Providing Opportunities to Children from Child Welfare Institutions, Our Children Mumbai
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Founded in the year 1970, Our Children is a volunteer-driven NGO working for under-privileged children and youth emerging out of Child Welfare Institutions in and around Mumbai.
Giving Children their Childhood
India is home to over 20 million orphans. Children being abandoned or orphaned early in their childhood are known to have emotional upheavals. The feeling of abandonment and rejection can affect them throughout their lives. Children without parental protection are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and require care, protection and guidance they deserve.
Founded in the year 1970, Our Children (OC) is a volunteer-driven NGO working for under-privileged children and youth emerging out of Child Welfare Institutions (CWIs) in and around Mumbai. OC partners with 35 CWIs to run its projects and supplements CWI’s efforts in the overall development of children.
They began imparting moral education to street children and went on to teach institutionalized children singing and dancing. As OC grew, they expanded their mission to educate, mentor and support children providing them opportunities to grow and find happiness.
OC regularly conducts developmental programs to provide education, life skills, and talent development for these children. A few of the most impactful programs of OC are as follows:
Children’s Meet is OC’s grand annual event that has now been celebrated for 36 years. Initially, OC volunteers taught underprivileged children dancing and singing to bring fun and happiness in their lives. In 1971, OC decided to host a formal event for children from various institutions. They termed it as the “Children’s Meet”. A small auditorium was booked and children were brought to enjoy this event. This gave the children a platform to show case their talent imagination and creative pursuits, moreover having children design and stitch their own costumes and props gave them a platform to push their boundaries of innovation.
Since then, the 1st of May is celebrated as Children’s Meet. This year over 2000 children from 29 institutions from Mumbai and Pune gathered in Shanmukhananda Hall in Mumbai and performed in front of a packed auditorium and 600+ children performed in a theme-based program. Over 130 volunteers supervised the smooth conduct of the event with various institutions sponsoring transportation, food, hamper items.
Alumni members gather every year to watch the performances and connect with children. Each child is also given a gift hamper when they leave. Moreover children are selected to be the chief guest and distribute prizes to the best performers.
Every year OC conducts the Learning beyond Program to help children learn new skills, explore their talents and in turn build confidence Professionals and individual artists from various Indian and international organizations such as Ami Shroff (a juggler and flair bartender) and Tom Verner of Magicians Without Borders interact with the children to teach children a variety of unique skills.
This camp provides an opportunity for children to spend a week learning new skills, find their voice and express these talents in front of the entire camp. This helps build confidence, make new friends and learn beyond academics, while having fun.
Group Home Program
Children’s homes house kids up to the age of 18 years. Once they are 18 years old, they are asked to leave. After living a sheltered life in the institutions; with very little exposure of the outside world, these girls are very lost. OC’s Group Home program supports these girls in their transition into the real world outside of CWI.
Girls need to be employed to be part of a group home and can pursue higher education while working. OC takes care of their rent and infrastructure support for up to 3 years while the girls contribute to the house bills and daily expenses. They live together, support one another and are mentored and counseled by OC volunteers to be responsible and independent adults OC is seeking to expand the Group Home program and also intends to spread its activities outside of Mumbai.
This is held a month before the Children’s meet, where children unleash their creative pursuits. Their artwork is displayed during the Children’s meet and are sold.
Educational Assistance Program
This program of OC is designed to coach and encourage students to pursue higher education. They commemorate and felicitate students who do well in the 10th and 12th, grades providing scholarships as well as collaborating with institutions to provide fee waivers and opportunities for higher education.
OC with help of other organizations provides 5000 kgs of milk powder to many children homes on a monthly basis.
Health Assistance Program
OC along with other NGOs runs health checkups and medical/dental camps. OC introduced a WASH program to educate children about water, sanitation and hygiene and distributes hygiene kits to them.
Monthly Birthday Programs
Under this program OC celebrates birthdays with the kids making them feel a part of the family. Children are also taken out to shop for their own birthday clothes.
Recreational Outing Program
This program provides an outdoor overnight camp such as “a day in a village”; mixed with, sport activities, team building, games and a rain dance. Volunteers and children bond as a family. Over 400 children in batches of 50 enjoy this during the month of May every year.
OC also arranges Bal Mahotsav where children from various institutions come together and play matches in games like Kho-Kho, Kabadi and Langadi as well as indoor games like chess and carom.
We interacted with the founders and the core team members of Our Children and had a detailed discussion of their work. We also observed the Children’s Meet, Recreational Outing Camp and spoke to the volunteers and beneficiaries. Our key take away on OC’s key achievement is summarized hereinafter:
1. A true Partner: OC has grown consistently and undeterred over the past 47 years. It is perceived as a true partner by CWI homes and children who also relate themselves with the events of this organization. OC’s reputation has helped connected corporates and individuals to reach out to these beneficiaries under OC’s supervision
2. Children at the Core: OC has been successful in making a difference to the lives of thousands of children over the years. OC has provided a common platform and an opportunity to enhance their skills by giving them opportunities to learn and succeed with confidence
3. Volunteer Platform: OC has become a platform for volunteers to share their learning to make a visible difference to the lives of underprivileged children. Many of the beneficiaries have now become volunteers at OC
4. Low cost with High Impact: OC has just 1 employee on its rolls, 5 trustees all of whom are working tirelessly on all the programs across OC and supported from over 100 volunteers.
OC operates on a low direct expense budget of just Rs 30 Lakhs/pa which does not include the cost of services aggregated from other institutes in the overall execution of its programs.
OC is not just an NGO but a movement, a community of volunteers and an organization collectively creating long-lasting bonds in making children feel special and cared for.
OC draws its character from the selfless love and passion showered to the children by the founders Mr. Ramchandran Shankaran, Mr. Dhanajay Mehta and their colleagues, families and volunteers. They assume a role of a parent giving everything to and nurturing them every way possible. They have got over 300 girls married and have performed Kanyadan (becoming bride’s father). There have been several inspirational stories and journeys narrated by children and now alumni of OC, discussing the difference made to their lives by the OC community.
OC is a rare gem, working on a mission of giving children their childhood back, providing them with the opportunity to grow, learn, succeed, be independent and face the outside world with confidence. Truly an inspirational cause, that is worth supporting.