During our more than two decades of work with the coastal and fishing communities, we have realized that proper nurturing of children is crucial in ensuring the sustainable development of communities. Thus, over time, facilitating the all-around development of the children from these communities and safeguarding them from abuse and regressive social practices has become one of our key areas of work.
CHILD SPONSORSHIP PROJECT
- In 2015, we began our focused ground-level activities on the issue of child development and child rights through the Child Sponsorship Project. Children from 10 villages in 2 coastal blocks, namely Ramnagar II Block (7 villages) and Deshapran Block (3 villages) in the Contai Sub-Division of Purba Medinipur district, along with their guardians and family members, have been the direct beneficiaries of this work.
- The objective of this work is to ensure that these children are growing up in a healthy environment, there is no dropout from schools, the right to education is implemented, the mid-day meals are served at schools, social evils like gender discrimination, child marriage, and child trafficking are eradicated, and the children’s families have basic awareness on health and nutrition of the children.
ACTIVITIES and EVENTS
- Every year, we support and nurture nearly 800 children, between 5 to 13 years of age, from these 10 villages, by organizing classes of drawing and painting, singing, dancing, elocution, physical fitness, etc., under the supervision of a Coordinator and 15 moderators, all of them hailing from the local community. These classes are conducted at 13 child centres spread across these two blocks. Since 2021, some of the children are also being given free coaching classes in Mathematics and English by qualified educators who are specially trained by us keeping the unique community needs of these children in mind. Expert trainers are regularly brought in to train the children and the moderators. Even after these children become older than 13 years, we keep regular track of their nurturing and development into productive members of society.
- Along with classroom-based coaching and training, we organise cultural and educational events, excursions, and competitions involving writing, drawing, recitation, street theatre, dance, and sports regularly with these children. Every year since 2015, we organise an Annual Children’s Fair in this region. The fair sees enthusiastic participation from these children and their parents. Last year, our Annual Children’s Fair was held on 7th April 2022 in Rania, one of our ten beneficiary villages in the region. This year, it will be held on____ in _____.
- As another key feature of this work, we conduct extensive campaigns around various issues, such as the right to education, child health, environmental awareness, eradication of child marriage, and child labour. Since the inception of this work, the children have been voluntarily and very enthusiastically using their newfound skills in writing project slogans, creating attractive posters, and including social messages in their dance forms, songs, and elocution performances in support of these campaigns.
- Over the past seven years and counting, this work has led to significant positive developments not only among the children but also among their parents, family members, and formal educators in the primary schooling sector. Some of the key achievements are:
- The local children from these 10 villages, through their increasing and enthusiastic participation in our classes and events, have been steadily acquiring abilities and skills way beyond what are available in the village primary and even post-primary schools.
- As a break from the common practice in these socio-economically backward coastal blocks of West Bengal, the government schools in this region have begun to focus on extra-curricular activities because of our work here.
- Through continuous campaigns, we have generated active awareness on issues like the rights to education and child health, not only among the children but also among their parents, family members, friends, neighbours, and other community members. As a result, social evils faced by children such as abuse, neglect, insufficient provision of nutrition and healthcare, dropping out of schools, gender discrimination, child marriage, child labour, and child trafficking can now be effectively eradicated at the community level in this region.
- As a direct outcome of our activities, school dropout rates have become zero in all 10 villages. There have been no instances of child trafficking, child marriages, or child labour in or from these villages, and there has been some improvement in terms of child mortality as well. Our visits to the beneficiary families have confirmed that discrimination against girl children has declined in these villages. For example, the discriminatory practice of feeding boys more than girls during mealtimes has stopped.
Our work continues with the eager participation of the children and their parents from these 10 villages, and it continues to yield positive results towards holistic nurturing and development of children from the vulnerable and marginalized coastal community of this region.