Reported By : Meeta Bhandari and Nirmala Singh

 

Lighting Lives

 

The relationship between human race and their bond with ‘Home’ is difficult to pen in exactitude. The feeling of ‘Home’ may be different for each one of us. For someone, a home may be a safe haven, where he is always embraced by open arms with his loved ones, for another home could be a place where he conveniently shuts the noise of the world behind the door, seek to find his own tranquility and revitalizes himself to face the world one more day. ‘Home’ could also be a place of a person’s physical manifestation of his lifelong hardwork, his definition of living a part of his dream. For innumerable others, the foremost feeling of ‘Home’ is correlated with the feeling of security, of belonging, irrespective of the many shores that life takes us to. Definitions may be varied, but undeniably, ‘Home’ has a significant correlation with a person’s identity, of shaping up his emotional construct.

 

However, every year, a sizeable population of the country, migrate from the countryside, leaving behind their home and families, to the cities, in search of livelihood, in search of a better life. Agrarian crisis, lack of employment avenues and economic opportunities are the key factors that push this migration drive. Life in the city poses another degree of challenge for the migrants. Lack of money makes it extremely difficult for them to afford roof over their head or even earn three square meal a day. Due to lack of identity documentation and gap in skill, they find it extremely difficult to find employable opportunities and are also denied access to social entitlements. Most of the sections of the population are thus forced to live on the streets, their identity becomes that of a ‘Homeless’, living in impoverished conditions, exposed to the vagaries of nature and bargaining every single day with life, for an opportunity to survive.

 

In an attempt towards addressing the concerns of the homeless and to bridge the skill gap, IGSSS (Indo – Global Social Service Society) started a vocational training programme tailored for the homeless. The idea was to through skill building help them start income generation activities or facilitate institutional employment opportunities. With this purview, IGSSS started providing electrical training in the few selected shelter homes in Delhi meant for the homeless. The success of the initiative enthused the organization and after a period of one year, they extended the programme to the slum area of Baljeet Nagar. The purpose was to integrate the youths under the programme and provide them gainful employment opportunities.

 

Baljeet Nagar is part of Anand Parvat, a settlement created almost 20 years ago when immigrants from nearby states, primarily Rajasthan and Bihar, moved to Delhi in search of better employment and education opportunities. Baljeet Nagar has around 4000 jhuggis. Lack of skill building opportunities has severely affected the community living in the slum. They are mostly involved in unorganized sectors, working for long hours with minimal wage rate. Hence, there has been bare minimum upliftment in their living conditions. Poverty has perpetuated from generation after generation. Most of the youths in the area also became trapped under this vicious condition and remained bereft of any skill building opportunities. Raju was one such youth.

 

Eighteen year old Raju was one amongst the five children of Mohammad Nasoor, who migrated 20 years back from Darbhanga district of Bihar, after incurring heavy loss in his small business and became penniless. Mohammad Nasoor used to do tailoring work to sustain his family and theirs was a hand to mouth existence. With the passage of time, Mohammad Nasoor’s eyesight became weak and he was unable to sew. In a bid to fend for the family, Raju’s mother and elder sister started working as domestic help in nearby localities. The income was still not sufficient to run the family, eventually when Raju was in ninth standard he dropped out of school and started sewing work. But his heart was broken as he never liked the work and wanted to do electrical work, his inspiration was an uncle living in the neighborhood.

 

However, when Raju came to know about the vocational training programme started by IGSSS during a visit by the team, it opened a door of hope for him. The programme was designed by IGSSS in discussion with the community. One of the challenges that came to the fore was unpredictable working hours of the community and lack of documents such as academic certificates, which posed a threat towards retention of the programme. Therefore, the programme was run in a flexible manner with no mandatory attending hours and also no certification was needed for enrolment in the programme. As most of these youths hailed from extremely difficult living conditions, in a bid to relieve their stress, inject positivity and boost their confidence, the youths were also provided life skill training. It was done through constant interaction between the teachers and the participant youths, their strengths were highlighted, communication trainings were provided and the entire programme functioned in a motivating environment. The vocational training focused on providing Multi Skill training and the duration was for three months.

 

The Multi Skill Technician (MST) training programme which encompassed Refrigeration, Plumbing and Electrical training helped in shaping the life of many youths like Raju in the Baljeet Nagar slum. Today Raju is working in a nearby electronic shop and earns around 6,000 rupees per month and supports his family. Besides, improving his family’s economic conditions, he is also supporting the education of his younger brother and eye treatment of his father. Today, he no longer remains depressed and a radiant smile has replaced it instead. Interaction with fellow students and teachers has also enhanced his personality and he deals with his client with much more confidence.

 

Innumerable other youths enrolled in the programme also boasts of similar stories. The vocational training programme has contributed to the placement of 24 youths in the Voltas Service Centre and 22 have started their own income generation initiative. The programme even though at a small scale but with determined effort and strong conviction, has started scripting stories of change and lighting lives.