New Humanity Movement

Social Harmony and Art

Udisha

 

Udisha is a Sanskrit word which indicates the “first rays of the sun” and symbolizes the hope we want to give to the children of document our project (see the PPT) (21.78 MB) .

Mumbai, called Bombay till a few years ago, is a megalopolis with a population of over 14 million. It’s India’s commercial capital generating 5% of the country’s GDP, 25% of the industrial production, and 70% of capital transactions of the Indian economy.

 

Its population has significantly increased and the worrying fact is that the numbers of people who live in the poorer quarters have increased by an alarming 50% within a decade. The numbers of people who live in the slums and shantytowns have incredibly increased by 3 million. 

This means that nearly 60% of Mumbai live in slums with limited access to public services. The slums in Mumbai are spread all over the city and contain huge problems with regard to hygiene, education, public health and employment.

One of the most pressing challenges of this country is the educational challenge. 19% of children around the world live right in India. About a third of its population is below the age of 18 and about 74% of this population lives in rural areas. Approximately 188 million children attend the Indian school system, but there are also hundreds of thousands of children who are not attending school and are involved in child labor or domestic work. Of all children enrolled in school, 46% drop out before completing primary school and most of them are girls.

With a young population so vast, the challenges India faces in the world of education are remarkable and very different between rural and urban areas. In a megalopolis like Mumbai schools have a very high number of students, with 70-80 students per class. This leads to difficulties in offering individual attention to children in their education. Most children are compelled to attend paid tuition classes and children of poor families who cannot afford this additional cost are often forced to abandon their studies, thus giving up the possibility of a good education and a future qualified working career, which will help them move out of the poverty situation.

The Udisha project began in 1997 by a group of members of the Focolare Movement as a response to the needs of some poor families living in the slums of the city. During the years the project grew and developed in its dimensions and activities with the contribution of the “Support at a distance” programme of the Focolare Movement.

Currently (2015) there are 120 children and teenagers who are part the project. Their ages range from 4 to 22 years and they belong to different religions. The general aims of this project are those of offering assistance and support to children who live in the slums of Mumbai through initiatives that offer them a holistic growth. In all the activities and interaction with these children, we promote the “culture of giving and reciprocity”.

Education is among the top priorities necessary for development. The first goal of the project is to help the children in their education from primary school to the achievement of the degree or diploma in a vocational course. The Udisha project supports the school education of its children through a financial contribution towards school fees, etc.

Free tuition classes provided by the Udisha project are divided by age into two shifts every day for a total of 50 children. These courses are handled by part-time teachers together with some university students who collaborate with the project on a voluntary basis. An important aspect of the after-school classes is the possibility to give the kids a safe place to stay after school, their homes in fact, are small and crowded and family problems create a difficult and tense atmosphere.

Most of these children suffer from malnutrition and illnesses arising from hepatitis, malaria, anemia, skin diseases etc. Besides, they are prone to seasonal epidemics linked to the rains and floods: typhoid, denghe etc. For this reason, during the year, the Udisha Project carries out collective medical camps involving doctors from the area. At the same time efforts are made to enhance the daily diet with supplements of proteins and vitamins through the distribution of adequate and wholesome food.

Along with this medical assistance the Udisha Project has also started a psychological counseling assistance with sessions of counseling for the children and their parents. A constant monitoring of children's health has resulted in a general improvement in their growth, nutrition and in the prevention of seasonal diseases as well as an improvement in their psycho-emotional growth.Over the years the project started also periodical Medical Camps for the parents, recognizing the importance of their health for the growth of the child. 

Support to the family and its welfare is becoming a priority. An atmosphere of interacting sharing experiences with other parents has become more and more evident. In this regard, beside the personal care of a counselor, the Udisha Project organizes seminars on parenting, which facilitates an exchange of experiences, advices and viewpoints. These programmes aim at improving the awareness of their parental role through highlighting the need of communication and interpersonal skills, resulting in an improvement in relations between parents and children, with consequent effects on physical and mental development of the child.

We know how games fall fully within the framework of the educational activities. The child playing improves his mental qualities because, in leisure activities, it generates a greater commitment of intelligence, attention, thought and will, which helps to improve these qualities of the mind. These activities are therefore essential for the harmonious development of the child, and are even more necessary for children living in the slums, due to the lack of spaces and environments where they can play in a healthy and serene way. In this regard, during the year the Udisha Project organises various extracurricular activities such as workshops, field trips, games, festivals and cultural programs. 

