June 16th, Mumbai, India
For the thousands of people who live in the slum, there are a myriad of problems. One of the most prevalent problems is that most of the people who live in this slum, or any slum in India, don’t have enough money, or any money, for more than the basic necessities of life. Instead of using cooking fuel, some use scavenged wood as a fuel in small, home-made brick hearths. Daily meals are mostly dahl and rice, with a chapati. Nothing is wasted. Many items are scavenged, or shared between homes. No one has closets full of clothing, or cupboards full of food.
The school year presents a new problem for most parents in Saki Naka. School fees, books, and uniforms are beyond the means of many parents, especially if there are more than two children. The school ‘system’ in Mumbai consists of government sponsored schools that are mostly free, but extremely run down, with broken windows, no running water and no toilets. These schools look condemned. There are small schools affiliated with a religion. There are private schools started by individuals. There are schools that teach in Hindi, some that teach in Marathi, and some that each in English. All of the schools have their own fee structures and some have their own sponsorship programs that help to defray some of the costs for parents without financial means.
Schools are strict in India, all expect their students to do well, and there is a high standard. The kids in the slums are left behind when their parents can’t afford the fees and can’t find sponsorship.
In the past few months, there has been a steady stream of parents, clutching the hand of their child or children, carrying a plastic bag full of school records, medical papers, and any other document that may be relevant to their bid for sponsorship, coming to the Balwadi, to meet with Ashley and me. Ashley is gentle and kind, but firm with his questioning regarding their needs. Some parents don’t need sponsorship, but insist that they do, and it is Ashley’s job to make sure the children who really need the help, get the sponsorship dollars that Janvi and the Dirty Wall Project have to give out.
Most children who require funds, have one or both parents who are ill with AIDS, TB, or other health related issues, and because of these pressing health issues, they are without work. The parents who work, might make only 100 Rupees a day, (approx. $2.50 CAD).
For families with daughters, there is the added burden of saving for a dowry when the girl marries. Living in the slum requires an enormous effort just to get through the day. Life is very uncomfortable on a daily basis and there are very few opportunities to move forward in life. The homes are tiny, not much bigger than the bathrooms in western homes. Most homes have at least four people living in them, sharing mats on the floor to sleep, with a tap and a drain that serves as a kitchen faucet, a shower, and a toilet.
The Dirty Wall Project has sponsored thirteen students so far, with more to come in the next few weeks. Some students have been kindly and generously sponsored by individual DWP donors. It has been an exciting, but exhausting few months, visiting many schools, sometimes three or four times, trying to enroll each individual child and dealing with archaic Indian paperwork. Each child has different needs and circumstances and schools had to be chosen to match those needs. The location of the school was important as the parents may have to pay for a bus to get them there and back, which may not be affordable.
Yesterday was the first day of school in Mumbai. Throughout the city, kids in uniforms, carrying lunch bags, and a stack of notebooks, were marched to their schools by a parent. In the Saki Naka slum, we watched as kids wandered up the lane-way, poked their heads out of doorways, all proudly wearing their uniforms, the girls with their hair braided, looped, and tied with ribbon, and the boys with their hair slick with coconut oil, tamed for the big day. I was as excited as the kids as I watched them leave the slum, with their backpacks, heading to school.
The children and parents of Saki Naka thank DWP supporters for helping us to help them.
Cost of sponsorship is approximately 5300 INR ($125 CAD) on average, per school year.
This includes the cost of books and school fees.
Individual DWP supporters have sponsored some of these children. There is still time to sponsor a child. Anyone wishing to do so, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kane Ryandonate, education, fundraising, India, Mumbai, slum, sponsorship, travel, volunteer