- To do our best so that the current generation of underprivileged children living below the poverty line integrates seamlessly within mainstream society.
- To impart quality education, and all round development, including skill building, in order to provide avenues for employment that are suited to every child’s dominant intelligence and strengths.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT
To educate and empower underprivileged children and support them till they are gainfully employed.
ACHIEVING THE MISSION
Step 1 – Education
Providing all the educational needs of our children - Once we accept a child in our Trust their fees, books, stationery items, school bags, school uniforms including shoes and socks are borne by us. Children can study whatever field they want and we support them till they are gainfully employed.
Building independent study skills - Children are required to come to our Resource Centre at least thrice a week when volunteers give them individual attention to improve their basic study techniques. Tests are conducted to gauge their level of absorption. They also go to advanced computer coaching classes to keep them abreast of the IT boom.
Streamlining education to suit the children’s native abilities - In some cases we have noticed that the children find it difficult to cope with mainstream curriculum. They end up failing in class exams thus leading to a further lowering of self-esteem and problem behaviour. Hence, we identify the special talents of such children be it art or painting and transfer them to the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) where they will take the SSLC exams at a level corresponding to their needs. They get special coaching in their talents and we hope to get them suitable jobs that focus on these trained talents.
Step 2 – Health Care
Informing the children about hygiene and giving them practical tips on keeping their environment disease-free ensures physical wellness. We give the mothers a home-made porridge mix that has all the vital nutrients and vitamins that growing children need.
We consciously take preventive measures so that our children do not contract any fatal illness. We have so far been able to administer the following vaccines to the children sponsored up to last year: Hepatitis B, MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) and Typhus. We regularly provide de -worming medicines to the children. Several medical specialists have given free check-ups to the children. So far, we have been able to provide ENT and ophthalmic check-ups and taken care of any defects and problems in these areas.
Step 3 – Counselling
We have regular children’s meetings where all the children discuss issues that are of concern to them. All disciplinary issues are handled in children’s parliaments. The children decide on their own punishments for their mistakes, misdemeanours, and bad behaviour.
We help the children handle their adolescent issues, problems at home, parental fights, insecurity, exam fear, lack of confidence. We also have regular mothers’ meetings where we educate the mothers and improve their parenting skills. Home visits made by us encourage the whole family to hope for a better future.
According to the WHO Life Skills Workshops, the children of the world should be taught the following core life skills:
- Self-awareness and Empathy
- Critical thinking and Creative thinking
- Communication and Interpersonal skills
- Problem solving and Decision making
- Assertiveness and Risk management
In the recent past most schools for mainstream/ affluent children have introduced the above as part of their curriculum however, the schools for underprivileged have either not found these skills as crucial or have not been able to afford them yet. At ACT, every child above the age of 12 undergoes a series of workshops conducted by trained volunteers. The methodology includes games, artwork, group discussions and formal classes. This has led to greater introspection and teamwork among the children. These days’ disciplinary actions at the Resource Centre are dealt through group discussions where our children themselves analyse the problem and suggest ways of handling the issues. In these sessions the children understand the value of taking responsibility for their mistakes, giving and receiving feedback. Such discussions are live demonstrations of the knowledge and practice of Life Skills. These efforts will make our children socially competent for life in mainstream society.
Step 4 – Recreation
Games: we have different types of board games, puzzles, etc which the children play indoors. These games enable them to focus on goals in a spirit of sportsmanship and companionship. Whenever possible we also allow the children to play outdoor games. We cannot do this on a regular basis because of space constrains.
Hobbies: our constant search for every child’s special talents has led us to hold regular hobby classes. The children have undergone training in dance, singing, acting, photography, making - pottery ,jewellery, candles, paper bags and movies.
On the last Saturday of every month we celebrate the birthdays of all the children whose birthdays fall in that month. A huge cake is cut by the “birthday children” and a smaller cake is gifted to each child for a private celebration in his home with his family.
Step 5 – Financial Freedom
Makar Sankranti, 14th January 2005 was a landmark in the history of ACT. With the help of Mr.Natarajan (then Branch Manager) and Mr.Chandru of State Bank Of India (SBI), M.G. Road branch, Bangalore we were able to start savings bank accounts for all our children with their mothers as their natural guardians.
We are very grateful to the SBI for making the mothers of our children aware of the safety of banking as against the private chit funds where they try to invest. We are proud that every child of the trust now has a savings bank account. Although the mothers are illiterate house maids, they are able to put away small sums of money every month for their children’s future.
Our aim is to enable every child to use the facilities of a bank confidently.
Step 6 – Mentoring
The senior children of the trust volunteer for 2 hours every week to coach the younger children. This process gradually moulds them to be responsible leaders capable of making decisions and leading a young team. The younger children, who are motivated and inspired by the hard work of their seniors, consider the latter as their role models. They bond beautifully and create an extended family.
Step 7 - Bridging the gap
The rising number of NGOs in India, especially for the underprivileged, clearly indicates that Indians have started looking for more effective ways to help the government achieve economic-socio-cultural progress of all the sections of our population. The average middle-class Indian now contributes time, money and energy to bridge the gap between the privileged and the have-nots of society.
