Dharavi is the last of the places a person will like to discover when he comes to the glamour city of Mumbai. Although, in the recent times thanks to movies like Slumdog Millionaire, it has become an indigenous element of the travel plan of any firang visiting Mumbai, assuming to see what real India is. However, this extends beyond...
Social Service League of St.Xaviers College, Mumbai discovered this potential which Dharavi has. The aim was to involving well to do students in discovering for themselves what lies beyond Asia's largest slums. With visionaries like Tanvi Shah and Lizann Fernandez, there were tie-ups done with URBZ (urbz.net) and Sneha (www.snehamumbai.org) .
This picture is taken just outside the URBZ shelter. There were initial obstacles as to what type of program, college going youth can bring in. Will those used to a comfortable lifestyles and latest gizmos, be able to interact and in fact make a difference in the lives of small children. So, they decided to name the program 'Discover Dharavi'. The objective being discovering for oneself, how one with the passion to make a change can mould himself in a completely new environment and start with small steps.
This picture shows how Amitav Ghosh has extended beyond boundaries and language barriers following the SSL motto says "Leave the place better than it was." This should be an inspiration to Indians as should we wait for people from outside the country start transforming it?
Moving on with the story, posters were put up on the St.Xaviers and social media (Facebook) was used to appeal to the youth. Similarly, classroom announcements were made. So began the process of attracting youngsters to Discover Dharavi. The response were good, with many excited to visit Dharavi in the first place. But the question still remained, 'Can this be made sustainable?'
Thus, the journey began. From exploring the bylanes of Dharavi which are confusing, to exploring the underground flourishing industry which lies within, it was an eye-opening experience.
Finally, they made their way through and the work began. The door opened and now they had tasks to accomplish and challenges to face, quite different from the ones at college. They found this process interesting. More than a discovery of Dharavi it turned out to be a journey a self-discovery.
Another, task undertaken was to invite the slum kids and paint the Dharavi Shelter. As seen in the picture, you can see children engaged in creativity and happy to build something of their own.
This picture shows how a cute dog made a rather broken wall more beautiful.
Such, adventures thus became a routine. With students visiting the shelters, twice a week after college and when they got time. And this time, the 'time' they spent with the children mattered the most. With making them dance of boogie woogie, to teaching them nursery rhymes, narrating stories in English and asking them to introduce themselves in English, it boosted their confidence.
Shown in the picture, Xavierites finding transport back to home. But somethings brought them back to this place. Some emotional incidents being pulled by children to see their colony ganpati or just being asked by them ' Will you come next week again?'
The objective of writing this blog is to draw light on how this model can be prototype by other colleges. Rather than just doing social work to get media attention and acknowledgement, how can youth be involved in impacting the grassroots.
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Lizann Fernandez and Gisho Gajbhiye.