VOICE children enact street-to-home journey

VOICE children enact street-to-home journey
NGO helped rehabilitate over 4,000 street children since 1991
Express News Service

Mumbai, February 24: * Sixteen-year-old Kirti Katarmale started selling lemons at road signals when she was two years old. Now she is preparing for the National Open School board exams and wants to become a teacher.
* Fourteen-year-old Radha Shiva Goud has lived outside stations throughout her life, but now has a roof over her head and attends regular classes of English, Hindi and mathematics, besides yoga and karate.

Like Radha and Kirti, 25 girl street children have a place they call “home”, four-square meals a day and proper education all thanks to Sanjivani, a residential home for street children started in August 2006.

“Mumbai has over 2,50,000 street children. Hence, Voluntary Organisation in Community Enterprise (VOICE) was started in 1991 to respond to their needs and Sanjivani is an offshoot of that initiative,” said VOICE founder Rajashri Bansiwar during an event to showcase talents of street children at Sophia Bhabha Auditorium, Sophia College on Sunday.

“It is the desperate pleas of the girl street child that made us look at possible solutions. Sanjivani has been built based on their requirements,” said Firoza Bhabha, doctor and VOICE trustee for 14 years.

Approximately 50 children enacted the history of VOICE, their struggles and difficulties and how and why Sanjivani was started through various performances.

“Why VOICE and now Sanjivani will work is that we believe in overall development. By the time they are ready to leave us, they learn to be independent,” emphasised Bhabha.

While VOICE caters to children aged 3-14 from Andheri, Vile Parle, Bandra and Dadar, Sanjivani, located in Virar, aims to accommodate 100 street girls (infants to 18-year-olds). Sanjivani also plans to educate more than 500 tribal children from the surrounding areas.

“Over the years we have lost children because their families felt marriage was the best option for them. Moreover, it is very difficult to find homes for them. That’s why Sanjivani,” added Rajashri.

Sanjivani currently houses children from 5 to 15 years of age divided into three groups—those who have never been to school, those who have been to school but the level of education is minimal and those preparing for the National Open School board examination.

Accordingly, there are separate classes and books for each category on various subjects including English, Hindi, Marathi and mathematics. “We have designed them ourselves and they are heavily dependent on illustrations of familiar objects to make the learning interesting,” said VOICE co-founder Victor Bansiwar.

Besides educating the children, they are given training in special skill—-computers, tailoring, screen-printing, creating paper products and bag-making. Akshar-Ank-Anubhav (to provide literacy skills and supplementary education) Asha-Kiran (value-education programme), Srajan (vocational skills programme), Bal Sabha (platform for children to articulate their thoughts), Saheli (counselling women with whom the children live) and Swadhar (five-year experimental project for children who have decided to give up the street to be self reliant) are some of the projects undertaken by VOICE.

“I had gone for a year’s training at a Matunga remand home for street children. The kind of abuse I witnessed there made me start VOICE. We’ve helped 4,000-5,000 since its inception,” said Victor Bansiwar.

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