Tuesday 13 April 2010

Adventures in Mumbai: 33 And Counting…

Another birthday has rolled around, and it’s pretty clear from people’s reactions that I’m definitely not in the place I’m supposed to be for my age! Opinions range from ‘very cool’ to ‘wasting your life’. Of course it doesn’t help that it’s virtually impossible to explain what I’m doing or why, so people read whatever makes sense to them.

The one constant of these few months however is that people recognise how lucky I am. But they think I’m lucky to be travelling and seeing new places, when in fact what I’m really lucky for is to be journeying through a life of stunning people. People with drive and dedication and smiles and positivity. New friends that treat me like they’ve known me for ages. I even got a home-made cake and a hand drawn birthday poster today.Will treasure always :)

Birthday Celebrations at Ashoka


It’s also not just people but their ideas and ability to turn those ideas into reality that continues to inspire me. I’ve been in India for only a month, and I’ve already been involved with about 10 organisations and projects, all working hard to make their local realities a better place for other people.
  • Ashoka’s Youth Venture – working on extending and developing their program that inspires and supports young people to turn their ideas into action. The ambition is to create a regional culture that makes and supports change
  • Aseema – looking at Public Private Partnerships to improve the 1200 BMC schools in Bombay, and modelling the mechanisms of scale needed to achieve this
  • Arpan – planning how to design full-cycle programs that eradicate severe child abuse in communities
  • Dreamcatchers – planning future development and organisational restructure to design holistic programmes that work with both emotional needs and economic development in post-disaster zones.
  • Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust – working on how to leverage the web for raising awareness and funds for rehabilitating street drug users and supporting HIV patients
  • LEARN – designing sustainable social enterprises to enable lasting economic improvement for women in Dharavi
  • SSP – looking at mission congruence, collaborative services and operational efficiencies across it’s MFI, Retail, Health and Training services to improve quality of life for low income women in Maharashtra and Gujarat

Learning about the lives of women in slums at LEARN


I’ve also been helping out with some fledgling projects started by young people struggling through their own difficult personal circumstances, but who are no less impressive in their understanding of local dynamics and their drive to create the solutions needed
  • Disha – started by Khusboo Kantharia, working on the rehabilitation of girls from state institutions into mainstream society. Many of them are extremely vulnerable and at huge risk of human trafficking
  • Oscar – started by Ashok Rathod, providing life skills and support systems for slum kids through football. The rules of engagement provide compelling reasons for children to stay in school.
  • Vishwas – started by Ganesh Lokare, ensuring that children return to and stay in school in the face of a host of inhibiting factors. See the mind-map below

Vishwas’ mind-map

Vishwas’ mind-map

Workshop with Khusboo on the effects of institutionalisation

Workshop with Khusboo

Lunch with Ashok and his team after our workshop

Lunch with Ashok and his team after our workshop

Finally, outside of all these formal organisational contexts, we met a lady called Shanti Ravi, who lives in one of the ‘uncool’ slums behind the Reay Road station in east Mumbai. She has single-handedly brought in a host of services and support systems for children in her locality, in the face of huge odds including being married off at 13 and then suffering severe domestic violence for most of her life. Most of these programs brought in through NGOs have failed both her and her community, and we’re now seeing if it’s possible to build local confluences of people like her to ensure that young people have internal rather than external support systems.

Shanti Ravi

Shanti Ravi

Shanti explaining the dynamics of Mumbai slums

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