Jun 23, 2020

Virtual classrooms

Home schooling
Home schooling

We sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. As a valued supporter of our projects we want to reassure you that work on our existing projects continues, despite the challenges the current pandemic and lock down is presenting on a daily basis.

Maharashtra, where we are based, currently has registered the largest number of confirmed cases in India and as a result we have been on lock down since 24 March. Before the national and state governments intervened, we had already taken action by stopping visitors to our 23 projects, reducing our field work and providing our staff and beneficiaries with health and sanitation support. As a direct result of our early interventions, we are happy to report that so far we have no suspected cases of the virus.

Our Rehab Centre (childcare institution) and women's shelter have been closed to visitors since March. Our skeleton staff includes our caregivers who are working hard to keep our women and children busy with educational and recreational activities. We are doing our best to have fun to quell their concerns and have been using technology to continue online classes, while also enjoying treasure hunts, fashion shows, Zumba classes, art exhibitions, Lego building sessions, dance competitions, film making and much, much more.

People living in slums have been hit extra hard as many rely on daily wages to feed their families, as the lock down forced most businesses to close, people who live from day to day have seen their meager incomes and food supplies rapidly disappear. Living in cramped and basic quarters they are also at a higher risk from COVID 19 and our teams have been responding by providing food and hygiene kits and emergency financial relief to help them fight off both the virus and starvation.

Usually we would be reporting on the start of the school year on 15 June but the Indian government has suggested that schools will not reopen until at least October. With India’s extreme lock down closing our own school and after school classes and limited technology available to our pupils, it has been a challenge to continue to support our children’s educations. Our staff, children and their parents have been amazing in rising to the challenge. When strict lock down measures prevented anyone from being outside our slum teachers used Whatsapp to contact students via their parents’ mobile phones. They set tasks and assignments and asked those who could to send photos and videos of their progress. Now lockdown has eased a little our teachers are now able to hold small classes in their own homes and conduct home visits to our 700 pupils, one child at a time, to check in on their work and set more homework.

As our Snehalaya English Medium School for the 200+ children living in our shelter home was also forced to close, our shelter home caregiving staff, some of whom have teaching degrees, have been conducting classes for 1-8 standard, while our older children have been attending daily online classes with volunteer teachers. Not only are our children continuing their education but the routine of school hours is helping them cope with the stress of lock down.

We are relieved that our strong foundations and networks meant we were able to keep our children learning, however UNESCO estimates that there are 700 million girls worldwide affected by school closures. With women and girls making up the majority of caregivers, healthcare providers, and essential workers, we are concerned that many girls will never return to the classroom. With so many families facing extreme poverty and loss of livelihoods, they may feel more pressure to force their daughters into early marriage or child or domestic labour. Our projects such as our slum centers, IT center, vocational training centers, hospital, Childline and other outreach services will continue to promote the importance of education and offer support to enable every girl in our district the opportunity to complete 12 full years of schooling.

Now more than ever, your support is vital. We only exist because of wonderful people like you. While we completely understand your own situation may prevent you from donating, you can still help by spreading the word about our work and raise awareness of the situation for vulnerable women and children in India.

Never before has it been so important to know that we are all in this together. Please take good care to stay safe and healthy.

Keeping girls learning
Keeping girls learning

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May 26, 2020

Keeping babies safe during Corona

Blissfully unaware of COVID 19
Blissfully unaware of COVID 19

We sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. As a valued supporter of our Adoption Center we want to reassure you that the love and care of the babies in our care continues despite the challenges the current pandemic and lock down is presenting on a daily basis.

Maharashtra, where we are based, currently has registered the largest number of confirmed cases in India and as a result we have been on lock down since 24 March. Before the national and state governments intervened, we had already taken action by stopping visitors to our 23 projects, reducing our field work and providing our staff and beneficiaries with health and sanitation support. As a direct result of our early interventions, we are happy to report that so far we have no suspected cases of the virus.

