I am now a consultant in a College of Social Work in Mumbai. I first started as a community organizer and then as social worker, working in an urban slum with grass root communities of different religions and caste, particularly the schedule caste of “cobblers”. The mothers were domestic workers in the ‘well to do’ families in the neighborhood and the fathers were cobblers, sitting by the roadside mending shoes and sandals.
My role was to work for the overall development of the community. Based on the principles of Community Development the first step was building a rapport with the people, largely through informal friendly home visits. The purpose of these visits was introducing and knowing each other, understanding the living conditions and expectations of the families. Invariably and particularly the mothers’ basic concern was care of the young children, and schooling for the other children. Therefore, we were compelled to discover a viable response for access to education. Thus, began the sponsorship programme.
With the support of the student social workers, we enrolled the children in the nearby municipal school. These children were the first-time learners in the family. With the financial assistance of the programme they received their schoolbooks and other educational material, up to secondary school. The social workers also engaged the parents and children to help them grow their funds through skill training, livelihood programme and job opportunities.
Years later, in the new place I was working, I was informed that I had visitors. To my amazement, here were a few youths who had been enrolled in the sponsorship programme in the past. They now had jobs, working for the government or private companies. They wanted to show their gratefulness for the opportunity they had received in going to school. This unexpected visit remains vividly etched in my memory Even though sponsorship presents limitations it is not a one-time philanthropic act, but a sustained investment which contributes to the development of the social, cultural and economic conditions of the families.
Je suis touchée et heureuse d’avoir pu rencontrer ces familles. They have worked hard, are now living modest lives in dignified environment, and they serve others in social transformation as well.