It’s my 7th year of association with VIDYA, which I proudly claim to be a purely grassroots organization with its heart beating in the urban slum communities. These days many NGOs are preferring to work through schools as it is more hassle-free and convenient. However, what happens to the child then when she goes back home from school? Where does she acquire skills not imparted by the school? The entire afternoon stretches out, mostly with parents at work, no one to guide her, nurture her or protect her. It is then that the safe, joyful and enriching learning environments that VIDYA creates come to the rescue. They are a safe haven for the child, where she can learn in a healthy and happy atmosphere.

Is it enough to educate someone to create long lasting impact and address all the surrounding issues? How do we transform communities that are rife with crime, conflict, congestion, and uncleanliness into harmonious, hygienic, healthy and safe living spaces? Is that dream too far-fetched? Or can we achieve it by educating, empowering and enabling the residents towards community-led transformation?

I believe we can. Through holistic development of the children and youth in these communities. By enriching their learning, by broadening their horizons, by imparting life skills and soft skills, by digitally empowering them, by positioning them as the young leaders and role models in the community, by setting examples of cleanliness at our centers and in the community through hands-on drives, by working with parents and community members to raise their awareness and change their mindsets, by networking with and involving relevant organizations working on various community issues, by setting up vibrant culture hubs in the community to bring positivity, and doing everything we can to empower individuals to help themselves and others. Yes, I do feel we can transform entire communities. We can make them better places for our children and youth. It is a long and challenging process for sure, but we have taken the first steps and now we only look ahead and march forward towards our goal.