Raziya Islam Sheikh’s story starts five years ago, in a village in Bihar, one of the poorest states of India, where the girl, then 6 years old, lived happily in a tiny hut with her family. But 2008 was a very bad year for them, as heavy rains destroyed the crops, and day by day it became difficult for Raziya’s father, Islam Sheikh, to feed his family. Whatever little savings the family had slowly started diminishing, as Islam was not able to find any work.
Finally, Raziya’s mother, Afsana Islam Sheikh, convinced her husband that they should move to Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra where her brother lived. This is why the family traveled 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) to the Agripada construction site in Mumbai. There, Islam was happy to be able to earn a living to feed his family, and his wife found work in nearby apartments as a domestic helper.However, Islam was concerned about who would take care of his two sons and two daughters when he and his wife were out working. At this time, he came to know about the Mumbai Mobile Creches centre operating at the Agripada construction site. He was relieved to know that he could send his children to the centre and not have to worry about their safety.
When Raziya first joined the centre, she was admitted in the balwadi (preschool) section. She could not understand Hindi at all since all she spoke at home was Bihari, but the MMC programme was designed to help migrant children like Raziya.
Raziya, now 11, is currently a part of MMC’s after-school programme for the age group 6-14 years. Now she is in the fourth grade in an Urdu-language government-run school. And she understands Urdu, Hindi, Marathi (the language used in Mumbai) and English. She has excelled in her studies and has a thirst for learning. If she does not understand something at school, she quickly comes to the centre and asks her teachers for help. She still takes part in all extracurricular activities in the centre and shares with her father and mother all that occurs there.
Her favorite memory of her time with MMC is when she was chosen to participate in this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, on October 11, 2013. She addressed a gathering of adults from renowned backgrounds, including celebrities, and the media. She was the youngest among the group of girls representing different organisations, but her voice did not even waver for a second as she delivered her speech in Hindi, leaving everyone in the room spellbound and amazed at the confidence of this little girl.
This is what she told the audience:
“My name is Raziya Islam Sheikh, and I am 11 years old. I study in the 4th standard. I like to read and write. The Mumbai Mobile Creches staff takes good care of all our needs.
“I have two brothers and a sister and my parents in my family. My home on the site is small and is made of tin. And it does not have a window, so there is very little ventilation.
“I want to study further and become a teacher. I only want to say that all children should study and progress further in life. I’ve learned from MMC how education can take me to great places, and I’ll never be able to forget what I’ve learned here.”
After the event, her sincere “thank you” to her teacher contained a million words she wanted to say.
Many families like Raziya’s come to Mumbai from their villages under distressing circumstances and in search of work. Construction sites in Mumbai house an estimated 3 million of the children of migrant workers, but no one knows the exact number because the government does not track these children.MMC is the only non profit organisation in Mumbai that works for children of migrant construction workers in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. MMC provides health, educational and nutritional services to approximately 4,500 children each year, with an average of 1,100 children attending a centre on any given day.
Your contribution has helped many children like Raziya to have a healthy and happy childhood and a brighter future.
Thank you, Global Giving!!!!