Despite a reduction in our services, many of our staff remain at work to provide support to our beneficiaries who do not have homes or families they can safely return back to. The same applies at our Snehankur Adoption Centre, which has been closed to visitors since March. A skeleton staff includes our caregivers and we are conducting regular disinfecting of the premises, floors, toys, and so on, as well as monitoring children for signs of flu and crisis management planning.

Unfortunately the lock down means that pregnant women and girls are unable to access maternity hospitals and are being forced to give birth at home. Normally we rely on maternity hospitals and professionals to refer underage pregnant girls to us so we can support them through their pregnancy and take over responsibility for their unwanted babies if that is what they chose. With a lack of access to maternity services we are already seeing an increase in abandoned babies. In the past week alone, two newborns have been left on the street and found by our supporters who fortunately heard their cries in time. We were able to find one mother, a 16 year old girl forced to give birth at home after which her parents threw her baby away! Despite our search we have been unable to find the mother of the second baby. We are glad to report that both babies are now healthy and safe in our center.

We remain worried about all of the other pregnancies being conducted at home without adequate support both for delivery and those unable to care for their newborn. Our Snehankur team continues to support those who approach us for help while our volunteers, Childline team, women's shelter and other staff continue to remain vigilant in searching for others through our regular nightly patrols and socially distanced outreach work.

With all adoptions currently on hold, our center is already over capacity with 36 babies awaiting adoption. Our team is dedicated and is managing but, as we are unable to employ additional staff, our already limited resources are becoming overstretched. With no end to lockdown in sight we are doing everything we can, but are also deeply concerned on the lasting impact in our communities and how we will manage the anticipated increase in demand for our support post-lockdown.

While Snehalaya is responding to the immediate crisis and the well-publicised plights of daily wage and migrant workers through a range of aid packages and practical support, we also continue to work for and with our existing beneficiaries, including the babies, and other communities most affected by the lock down. Your support has never been so vital. We understand your own situation may prevent you from donating at this time but you can still help by spreading the word about our work and raising awareness of the situation for unmarried others, pregnant women and abandoned babies in India.

Never before has it been so important to know that we are all in this together. Please take good care to stay safe and healthy.

Still locating & rescuing newborn infants
Still locating & rescuing newborn infants
Keeping our center Corona-free
Keeping our center Corona-free

Links:

Mar 19, 2020

Update from Snehalaya

Creative repsonse
Creative repsonse

Hello from India. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy in these unprecedented days of Corona virus. Like most of the planet we are now on lock down which is having a significant impact on how we operate our projects.

Schools have been closed since the start of the week and today in Ahmednagar, where we operate, all shops and non-essential businesses have been closed. So far we only have three cases in our district but we are pleased that precaution measures are being put in place. While we don’t want to dwell on the pandemic we do want to reassure you that we are prioritising the health and wellbeing of our beneficiaries. This includes closing the slum schools you support until at least 31 March (the current date the government has directed). Fortunately we were nearing the end of exam season so most of our children have been able to complete their end of year assessments.

Obviously living in a slum makes social distancing impossible so our staff have been using their time to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the virus and promoting hand-washing, hygiene and other health precaution measures to the communities. The children have been provided their school books to work from home and our team are also preparing for the next academic year by reviewing and updating our highly successful curriculum which we brought in four years ago.

We have also closed our English Medium School based in the Rehabilitation Center where we shelter over 200 children, including around 100 who are HIV+ and are considered ‘high risk’. We are using the ‘break’ to continue to hone the basics of reading, writing and maths that will consolidate our children’s learning once schools reopen. We have also developed a program of extra-curricular activities to keep their bodies and minds active, including Lego competitions which have identified a huge number of future engineers and architects!

All of our projects are now closed to non-essential visitors and we have placed hand-washing and sanitising materials at all entry points for staff and beneficiaries entering each day. Our Childline team has also distributed free masks to all of our children.

There are many other measures being taken across our 22 projects, all with the health of the most vulnerable and at risk of our beneficiaries at the core. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary. We truly appreciate all of your support during these challenging times and hope you are assured that we are as committed as always to meeting the specific needs of our beneficiaries in response to the current ever-changing environment.

Future engineer?
Future engineer?

Links:

 
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