Very young children in the poorest tribal villages of southern Rajasthan are often left at home alone or with young siblings whilst their parents work. They lack adequate care, safety and nourishing food, resulting in malnutrition and ill-health. Seva Mandir's day care (balwadi) programme addresses these issues by offering a safe, loving environment, nutritious meals and supplements for children from birth to 5 years old, for six hours a day, six days a week.
Difficult and dangerous hilly terrain and long distances from government run daycare centres mean that many small children are left at home or accompany their mothers to the fields whilst they work. Where there are government daycare, they are often poorly run and do not cover hours or ages for pre-school care. Without adequate food and stimulating surroundings many of these children fall sick, are anemic, under nourished and are unlikely to go to school at all in the future.
Our daycare centres are set up in some of the remotest areas of southern Rajasthan. They are open for six hours a day, six days a week, enabling mothers to leave their children in a safe, loving and stimulating environment. Local women are trained to work with children from birth up to 5 years old and register births, monitor malnutrition and health. Children are served one meal a day with additional nutritious supplements and they get essential health care via immunisation camps.
The young children receive nourishing food and supplements, health monitoring, activity-based learning and simple hygiene and sanitation practices. Mothers are happy to leave their children in safety whilst they work and are counselled on diet and health, which results in less malnutrition and illness. The children become more socially aware and more likely to join mainstream education. There are currently 186 daycare centres (balwadis) covering 4,500 children in remote rural areas.