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  who's who >> Rajashree


Vioce" your concern

To encourage them to save money, VOICE helps street kids open bank accounts

Victor Bansiwar and his wife Rajashree were once just part of the many train commuters who travel to work every day.

Except for one difference. Which has changed the lives of over 300 street children, including the rag-pickers, flower-sellers, urchins and balloon vendors sighted at busy traffic signals. Disturbed by the childrens’ quality of life, and in an attempt to improve it, the couple founded the NGO called VOICE —Voluntary Organisation In Community Enterprise — in 1991.

“VOICE means awakening the child through education – both in terms of literacy as well as opportunities, so that each child can lead a life of dignity and respect,” says Rajashree. The workers at VOICE approach these children with the aim of equipping them with basic reading and writing skills. Some of them are even enrolled in municipal schools.

“Initially, we used to teach them at railway stations but that created problems with the authorities and the facilities. Now we have small centres, like the gala the BMC has given us at Dadar, another centre at Andheri (W) and one at Andheri (E),” says Rajashree.

“We have developed a special curriculum for the kids, and they come diligently and regularly for their sessions which can last anywhere from one hour to five,” adds Rajashree. Most of these children work, and some of them even attend regular school, so the time allotted to them varies according to their needs and schedules.

“An important initiative has been to open bank accounts for them which inculcates the habit of saving in them. Every month they have learnt to put away part of their earnings. We also give them loans at nominal interest, if they need to set up an enterprise or for educational purposes,” says Rajashree.

This year, for the first time, 10 children will be preparing for their Class 10 exams through the National Open School. “We even enrol these children for music classes like guitar, tabla and Hindustani vocal. We have also taken them for camps to Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan so that they can relate what they learn in books to reality and get exposed to different cultures as well,” says Rajashree.

Her voice rings with a commitment, a dedication and passion. Considering that the couple gave up their jobs, enrolled for a masters degree in social work and then started VOICE, we can see how the mission has become their life.

What keeps them going ahead despite the numerous challenges are the changes that they witness in the children they work with. “VOICE is a movement. We want to reach out to as many children as possible and give them an opportunity to dream and hope,” says Rajashree.

To contribute your efforts, time or resources to VOICE, call 6244304