareness sessions for government child care workers in the community and seek referrals; liaise with specialised services in the neighbourhood for assessment and therapy and with academic institutions for children to be integrated into them. A nutritional supplement by way of a fruit or snack has also been introduced.

The first community-based centre in a slum resettlement colony to address disability needs of children
The first inclusive space for learning has been created in the community.
Identifying and liaising with neighbourhood resources so that parents can access them for their children for specialized services and integration into mainstream education Contacts were established with 4 such resources .
The staff attended a training programme in the month of June where topics such as teaching children through phonics, speech therapy, feeding techniques for children with cerebral palsy, promoting interpersonal relationships, and developing individualized education plans (IEPs) were dealt with.
The library is enthusiastically attended by children in the 6-16 age group who come to do independent reading as well as participate in story-telling sessions and book-based activities.
There are 30-40 children who attend the library regularly, primarily in the age range of 8-16 years.

The library has more than 700 books which have been catalogued and assigned to levels . The children attending the library have also been assessed and their baseline reading level determined. The GROWBY Reading model developed by Hippocampus Reading Foundation to do the leveling of the books and the children’s reading. A volunteer who has attended the Hippocampus training conducted 3 workshops for the library staff to train them in the process as well as conduct book-based activities. The staff was also taught how to make the library a vibrant space by displaying children’s work. A reporting format has been created for the library staff which they use to record the book-based activities carried out with the children.

Highlights
The first community-based library for children to promote a love for reading and improve reading skills.
Collaboration with a privileged school in the neighbourhood (Oberoi International School-OIS) whose staff has visited the library, invited the Roshan staff to visit their school library, and is mentoring the staff as well by sharing best practices. The work of Roshan was put on display at the school’s NGO Awareness Day to share with the students, teachers , and parents of the school.
Two high school students of OIS volunteer once a week at the library and read to the children and conduct a book-based activity with them.
Festivals and days commemorating important events were celebrated.
2 Open Days were held to publicise the library in the community and showcase its work—these were well attended by the parents of the children as well as other community members and the library team was complimented for the work they do.
A day-long outing was organized to Nehru Science Centre in which 23 children participated.
A teacher from the neighbourhood who tutors at home volunteers thrice a week to improve the children’s English speaking and comprehension skills.
A 2-day training by Katha of Delhi was organized in Mumbai for the staff who learned the art of story-telling and activities to enhance the children’s language skills.
PLAN FOR 2015-16
The biggest challenge facing the centre is finding a substantially larger space and various options are being explored.
We envisage the following for Roshan:
Developing an annual calendar with days/weeks/months clearly assigned to specific activities and events for the children as well as members of the community
Establishing its presence in the community more firmly by reaching out to families residing in buildings which are situated at a distance from the centre.
Use of greater audiovisual aids for teaching
Systematic assessments of the children attending the library and the early intervention centre.
At least 3 outings/field visits for the children which are related to what they are learning in the centre.
Training programmes for the staff to improve skills related to their work
More collaborations with professionals and volunteers to introduce and support best practices for each component of Roshan
Scholarships for students who visit t he library regularly and show promise.

BEI has been supporting SAHYOG for over a decade and will continue to collaborate and promote SAHYOG’s projects and it’s interaction with other NGOs in the BEI family for the mutual benefit of all.

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