“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa.
When Aparnaa Laxmi visited Jharsa in Gurgaon, she saw that the conditions of the poor children were appalling. They worked as rag pickers and were without proper food, clothing, sanitation or education. That’s when she decided to start Radiant Kids Remedial School and MultiActivity center under the aegis of her NGO- Eco Lib Foundation to educate these underprivileged kids and bring a change in their lives.
Eco Lib Foundation focus on promoting education in India by:
- Strengthening Child rights through non-formal education to out of school and working children.
2. Remedial education to encourage regularity and prevent school drop-outs. Classes in English, Hindi, Maths and Computers for Hindi medium underprivileged children.
3. Reduction and prevention of crime through Value education and extra-curricular activities for holistic personality development.
4. Safe and conducive after school care
5. Awareness for Social and Environmental concerns – where thet conduct workshops for health and hygiene, eye and dental camps, gender sensitization and respect to elders, prevention against dengue, chickengunya, tobacco use, wastage of water and resources, self- defense techniques.
6. Empowerment of economically backward women through financial inclusion, adult literacy and skill- development through jewelry designing and making, crocheting, sewing, pickle making, etc.
Eco Lib is running an informal literacy center, Radiant Kids, in the slums of Jharsa Village, in Sec. 39, Gurgaon where about 175 children in the age group 4 -18 years are enrolled. They impart basic education as well as motivational and value inputs by creating a platform for the creative development of all kids through music(vocal and instrumental), dance, art and craft, yoga, karate, games, library, etc.
They work with the underprivileged children such as children of rag pickers, migrant laborers, maids, vegetable vendors, security guards,etc. in the slums of Jharsa Village to impart basic literacy, with the objective of linking them to vocational options.
They have introduced special classes specifically to prevent drop- outs for those who’ve already appeared for Class 10 but have failed in a few subjects.
Aparnaa also works with women- the illiterate or semi- literate mothers and the residents of Jharsa for their skill development and empowerment.
“Whatever repute I’ve earned is solely through perseverance in pursuing my passion for volunteering as a Social Entrepreneur in response to a need and demand for quality education among the undeserved communities in Gurgaon”
Aparnaa Laxmi has a vision to establish a social security net –by providing proper nutrition, clothing, education and medical facilities for at least 1000 underprivileged children in Gurgaon,to assist all children enrolled at its centers to become employable and self- reliant by providing suitable vocational training and to skill 500 illiterate/ semi- literate women for their financial empowerment by the year 2020.
As a Social Entrepreneur, she answers the need and demand for quality education among the underserved communities in Gurgaon. It is her devotion to the students which has made them more confident, performance- oriented and shine in extra- curricular events across the city.
“The Radiant takes its initials from that of my father who was a freedom fighter against the British. Hence it is a legacy of ‘giving back’ to society that I strive to uphold!”
The Eco Lib has brought about a dual change in perception. First, is to make the underprivileged accord value to themselves as individuals. The children do not sit on the floor, but on study chairs- symbolic of the fact that “though poor in means, they are not poor in capabilities”. Hence they are the potential contributors to society and not just backward/ people subsisting on government doles. They realize that education is their deliverance out of poverty.
She strongly believes that it is education that would get them their rights as citizens, rather than being manipulated and wronged merely as vote banks. As being privileged, she opts to be a full- time, hands- on grassroots worker and seeks to inspire more individuals to contribute to society.
Aparnaa has continued to face several challenges in setting up and managing the Radiant Kids Remedial School, “The initial and foremost challenge was to conjoin more out of School kids to education by door to door (jhuggi to jhuggi) awareness drives and campaigns for child rights under the Right to Education Act as migrants do not attach any value to education! I still venture into clusters of rag pickers and construction workers to inform and convince the parents to send their children to study, yet it is difficult and certainly not safe as I do not have volunteers who could work with me”.
In absence of sustained corporate or individual support, she has been managing the expenses primarily through personal funds almost for the past five years in Gurgaon. With the second challenge being of suitable safe premises for the School around Jharsa.
Having faced resistance and even physical assault from hostile locals on several occasions during the past years, she has persevered to encourage and enroll more children to study and progress in life. She has managed to gain not only a foothold in her home town, Lucknow but also in Gurgaon through her initiatives.
“But as there was and remains a requirement as well as demand for quality education in the area, I continue to run the School in Jharsa Village even in face of several odds”
With support, she aims to introduce:
Mobile Edutainment Buses.
Well-equipped mobile Edu-Buses to provide access to education to the myriad migrant population of construction workers, daily wage earners and nomadic-type healers, all over Gurgaon, as these do not and cannot send their kids to school owing to the very nature of their work.
A mobile education center would be ideal for such people not only to impart basic education but also for social awareness, health guidance, etc. A few, maybe 5, points in Gurgaon with a heavy density of such people could be identified where the bus/es would visit at fixed hours on designated days.
The buses could be fully utilized to impart skill- training, Health and Hygiene Awareness, de- addiction inputs, etc., adult literacy initiatives during evening hours.
Food Grains Incentives.
Kids of migrant rag- pickers and maids are often made to collect and sort refuse instead of being sent to school. They do not have access to proper clothing, nutrition or any education.
Hence if a specific amount of food-grains could be offered to each such child for the number of hours he/ she spends at the school, it would serve as an incentive for the parents to send their child to study.
Go Green with cloth bags.
Project for the dual purpose of environment conservation and financial empowerment of poor urban women
Sanitary Napkins Manufacturing.
Project for and by poor urban women in and around Jharsa. (Programs (c) And (d) as SHG models to promote financial inclusion of urban women)
A day- care facility
For children of maids and daily wage earners.
A spoken English center.
For underprivileged youth.
Aparnaa Laxmi has initiated a program she believes in, and is passionate about imparting literacy to migrant children. She aspires to work on providing quality education to underprivileged children as she believes that the country cannot progress without the fulfillment of the basic need of education. It’s her perseverance to work single handedly towards her objective and not shying away in asking for assistance has led to her success against the odds.