It’s not a project it’s a movement!

Sangeeta Sharma, currently, Manager Marketing & Product for India, working for Lufthansa for 24 ½ years, initiator of the Diwali Campaign and project coordinator for the Street Smart project talks about her project and the challenges of helping street children in India.

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Street Smart, India

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IBAN: DE89 5005 0201 0200 0292 23

How did you find your project?

My husband and I are always visiting his family in Dehradun. Five years ago, I met one of the trustees of Aasraa who was involved in this Charity project helping street children. These Children are begging at traffic lights when they turn red. We started talking and I was impressed with the work. From that year on we supported and helped the project every time we came to visit our family. The concept was impressive. They had learned that the children begging at traffic lights would not come to a certain place to learn because they had to stay there to beg for money, so the Street Smart team decided to go to the traffic lights and teach the kids there. Then came the rainy season after 6 months. By then the children were hooked. They, now, started coming to special shelters to learn further. Each child was paid Rs 150 to come and learn. This is what they would have earned everyday by begging on the streets. The Trust started with only 21 children but now, almost 5 years later, the program reaches over 800 children. My Husband and I started getting involved in the project by sending Computers, warm clothes, old clothes, socks for winters. Amongst our friends circle, we requested everyone to not give us birthday and Diwali presents but instead donate this money to the project. Lots of our friends support this project now giving donations instead of spending money on presents for each other.

What was best experience you had with your project?

This December, I went for a visit unannounced and arrived there on a Sunday. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The children were all there – working and reading on the Computers setup with the aid from help alliance some of them were learning and others were reading the news about an earthquake that had just happened. It was so amazing to see the joy on their faces.

Another great thing is our mobile buses. These are mobile learning centers. These buses go to slums where the children don’t need to go the centers but they get an opportunity to learn wherever they are.

Which challenges did you face with your project?

Illiteracy is one of the biggest challenges faced by us. Since the parents of the children are not literate, they are unable to teach children. Learning and understanding languages takes time and very often the children’s learning level is not proportionate to their age.

Regularity and attendance is a problem as the parents of the children are mostly migrant laborers. They move from one city to another for work frequently which effects the education of the children.

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14. Residential facility

What are your future plans for the Street Smart project?

We have recently launched a program called ‘Education on the Move’. These are Mobile Learning Centers that teach young working street & slum children who do attend school as they are forced to support their families financially. These buses are equipped with high tech E-learning material and computers. Interactive methods of teaching like art & craft, storytelling, poems, animated movies are used to keep the engagement and involvement of the children. Nutrition and medical care is provided on these Mobile Learning Centers as well. We aim to launch a fleet of Mobile Learning Centers that will reach children who are believed to be unreachable and unteachable.

How did the Diwali Campaign happen?

The more I got involved with Street Smart, the more I realized the impact of what help alliance does. How difficult it is to generate funds! Not only did I make an effort to learn more about what they do, I realized I also need to help to get help! I looked for ways to create more awareness for help alliance in India. That’s when we were working on the Diwali promotion. It seemed like a natural fit. To spread smile on the faces of ones who probably never got a present on Diwali. The campaign did well. In the next step, I will be making a presentation on projects that help alliance supports at the All India sales & Marketing meeting in March. If each and every one does not talk about it, we will not make it. It has to be a collective effort.

Project Location

Dehradun, India