Thursday, 27 March 2014

Reality Gives Programs - New Computer Lab opens in Chamda Bazaar

While an overwhelming amount of respondents to Nieck’s interview questions (see here for a quick reminder) were positive, we also received some feedback about areas in which we need to improve. The people of Chamda Bazaar, Dharavi (a poorer area of Dharavi inhabited mainly by Muslims who work in the leather industry, skinning, shaving, equalising, dyeing, embossing and texturing the animal hides) told Nieck that they didn’t feel they benefitted from the effects of our Reality Gives programs as much as others.

“The company should develop this area and they should help the children get a better education. I think that since the last time that [they] came here, they stopped with all of these development projects.”

In response to this, in February we opened a new community Computer Lab in this area where local children are now learning IT and English skills.

Computer classes run daily from 8:30-9:30am and the same students are also given a further hours English conversation class on Monday and Tuesday from our UK volunteers, Matt and Joe (that’s right, those guys again!). Classes are taken by Youth Empowerment Program graduate, Ravi, who is in training to be the sole Computer Teacher.

Visiting the class early one morning, we greeted 12 bleary eyed, tired boys coming in for class. The change that ensued thereafter was striking – as soon as the computers were turned on and they were presented with their worksheets they were engaged, focused and had a twinkle in their eye (the fact that this was almost perfectly synchronised with the all too familiar windows start-up sound signature made it all the more remarkable). The boys are clearly really enjoying themselves. 

Sitting with the boys we we’re proudly told by Sayed (12) “I was the first in my class to know what www was at school…before we were sleeping ‘til 10am, now we’re getting up to come here…I am top of the class in computers at school. I always finish quick”, whilst Asif (14) comments “At school I attend class but it is not good. The teachers do not teach. Now the students ask me ‘how do you do that?’. Everyone is shocked”.

It’s great to see the vast improvements these boys have made. Mayur (who is currently supporting Ravi with the class as part of the latters training) tells us “when we started they could not handle a mouse. Now look at them! What they are doing!” With time, having established trust and a dialogue with the local community we hope to increase the number of classes being offered, and to start to work with girls in the area too, who typically have less free time to attend such programs. 

Finally, with the number of computers we have now standing at 38, we'd like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to the people at CORP, CapGemini, Rachel Teo, Gavin King, Idar Meling and Patrick Zickler for the generous donation you made, without which, starting this centre would not have been possible. We're truly grateful.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Reality Gives Events - “a woman has so many things in her heart, but does she ever get to share it?”

This previous Saturday people across the world came together to mark International Women’s Day and here in Dharavi it was no different.

At the Community Centre our Youth Empowerment Program students presented speeches, posters and plays about influential women (ranging from hockey players to astronauts and politicians), on the football field the Dharavi Girls Football Program got together to send a message out to the world and the Reception Centre hosted an exhibition of photographs taken by five women from Dharavi, whom were unequivocally, the stars of the day.

Can you work out what the Girls Football Team is spelling out? Keep in mind the acronym of the day and kindly forgive Marketing and Fundraising Director, Joe, for not climbing a higher wall to get the picture!

These five women, Amrita, Anuradha, Kaveri, Nirmala and Shobha, are graduates of ‘Ladies Only – Stories For All’, a five week photography workshop by Dharavi Art Room which is a collaboration between Reality Gives and Bombay Underground. This workshop was conceived when on a field trip one of the young students told Bombay Underground social worker, Aqui Thami “my mummy never leaves the home”. From this offhand statement, through in-depth interviews with women in the community an idea percolated and a program was born with the aim of showing Dharavi through a woman’s perspective. 'Ladies Only - Stories For All' was charged with ‘celebrating womanhood and claiming a space not just for surviving but for being’. With Dharavi so often shown through an outsider’s or a male’s point of view, this program aimed to show an altogether different side by giving the women the skills and the forum through which to tell their own stories.

Jyoti (left) our Community Centre Manager introduces the women to the audience
Reflecting on the program, Kaveri says “I come to the art room to learn photography and it’s also an escape from all the work at home” whilst we’re also told “when I see my friends here and when I hold my camera I forget all the pain, all the bondage, feels like I am young again”. The affect on the women has been palpable.They stand tall, shoulders back, head up. They're confident and engaging, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future. This newly realised sense of purpose is also affecting their families as they tell us, “I could not go to school but why should that stop me from sending my daughter to school. She will learn. As long as I am here she will go” and that “If worse comes to worse I will sell off all my jewellery but will not stop sending my kids to school”.

So, as they stood with in front of 40 members of the community (including many of our YEP students), people listened. Comfortable in front of this crowd of community members they spoke passionately about their experiences and how the program had empowered them. They told us how they are now pursuing other opportunities to develop their skill sets and learn. With determination and focus they asked us, “when can we do more!?”.