At Angel Xpress Foundation, we recognize that children living in slums have limited opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty. Inadequate socio-political structures push marginalized communities further down the social order, creating an urgent need for intervention to ensure that these children become adults who are educated, responsible, aware, and productive. It is critical to empower future generations via education and mentoring so they can access opportunities for sustained livelihood and prosperity for themselves and their families. Our mission is therefore to create a society that is inclusive, equal, and fair, and to bridge the social and economic divide by empowering chi... read more At Angel Xpress Foundation, we recognize that children living in slums have limited opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty. Inadequate socio-political structures push marginalized communities further down the social order, creating an urgent need for intervention to ensure that these children become adults who are educated, responsible, aware, and productive. It is critical to empower future generations via education and mentoring so they can access opportunities for sustained livelihood and prosperity for themselves and their families. Our mission is therefore to create a society that is inclusive, equal, and fair, and to bridge the social and economic divide by empowering children from marginalised communities via a solid education from the primary level till they are gainfully employed. We aim to assimilate entire communities living on the fringes of society into mainstream society, via a collaborative process in which the educated affluent are trained to play the role of educators, mentors and guides to their less privileged counterparts living within the same geographies. The Problem: Inequity is pervasive and deeply entrenched in today's world with wealth concentrated in few hands. In India, 70% of the 1.3 billion population deals with various levels of deprivation, resulting in large scale migration in search of sustenance to overpopulated urban centres, causing burgeoning slums and creating a visibly disturbing social divide. The education system available to the poor in India is overburdened and does not deliver. Here are a few features of life for a child in the slums. ENVIRONMENT Uneducated/unaware parents Inadequate exposure Limited Resources Poor teaching at schools Harsh family environment Poor hygiene and grooming Malnourishment Exposed to violence, drug and alcohol abuse BEHAVIOURS Disinterested in learning and attending school Anti-Social, Lacking civic sense, Irresponsible Desperation, Attention seeking Violent and abusive behaviour Either too Aggressive or too timid Indiscipline Either Obedient or rebellious Sneaky, street smart, lying Bad food habits Addictions - tobacco EMOTIONAL Fiercely Seeking Opportunity Operate from scarcity /survival mentality Seek immediate gratification Non-committal Lack of trust Loving and grateful KEY NEEDS and GAPS Readiness to transition seamlessly into higher education and professional courses, where English is the medium of learning Upgrading ability to acquire meaningful knowledge and explore opportunities. E.g. ability to use computers, access technology-based learning tools, access facilities like banking, healthcare etc. Vocational guidance and skills for job-readiness Mentoring and counseling Possessions like clothes, shoes, books, toys, computers The Solution: Angel Xpress Foundation has successfully implemented an idea that uses the coexistence of slums and high-rises to bridge the social divide, in Mumbai, India, home to over 22 million people of which 41.3% live in slums. Under our "Free Learning Center" Program, socially conscious educated citizens, home makers from affluent backgrounds and active retirees are recruited, trained, and guided to set up a community service program in their neighborhood. Volunteers receive extensive training from AXF for skill development as teachers; a core team is chosen from among the volunteer body and is provided training for leadership and social entrepreneurship so they can lead their own neighborhood program independently. Volunteers tutor and mentor school going children from nearby slums in freely available community spaces like shaded parks for an hour daily. They also raise resources to operate the program, and engage in redistribution drives to address material deprivation. How is our model unique? In our model, citizen participation serves as a key tool. This mentorship and educational program is a platform for members of rich and poor communities to come together, interact, and share knowledge and resources. It is different than NGOs which are simply imparting education to underprivileged students. We are also unique in that we are in the creation of self-sustaining community service programs that can be run independently with minimal resources that will not have to depend on grants and donations. It is a responsive program where our volunteers are assisted by the central services but can adapt it to the need of the community that they seek to serve. In this regard, each of our learning center is unique in terms of strengths, opportunities and challenges. The AXF Free Learning center program is a long term intervention that brings about real change, children join us when they are 6 to 12 years of age and typically stay with us till they are 15. We are now working on introducing a youth engagement program that will deliver vocational guidance and career counseling to help our students make informed choices about their careers, thereby working towards creation of sustained livelihood and prosperity. The Program: The free learning center delivers the following: On Weekdays - One hour daily lessons in English and Math, each. On Weekends - Extra -curricular activities ranging from art and craft, music lessons, drama and theatrics, science experiments to yoga, sports activities, mindfulness and meditation practices etc., ensuring a curriculum that is targeted at holistic development. Children are taken for outings to museums, art festivals, national parks, film screenings, plays, sports events, competitions, school visits, etc. Regular workshops on socially relevant topics are conducted by partner NGOs and counseling sessions are conducted by other volunteers. A daily healthy snack is provided to children at all our centers and annual shoes, clothes, and toy redistribution drives are organized to encourage participation from a wider segment of the urban affluent populace while filling a critical need gap. What we have achieved - The Outcomes CHILDREN - BEHAVIORAL Improved academic performance and critical thinking Development of trust through counseling and mentorship Positive behavioral changes -confidence, values, and sense of responsibility Social consciousness and gender equality Collaborative thinking replaces aggressive, violent, abusive approach CHIDREN - PHYSICAL Safe space for learning and interaction Improved health and nutrition Workshops on healthy eating habits, hygiene and grooming Medical, dental check-up camps that lead to overall improved health OUTCOMES FOR VOLUNTEERS Enhanced Sense of purpose. Skill development Become part of like-minded-community in the neighborhood Participation in a larger cause Creates sense of identity, pride and status in their social circle Become ambassadors for the cause- help in expansion The Way Forward The number of children who need help is vast, as is the scope of franchising this program. AXF offers free franchise to citizen bodies across Mumbai who wish to adopt this format. Starting from 18 children at 1 location in 2012, the program has expanded to 12 locations across Mumbai, encompassing 1239 students with the help of 387 volunteers. However, we have just touched the tip of the iceberg. We are in a rapid expansion phase and are currently talking to 7 new communities are keen to adopt our format. By 2022, we hope to bring 10,000 children under this program by training 2000 volunteers. Over the next 3 years, we hope to complete the first phase of expansion by setting up of 18-20 community managed new "Free Learning Centers" that will teach 1500 new children across Mumbai. While the centers will need minimal inputs from the AXF central team and will be almost completely self sustained by the end of the 3 year period, AXF is raising funds to invest in the resources that are required to actualize the expansion plan.
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