A simple look at the smiling faces in the picture is ample proof of the fact that we got it right. Only a little over a year ago Project Why came to know about the existence of the "Yamuna Kids,” a bunch of happy children who run in fields along the river amidst vegetable patches tended by their parents. And this in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Delhi.
These are children of what is known as agricultural labour who hire these fields from the landlords at a fixed price and then make their living from the vegetables they grow. They are at the mercy of the weather gods; excess rain or extreme weather can destroy the crop. Their homes are made of straw with a plastic sheet for protection. Unlike the rich who can build unabashedly on the flood plains, these people are not allowed a single brick.
There is no school in the vicinity; in any case their children do not appear in any census and hence do not exist. They used to spend their time helping their parents in the fields, a task they can legally do as the child labour law has recent been amended to make working in the family business ‘legal.' These kids are happy-go-lucky children living in a time warp and a bubble. The question that comes to mind is what is their future? A simple change in building laws could destroy their lives in a jiffy.
Project Why had to intervene but once again what mattered was to find a way to adapt our intervention to the reality of these children.
An informal day-school was set up and it was decided that children would be taught according to their age and capability as some seemed to have had some non formal teaching.
The gods conspired to make the Yamuna Centre a reality. Friends and donors pitched in and one even decided to provide a hot lunch to these kids six days a week. The lunch was a huge success. Other friends sponsored a roof, supplies and everything we could possibly need- even a toilet!
It did not take any time for the Centre to function perfectly. The Yamuna kids are probably one of the most eager kids of the Project Why family. The numbers increased till we had to put a stop as there was no space left. Today there are about ninety children studying in the centre.
Anyone coming for the first time will have a difficult time believing that the Centre is just one year old.
These are God's own kids who had never stepped out from their fields. We were surprised to learn that they had never seen India Gate. A few days back our friends from Enfances Indiennes took the children for an outing to INDIA GATE.
The Yamuna Centre is something we are very proud. Our endeavour is to ensure that we guide these children gently into the world, without them losing their deep their deep bond to Mother Nature.
What birthday wishes do you have for our Yamuna Centre?