It is the mountains that often beckon us to higher order of living and thinking. Sometimes we get enraptured in the beauty and charm of the mountains. At other times we feel astounded by the peace and tranquility of the surroundings. People who reside there may be bereft from partaking the luxuries of big cities. But it’s the simple and organic living that keeps the residents living in the hills rooted to their values and their livelihood. Smile Foundation’s Child for Child can play a part in this.
Child for Child and Nestle Special T
A large number of people in the hills are engaged in SMEs and local agriculture. In Darjeeling and Kalimpong, where we stayed and interacted with local communities, most of the people are engaged in the tea garden. They are hardworking and the local topography makes them even hardier.
Parents are progressive enough to let their children pursue sports and music. They even let them travel to big cities for occupational reasons. Yet, the beauty of the place, the history and heritage prevail over all the developments in the name of modernization. During the pandemic, many children fell out of education; those who continued might give up studying to pursue other vocations. The focus in this region therefore has to be on holistic development of children. They need to not only study the curriculum but even become worldly wise.
At Child For Child we had the opportunity of starting a project in the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the Tea Garden Estates. We are extremely thankful to Nestle Special T for their support in nurturing the project to get every child back in school. We are also connecting them to children from privileged schools. The location of intervention are Chamong Tea Estate in Darjeeling and the Upper Fagu Tea Estate in Kalimpong. As children get back to school, we need to keep them motivated to remain enrolled by associating them with children from CFC’s partner schools across India.
Here is a bit about the project.
Nestle Special T procures tea leaves from the tea gardens of Chamong in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. They therefore aim to do their bit for the workers of the tea estates. Hence the idea of connecting with Smile Foundation to reach out to underprivileged children, get them back into school, and to ensure they remain in school. The target audience under this project are primarily the children of the tea garden workers who have dropped out of school. The aim of the project would be to ensure that such children get enrolled in nearby schools, and they remain motivated to continue. To ensure the latter, there will be remedial classes for them. Along with this, they will also be connected to privileged children for various intervention measures.
The children who will benefit from the partnership are the underprivileged children in the region. Keeping the CFC mission in mind, we have also included privileged children as part of the project. They will act as ‘buddy mentors’ and handhold the underprivileged children to keep them excited about learning and studying. They will also help them with extra curricular activities like waste management and sports.
Through this initiative, we seek to promote “Every Child in School” as a lifestyle. Empathy-building among the privileged children on sharing with the underprivileged is also one of our aims. We seek to do this with an objective to generate a network of schools to enhance revenue generation.
We expect the following outcomes through varied interventions.
- Ensuring that the children of tea garden workers who have fallen off the education grid to get back into schools
- Sensitising privileged children on sharing and giving for underprivileged children
- Sustaining and consolidating existing network of schools
- Expanding the reach to new schools and chain of schools to enhance gap-bridging initiatives
Expanding to new Child for Child schools
The Child for Child (CFC) programme has to be expanded in terms of geographical reach, adding new schools in Darjeeling district. There are a number of ways to do this.
- Identifying new schools and chain of schools in the focused district
- Mapping new schools and chain of schools in the focused area
- Identifying new talented staffs for effective execution of activities at expanded new operational areas and schools
The project was launched in the last week of October under the tutelage of the Nestle team. While they joined digitally, the Chamong and Upper Fagu Tea Estate officials and the elderly people from the local community were present for the launch. Parents accompanied by their children were present in huge numbers as they were very curious about how their children’s welfare would be looked into by a national level NGO. At Kalimpong as well as Darjeeling, the events had speeches and videos. This was followed by distribution of gifts and luncheon packets. During all this, COVID protocols were followed strictly. A few children even put up performances to welcome Smile Foundation into the community.
We look forward to supporting over 100 children in the local community in the coming few years. Further, we hope that as they grow up into intelligent individuals they even find gainful employment that will help improve their quality of life. We want the schools around the community to step to support them and the people to nurture the project. This shall help facilitate a civic-driven change, one of the main goals of Smile Foundation.