Studies quote a staggering number of children forced to beg and carry out petty thieving in order to survive. One of the more recent surveys finds that around 3,00,000 children are drugged, abused, and pushed to beg.
These children have no sense of a childhood. They are forced to grow up much before they are supposed to. They do not have the ‘luxury’ of playing with toys, running carefree; what characterises childhood the most-education-is completely lacking. This situation is alarming to say the least, however there are a few organisations that are working to build a better future. One such organisation is Delhi-based NGO Wishes and Blessings. In an effort to combat these depressing circumstances, to bring back the colour and innocence of childhood in these children, Wishes and Blessings initiated the project “Street to School”.
Founded by Dr. Geetanjali Chopra in 2014, the organisation works to bring happiness and dignity into the lives that need it the most. Some of us are blessed in terms of access to resources, and some can only wish for these things. Wishes and Blessings works as a platform to connect donors and beneficiaries. This way, those who are blessed can fulfil the wishes of the lesser privileged. What makes this organisation unique is that the NGO does not focus on one cause, but a philosophy. This philosophy is that of happiness- Happiness is not just an end, but also a means to an end. To spread happiness, the organisation does not focus on one cause, but altogether pays attention to 9 causes, among which are skill development, infrastructure, SOS relief and education.
Wishes and Blessings focuses on the underprivileged, specifically children who are visually impaired, have special needs, and those who are forced to live on the streets. One of their goals is directed towards education and skill development. Education is the best way to combat poverty, gender inequality, child marriage among other issues that plague our society.
According to the 2011 Census, 1 out of 4 children (those who are of school going age) is out of school; 99 million children have dropped out of school. Education is one of the prime avenues through which one can gain a sense of identity, can be independent and empowered. There is no age limit to learning, but it is always best to start young. Children who are pushed to live on streets, under flyovers, whether it is because of familial or financial reasons, do not have the space nor the time to experience a childhood; a carefree, fun, happy childhood.
While other children might worry about missing out on watching a TV show, these children very often have to worry about the possibility of not having the next meal. Children who learn to read and write, who are educated and skilled, can provide better futures for themselves and their future families. Citizens who have a solid foundation in education will also work towards a better tomorrow. This is where Wishes and Blessings decided to come in with their flagship programme – “Street to School”.
Started in 2015, the programme initially dealt with around 60 street children that were in the general locality of the NGO’s shelter in Nizamuddin, Delhi. The aim was to transform the children’s lives- to groom them, to educate them, to help inculcate values that would help in successfully integrating them into general society. The immediate goal was to enable them to experience the joys of childhood. The programme started with teaching the basics to the children- how to sit, read, write. What made the organisation even more committed to giving these children a new lease on life was their enthusiasm to learn. There was never a bored face, never even a murmur of protest.
The organisation also believes that good and hygienic food is essential for the overall development of a child, and therefore provides 3 home-cooked nutritious meals a day to these children. The joy of something as simple as writing their own names, according to the organisation, is incomparable. Names give identities. Through the journey of learning how to hold a piece of chalk, to learning the alphabet to finally writing their names they were able to gain a sense of identity, a sense of self-esteem.
The journey did not end here. Wishes and Blessings is committed to following up, to 100% transparency, to ensuring that whatever goal is set is achieved. Efforts paid off as 41 children were successfully enrolled in MCD/NDMC schools. Equipped with bags and water bottles sent in by the NGO, there was not a face in the room that was not beaming with joy. Whenever the organization reviews the journey, they are always left awestruck. One only needs to look at their faces- dull eyes, sad, faces covered in dust, and now, gleaming eyes, happiness exuding out of their smiles.
Currently the programme works with 125 children, out of which 95 are now enrolled in the MCD and NDMC schools. According to Dr. Chopra, one of the reasons they have been able to hit multiple milestones is because of the unending and gracious support of their donors. “One step at a time and with your support, we believe that the sky is the limit and we shall reach it.”. They are so excited to follow these young children on their journeys to becoming successful, independent adults, ready to grab life by the horns.