ACT can be called a Community Participatory Model since our volunteers include leading software companies and individuals from all walks of life; teachers, doctors, housewives, retired professionals, engineers to name a few. Some of their activities in the Trust include: teaching, playing games, artwork, inculcating library skills, organising picnics and outings. These like -minded people have created some unbelievably happy memories for our children. They accompanied our children to various places of educational/ recreational interest like the Air Traffic Control room, HAL museum, the Bannerghatta National Park, the Nehru Planetarium, Radio station, Film studio, General Post Office, KPJ arts foundation in Bidadi and many others. These excursions are possible by the support of the corporate houses that sponsor these projects as part of their in-house community social responsibility. These outings are necessary not only to create happy memories for our children but also to expose them to various job opportunities available in India today. Since our mission statement is to support the children till they are gainfully employed these excursions enable the children to choose jobs that interest them and match their skill set.
CREATING YOUNG MANAGERS
We have a Students’ Parliamentary System of administering the Resource Centre. This Student Parliament consists of Head Girl, an Assistant Head Girl, 14 Prefects and Monitors for every class. These Leaders monitor the children’s attendance, discipline, and distribution of snacks, food and other goodies. They make decisions regarding the allotment of duties to juniors, selection of monitors rewards for adaptive behaviour or punishments that will be imposed for maladaptive behaviour.
The Student Parliament checks if the school work has been completed by the children in a neat manner. This has improved the children’s performance in tests and exams and besides their overall behaviour. Our Parliamentary System has empowered the Leaders to mentor a group of youngsters. They learn Assertive skills of giving, receiving and managing Feedback.
They plan their day to accommodate their college assignments, supervise the juniors and their various other responsibilities. This leads to greater Time Management and reduction of Stress in their lives. Since the parliament is “for the children, of the children and by the children” it is the children who elect their leaders for each year thus honing their Decision Making and Problem Solving Skills. The election is followed by an Investiture Ceremony in the presence of some of their Family.
MOTHERS’ EMPOWERMENT PROGRAM
We wanted to empower the mothers of our children with Life skills training as well. Our techniques have gone a long way to remove the customary helplessness and frustration that is ingrained in these women especially when they face debilitating social stressors. Mothers Meetings are held every quarter for all the mothers in the Trust. We sensitize these underprivileged semi-literate women in parenting. Meetings are held to build awareness about exam preparations. Some of the other issues discussed are: sensitive disciplinary measures, felicitating top scorers at the final exams, health care, hygiene etc. We also distribute provisions, towels and bed sheets to each family during these meetings.
OFFICE TRAINING PROGRAM
Begun a year ago, this program has successfully trained 3 mothers who now help us in the administration of the various programs. They have designated portfolios.
- Procurement Officer: Buys and maintains all supplies required for the smooth running of the programs. This also entails maintenance of accounts for the same. Participates in advocacy of the Trust around the neighbourhood and at the schools where the children study.
- Administrative Clerk: Helps in Bank work including depositing and withdrawing money on behalf of the Trust. Helps mothers in depositing money in the Bank and maintaining their passbooks. Attends to phone calls and visitors. Helps in filing work. Reports absenteeism.
- House Mother: Supervises the preparation and distribution of snacks and meals for the children. She also maintains the Resource Centre and Learning Centre.
Ashwini Charitable Trust fondly referred to as “ACT” by all the people who run it – Trustees, Volunteers and Sponsors – is a Non-Governmental Organization that was started in the year 2000 by a group of women to educate and empower underprivileged children of Ulsoor slums in Bangalore. After 15 years it is still run by women with more than 70 dedicated volunteers supporting them.
ACT is registered under:
- Income Tax Department under Section 80-G
- Income Tax Department under 12 A (a)
- FCRA Registration 094421447
- Our Registration No – DOCUMENT No.434 of Book IV 2000-01
Who are the children we sponsor
These children whose parents typically work as house maids, vendors, painters, tailors are from the lower-income group. In most cases, it is a single income family consisting of 4 to 5 children with the parents struggling to educate at least one or two of them. While most children are first generation literates, it is apparent that the parents have neither the time nor the awareness to attend to the children. Most of the time whenever there are financial crises in the family the children are pulled out of school to do proxy work for their parents. This is worse for the girl child whose education stops abruptly when she attains puberty. Moreover, the parents are unable to afford the fee hikes that take place when the children move to higher classes. In such cases the children are withdrawn from school. In such cases ACT steps in to ensure that the child’s education is guaranteed.
How do we select children for sponsorship?
The trust sponsors hardworking and dedicated children from semi-government and government aided private schools. We network with the educational institutions where the medium of instruction is English and that are within a radius of a kilometre from the centre. Every year the heads of these institutions recommend needy and deserving children whom we interview and test before absorbing them into the trust. We are proud to have a long waiting list of children who want to join us, however we deliberately restrict our numbers so that every child of the trust gets more and more interventions. The trust was formed with the sole objective of educating and empowering underprivileged girls. However, when we sponsor a girl this year we take her sibling the next year, irrespective of the gender. Hence the trust now has about 46 boys. We believe that this will uplift an entire family.
What does the name mean?
The Trust was registered on 15th December 2000 in Bangalore, and named after the first child it sponsored– ASHWINI. Our logo has the foot print of a little child to symbolize that all our giant leaps start off with small steps. We also hope that every child’s hesitant step in the initial years metamorphose into confident strides in life.