Aasraa Trust is an organization dedicated to nurturing and preserving the very vital resources of any nation: children. Aasraa seeks to provide opportunity, education, nutrition and medical attention to the kids of our streets and slums in and around Dehradun. More than that, Aasraa provides these often- forsaken, neglected and marginalised kids with a chance to play fair and live a life of dignity and purpose. Their motto, is to-“level the playing field.”
Aasraa, has successfully zeroed in on the major problems that arise with having a vision that is as noble as is ambitious, videlicet, the monumental difficulties involved in inducing a seminal change in the mind-set of people who still don’t see the right to education being as fundamental as the right to freedom. I can now fully appreciate the verity of this statement as I write, as avouched by my experience with the Outreach Team, which I would like to call the “lifeline” of Aasraa. This team faces tremendous challenges in dispensing its services; getting kids to understand why they need to know the alphabet is by no means, child’s play, literally. Moreover, given their social stratum and the customs these kids swear by, a categorical lack of moral and social etiquettes simply spells greater effort on the part of the team. Working with them was a grim jolt of reality, a realisation that caught me in the very pit of my stomach. With them I got to explore a side of Doon I thought never existed; a dark truth that lies hidden in the slums of Govindgarh and Bindal. I was shocked to learn about the stark conditions that our street children live in and the constant jeopardy of the street they battle every day. We read about such things often; but to actually see it in person at close quarters is quite another thing and to think that one needs to pay to live in the places that these kids do is simply outrageous and unfortunate. It gave my heart immense pleasure to see the Outreach Team at work there, bringing light into the lives of these bright-eyed kids who have nowhere to go.
Aasraa’s holistic approach to ameliorating these kids is quite structured and commendable. The various bridge courses and remedial classes are well-intentioned and I met some really talented kids on board the centres which administer the same. Almost every kid here is a living story, waiting to tell itself. Never before has interacting with people been such a pleasing task for an introvert like me. The friendships and bonds fostered in the process will remain beyond time. The teachers and ancillary staff are very dedicated and dutiful; they take great pride and joy in their work. It is thrilling to see Aasraa invests not only in the little angels of Doon, but also in the Change Agents it employs to guide them. Workshops to whet and hone teaching skills as well as to revise pedagogical equipment and ideology in order to obtain optimal results is a refreshing measure. An equally appealing concept is the incorporation of meals, clothes for winter, and the like. The sensitive timing for various projects and myriad in-situ functioning norms especially of the mobile learning centres under the Anti Begging Campaign (ABC) are revealing of the effective cogent strategising followed here. Though the regular teething troubles straddle projects under the ABC, by way of audio-visual infotainment, doles and handing out important tasks to these kids, invokes a sense of responsibility dormant in them. It’ll certainly go a long way in polishing the rough diamonds we have.
Another remarkable thing I observed was the relation that these kids share with their mentors. They more or less recognise that Aasraa is truly a haven for them. The older kids from the hostel profess tremendous gratitude for Aasraa; and they have very colourful dreams. The kids adore their teachers and enjoy the activity days where they have fun engaging in creative and fun exercises. They eagerly wait for their computer and music classes; and show great aptitude for them. Aasraa really has made humongous efforts to ensure their kids can partake of every facility the technological revolution has to offer. Music classes are a much-needed break from the classroom drudgery.
Aasraa also acknowledges the fact that formal education isn’t really the answer to every child’s upliftment, given the backgrounds the kids have. The fact that people still give to begging kids means a greater opportunity cost associated with everything they do save begging. To circumvent this catch in a way-of-sorts, Aasraa also provides vocational training like sewing and block printing in conjunction with basic literacy so that children can lead a dignified and respectful life. This is a praiseworthy contraption to wean kids from begging.
All said and done, Aasraa is doing a magnanimous job and shows a lot of promise to become a premier institution devoted to kids who have nowhere to go. Working with Aasraa was a larger than life experience. It gently synchronised the blue-sky and rosy notions of a naïve enthusiast like me with the ground reality. Where 5 kids will turn down an opportunity to a better and respectable life with education due to circumstances, there’s a kid who will step up to Aasraa and ask them to hold their hand. Being with them exposed a lot of questions to me, questions to which I might not have any answers now. But I leave with questions, and a readiness to search for answers vis-a-vis the relatively uninformed state I came in. And I think it sure beats ignorance, which has no glory.
Aasraa has really restored my faith in humanity and it makes me feel hopeful for all the wonderful kids we have with us. These kids, though different in every aspect, are strikingly similar when it comes to the way they regard you. They have the same look in their eyes-a beautiful, haunting, searching and curious look, and it seemed to speak directly to me: “Who are you? Are you willing to love us? To accept us for who we are?” It is a look that craves love, affection and acceptance. And it is here I see hope for these kids, for Aasraa, for humanity itself. If human beings crave for love, maybe the world can be saved. I leave with a heavy heart, but a warm afterglow that’ll stay with me for the years to come.
Thank you Aasraa for all that you do and this wonderful opportunity to work with you.
Volunteer Aditi Singh
II year, Economics Hons.
Miranda house, Delhi University