Sneha Bhavan, is a unique home for boys who do not have the luxury of being able to live with their families. This can be due to parents not being able to care for the kids appropriately, trouble the kids have had at home, some have run away from home, and were found on the street or hanging out at train stations begging for change. It houses at this current point around about 84 boys. The Director, and the employees at the home are all volunteers from the church, who are trained in social work; they have spent many years with these kids, looking after the day to day needs of the kids, as well as helping them through any troubles they may have. It is unique to Kerala in the way that it is managed and funded, and there are many other shelters from around Kerala and India, mimicking what Sneha Bhavan is doing.
This summer was our first tour of Duty at Sneha Bhavan, having been to the home a few times, albeit just as a pop in, I was sure that we were going to be in for a real treat, but also something that was going to test our ability’s. The summer camp was designed to help build relationships with the kids and the people involved with the boy’s home. The camp had been split into three sections: English, Sports and Construction. Giving the boys and volunteers a chance to learn, have fun and improve their home. As this was the boys summer holidays, it was a time for them to enjoy themselves, and an opportunity for volunteers to get to know the boys on a different level to that of the classroom. It’s not about just getting involved on a surface level with the kids, but to show them that we are here to be an active part of their development, this was our motivation.
Developing relationships is a key element when working in community development and one that is overlooked far too easily. By working to what the community and partners needs are, can a development process start to take hold. Giving the group ownership of what they have done, more so what we have all done together is much more powerful than a hand out. By getting our hands dirty together we earned the respect of the boys and community, to show that we are here for them, here for the long haul.