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