A Balwadi for Kids of Construction Workers
Sharika Dhar 22 June 2017
Construction sites are the largest employers of migrant workers, with approximately 11 million men and women working on projects across India. The children of these workers suffer from a lack of proper food, hygiene, sanitation, education, etc, and are left to fend for themselves in tiny shanties or at the dusty sites where their mothers work. For the past 40 years, Mumbai Mobile Crèche (MMC) has been striving to help migrant families and their children. 
 
“MMC’s vision is for all children to have a nurturing and happy childhood and, with this vision, we have been running day-care centres for children of migrant workers for over four decades,” says Vrishali Pispati, chief executive officer of the organisation.
 
It is one of the few NGOs that specifically supports construction labourers and has reached over 100,000 children across 270 construction sites in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. 
 
MMC’s marvellous story begins in 1969 when its founder, Meera Mahadevan, picked up and soothed a wailing baby near Rajghat, during the Gandhi Centenary celebrations, and realised that many children and infants at the construction site had nobody to look out for them. It is then that the idea of a mobile crèche was born and she was joined soon by her friend Devika Singh as co-founder.  
 
In a matter of years, there were many helping hands; in 1972, it branched out to Mumbai and in 1980 to Pune. In September 2006, the organisation split into three separate entities—Mumbai Mobile Crèches, Mobile Crèches (Delhi) and Tara Mobile Crèches (Pune). MMC is now a Section 25 company that reaches out to 4,500 children every year.  
 
MMC’s day-care centres cater to children from birth to 14 years. Ms Pispati emphasises, “We aim to promote ‘child-friendly sites’; where every child living on a construction site is safe, healthy and educated, and able to enjoy their childhood. The challenge is to look after children whose families come from 15 different states of the country and speak over 10 different languages.”
 
MMC’s education programme includes a crèche, Balwadi, and an ‘after school support’. The crèche, for babies under three, concentrates on creating a safe environment; the Balwadi, for children from three to five years, tries to promote overall growth and development of the children and get them ready for school. The ‘after school support’ is for children from six to 14 and targets enrolment and retention of these children in municipal schools. 
 
“The curriculum is planned yearly and teachers meet every other month for feedback and support. Centres follow the same standardised programme to ensure consistency and better sharing, learning and monitoring,” adds Ms Pispati.
 
Nutrition and hygiene is a big priority at the centres with a planned daily diet for children of all age groups. They are given four meals a day, as well as calcium and vitamin supplements. There are weekly visits from doctors and MMC also organises special health camps for eye and dental check-ups to screen for common illnesses.
 
In recent years, MMC has observed a proliferation of smaller construction sites across Mumbai, which makes it difficult to set up a full-fledged day-care centre. In August 2013, this led to creation of ‘Care on Wheels’, a mobile bus that is equipped with educational and health materials and MMC’s care-givers. 
 
Ms Pispati says, “It is deeply ironic that the children of the very people who produce the symbols of economic development—skyscrapers, residential and commercial complexes—are denied the ability to participate in and benefit from the progress the city promises.”
 
Donations are eligible for exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act. You can also offer support by volunteering.
 
Mumbai Mobile Crèche
1st Floor, Abbas Building, Mereweather Road, Colaba, 
Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001 
Contact: 022 22020869 / 022 22020879

 

Comments
Silloo Marker
4 years ago
Mumbai Mobile Creches is doing extremely useful work by taking care of children who would otherwise be left to fend for themselves. Anyone giving time or money to such an organisation is certainly giving to a good cause.
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