The Udisha project has also begun a microcredit programme that involves the mothers of the children being served. In India, these groups are commonly called "Self Help Group" (SHG). These are groups of about 10-20 people, usually women, belonging to the same social class and region often sharing a similar experience of poverty, living conditions and livelihood, community or caste, who come together to form a group of savings and credit. They share part of their financial resources to make small loans at low interest to their members. This process creates an ethic that focuses primarily on savings. In this group the poorest women support each other in emergencies, disasters, and economic needs, finding here an environment that facilitates conversation and social interaction. The group allows its members to affirm their identity as individuals, taking advantage of the immense power of mutual aid, triggering a genuine process of women's emancipation.

Nearly 60 mothers have formed into three groups and have been introduced to the various aspects of microcredit through monthly meetings. The first phase focused on the formation of the groups, building the mutual trust necessary for a smooth functioning of the activity. Now every mother contributes a monthly sum, which is deposited into the group’s bank account. Besides the aspect of saving that was unknown to many, these meetings have increased the feeling of family among all and mutual help in many difficult situations. 

One of the aims of the Udisha project is to contribute towards constructive cultural, religious and linguistic integration among all its members. The goal of universal brotherhood guides all Udisha Project activities beginning with the aid and care given to families who indeed belong to different faiths: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc. Various initiatives promote an exchange of experiences and activities between different religious and cultural groups. 

Reciprocity is one of the fundamental aspects of the project. In fact, many of the young volunteers involved in giving tuition to the children were part of the project themselves in the past. Other young people however, who have now found a job, support the project with some financial assistance. In terms of sustainability the Udisha Project also proposes to the families who benefit from the various initiatives a small voluntary contribution for the services offered.

Together with Shanti Ashram, a Hindu movement inspired by teachings of Ghandi, Udisha conducts and supports various activities such as the Piggy Bank, with the motto: "The more you give, the more you get". The initiative aims at promoting the importance of savings as a way of meeting the needs of the poor. Practically speaking, this is a small personal piggy bank where every child can deposit his/her savings. At the end, the proceeds are divided into three parts: one for those children living below the poverty threshold, one for the family of the child who possesses the Piggy Bank and the third part for the child himself.

A few months ago, an interactive meeting was held with Shanti Ashram to discuss the problem of poverty. This meeting highlighted the fact that there was a big difference between “Poverty in the cities & Poverty in the slums”. It stressed how our children in Mumbai, despite the daily difficulties of life in the slums, can still consider themselves lucky to have a family,and can go to school. Instead in the villages thousands of children did not have families, and often lacked food & water, and no education or healthcare.

It was explained explained to the children how their own contribution, no matter how small, can make a difference for those who have nothing. The kids committed themselves even more to keeping their savings in the Piggy Bank. On Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday anniversary, we broke our money box and gathered about 3,000 rupees, equivalent to 45 euro. A small fortune, in that context and considering the fact that we are talking of children!

 Here some of their experiences:

“My mum usually buys a cake on my birthday. This time I asked her to give the amount for the cake, and I was able to put it in my piggy bank. I felt happy…”, recounts Alisha, 10 years of age.

“At times my mum gives me money to take the rickshaw to school, but sometimes I went on foot so I could save and put the money in my piggy bank…”, says Rachael, 11years. While Valerie, who is only 6 said: “My uncle gave me ten rupees to buy some biscuits. He saw that I put it in my Piggy Bank for my brothers and sisters who do not have mothers and fathers and who cannot go to school like me. So he gave me another ten rupees.” At times also a bit of slyness comes in useful. Nine-year-old Ryan narrated his experience: “Like all my friends at school I wanted to buy an expensive pen. I then remembered my Piggy Bank and I bought one that cost 5 rupees less, so no one would think of stealing it!”

 It is a small drop in the ocean, but it is a drop just the same and, if multiplied, this drop can become a river!

 

Presets
Main Style
Patterns
Accent Color
Apply

This website uses “technical cookies”, including third parties cookies, which are necessary to optimise your browsing experience. By closing this banner, or by continuing to navigate this site, you are agreeing to our cookies policy. The further information document describes how to deactivate the cookies.