Karm Marg Report First Quarter 2012
We celebrated our fifteenth anniversary in February 2012 with friends and supporters from different parts of the world. Along with having fun we had the opportunity to reflect on the past and look at the challenges coming up.
Karm Marg was born fifteen years ago, when the support options for vulnerable children on the streets of Delhi were few and far between. It made a modest beginning, teaching children at the railway station to make and sell bags from the discarded newspapers they found in trains. Karm Marg now runs a full-fledged home in Faridabad with an average of 60 children and 20 staff per year. Over the years we have diversified from newspaper bags and now make a range of products primarily out of waste materials. These include a variety of stationary and paper products, cloth bags, jewelry, clothing, candles and wood products. A part of the costs of running the home are met through the sale of these products. We train and contract out the manufacturing work to women and youth from the surrounding villages.
At present we have 53 children (4 to 18 years old), including 4 of them with special needs (disabled) are given shelter, nutrition, medical care, education, extracurricular activities and counseling. We also have about 200 beneficiaries from the families of the women who help us make our eco-friendly products.
Our main Activities and Achievements
This year 11 young boys and girls wrote the final school year exam, 3 from the open school, and 2 from a non-formal school and 6 from a regular school. The exam results came in during April and May 99% of the children did well and passed the exam. We succeeded in finding new opportunities outside Karm Marg for our young adults. Two of the children have joined an apprenticeship program to learn catering. One boy started working with a TV channel as an assistant editor. One girl was selected for a 3year residential teacher-training program at a well know institute. We have applied for a sponsorship program for one boy who wants to learn art. One of the girls has started working at a fuel pump and another girl found a job at an organization in Jaipur taking care of children with special needs.
We have also started working with small industries so that they can take on our children as apprentices and later employ them. We started a new strategy for the children to take interest and participate in our internal training programs by making it compulsory for those above the age of 14 to learn handicraft skills for two hours everyday. We have instituted a follow up and progress chart to be filled by the trainer every week, so we can monitor the interest level of children and help us focus on the areas in which they need support. As a result we now train 21 young adults 11of them fulltime and 10 part-time. We also conducted a series of career counseling and evaluation workshops to help them recognize their potential and interests as well as to expose them to new opportunities.
With a view to improving the food that we eat, we started growing organic vegetables in the month of March. Once it gets underway, we hope to generate a surplus for the market and also hope that some of the children will develop an interest for organic farming.
Our 5 children with special needs attended a four-week workshop in May. They got a chance to try out block printing, painting, making paper bags, paper Mache and cooking. They had a great time at the workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to assess how much these severely disabled children would be capable of understanding and carrying out livelihood related tasks. The results were much better than expected. We are now in the process of designing a training program that will teach them skills to help them lead productive and fulfilling lives. We are also looking for funding for this program.
Six of our children attended theatre workshop during the month of June. We are looking forward to the final performance in the first week of July.
In June we also organized two workshops on non-violent communication and restorative circle. Our staff and young adults learnt about transforming and resolving conflicts within our community and were made aware of ways to communicate in a positive manner with one another.
We finally got a long-standing dream project underway. This is to gather information about each tree on our campus and highlight its special characteristics. We found an innovative way of narrating these in the form of a story coming from each tree. Our next step is to display these stories using the recycled materials.
We were finding it difficult to keep our staff because of high inflation, the difficulty in reaching Karm Marg and the level of salaries at Karm Marg. Starting January; we have raised the salaries of all the existing staff as per the market rate.
Looking ahead our main challenge will be to motivate our young adults to learn handicraft skills that will help them to earn a livelihood. It is sometimes difficult to make them understand the need to become self-reliant and find the right opportunities to enable them to do so. One of the hurdles is the high cost of training institutes and colleges; the second hurdle is accommodation and the high cost of living, while they are training. Our attempt to set up a transition-home in Bhatola is facing resistance from the local residents’ association who are uncomfortable with young men and women sharing a house. Also with severe inflation affecting everything, we are looking to raise additional funds to maintain and hire new staff to sustain it.
Recently a number of badly run children’s homes have been reported in the media. As a result the local govt. has become strict about registering homes under the Child Protection Policy called the JJ act. The JJact stipulates that boys and girls have to be separated right from the age of 10 and not to have any ‘children’ above the age of 18. We are now in the process of registering our home, but we will have to look for ways and resources to redesign our campus. In view of our policy to create a nourishing family like atmosphere, there are a number of shared spaces for boys and girls in the existing design. In the month of April one boy joined our family. Once this matter is sorted out we will invite more children to make up for the ones that graduated from Karm Marg this year.
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