Monday 16 February 2015

Broadening periphery of social responsibility

I have been working with a women's organization, Mahila Hakka Samrakshan Samiti, since 1982. I have done counselling in many cases, and tried to settle marital problems. In some cases, I have been successful and families have re-united. The cases in which matter could not be settled, the couples have parted. Sometimes the custody of children would be given to father but in most of the cases, it was the mother who took up the responsibility of her children. I used to feel sad at the breakup, but always felt relaxed to see children being handed over in safe custody.

In those days, I never wondered as to what happens to the children of such parents. How do such incidents affect them psychologically, socially, emotionally and most important in their overall development. In cases of divorce, the wife along with her children leaves the town and goes to reside with her parents, if she is lucky. Otherwise she is admitted in a shelter home. In some cases she prefers to live independently. In all above possibilities, it is the children who suffer. They have to leave their schools, friends, neighbor hood and adjust to new people, new environment. It is difficult to get admission in schools. Their mothers or fathers have to work for a living. Such children become school drop outs.

In June 2004, I was appointed as a member of Child welfare committee, Nasik. In continuation, in July 2008, I was appointed as the Chairperson of Child welfare committee, Nasik, by Government of Maharashtra. I continued working on this post till May 2013 (when my term was over).
During these 9 years, I handled many cases of children, who were in need of care and protection. The cases were presented before us through different sources, like social workers, police, parents( in case of single parent) or guardian of the child (in case he has lost both his parents). This work gave me a chance to understand these children and their needs better.

A boy was presented before us by the police. He had broken window panes of a house. The police felt that instead of lodging a complaint, he should give the boy a chance to improve. The boy was 13 year old and was a school dropout. His mother worked in a shop as a helper. Her duty hours were from 9 am to 8 pm, with half an hour lunch break. She was noticing the gradual change in her son but she was helpless. She had to earn to support her family. She had taken a divorce six months back, from her drunkard husband and preferred to live with her two children. She had sent her 10 year old daughter to her mother's place and kept her son with her as a support. She separated from her husband in middle of the academic year and her son never got an admission in the new locality school. She started receiving complaints from neighbors about his behavior. She scolded him, beat him and even sometimes locked him in the house! Nothing helped. The boy's behavior worsened. She stopped caring for him and taking efforts to bring about improvement in him.

In another case, police presented a 10 year old boy. He was caught stealing vegetables from vegetable vendors in the market yard area. When we tried to talk to him, he said he had to do it, because he had to support his grand mother. He was too young to get a job and so this was the only way he could earn and support his granny. On further inquiry we learnt that this boy had lost his mother when he was 6 months old and his father had left home since then. His grand mother had looked after him and tried to educate him. Today she had developed some eye sight problem and was unable to earn to support them. The boy studied in municipal school in 4th standard. He did this stealing vegetables and selling them after school hours. Sometimes his teachers used to buy vegetables from him, but they were not aware of their source and his activities. He had plans to leave school if his granny developed further eye sight problem.

Another incident introduced me to a 7 year old girl. She had lost her father and her mother had admitted her in the children's home. The complaint about this girl was, she would keep away a part of eatables given to her. She would hide them in her bag. And so her baggage and the room had a rotten smell. Even if the management sprayed pest control medicines and tried to keep the room clean, they faced a recurring problem of cockroaches and ants. The little seven year old had her explanation ready. She said, my mother works hard. She can hardly have enough food. She has never eaten anything without giving me. We have never eaten such a variety of nice food. I keep aside everything that I get. I will give it to my mother when she comes to meet me. Her mother is able to visit her hardly once in a month.

I have handled quite a number of cases as a part of my work. I have seen children quite attached to their parents, I have seen vagabond children, those who are a nuisance to the society, some who work as laborer and some are involved in criminal activities. All this 9 years of experience made me think. Think as to what I can do to help these children. I am very much aware of my limitations. But I thought let me try and do something to guide and support all those children who want to learn, to improve their lives and to become responsible citizens.

So I decided to start working in the name of YOUTH SUPPORT FOUNDATION! Through this I wish to extend guidance and financial assistance to all such needy children. I have started working on this project in May 2013. The starting of the project, i.e finding the needy children has not at all been a easy task. 

I will share my experiences with you in my next blog!