AASARA was formed in 1993, thanks to a group of people under the leadership of Father Joe and Sister Sandhya. The organisation began in the Thane train station, in Bombay. Since then AASARA has come a long way, building up its capacity to shelter, and research into the needs of, orphans, abandoned children and those who live on the streets.
1. To provide street children with their basic needs such as food, shelter, medical care, education and a range of social, cultural and entertainment activities.
2. To provide a social safety net with services such as counselling, guidance and protection against exploitation.
3. To support and defend the street children in their struggle to achieve their rights.
4. To publicise the plight of the children and mobilise support for them within their society.
5. To observe and study the behaviour of the street children and of their social, economic and emotional state through in depth research. We want to produce a multi-faceted solution to their problems.
6. To create programmes of practical and innovative supervision to protect them and develop their skills and capabilities, involving them in every stage of their development.
7. To cooperate with all kinds of organisations operating inside the country and abroad to exchange experiences and best practice in providing help.
NUTRITION AND HEALTH
The health and nutritional condition of the children is far from satisfactory. Their daily intake of food is inadequate, both in terms of quantity and quality. The street children very rarely get medical assistance and they live in unhygienic conditions. They are also exposed to many health risks exacerbated by climatic changes and their insanitary surroundings. The most common illnesses are skin infections, sexually transmitted diseases, respiratory problems, fevers, diarrhoea, malaria, hepatitis etc. They are also exposed to work-related dangers like traffic accidents, cuts, wounds and infections. Those who sift through rubbish are especially at risk. The majority of them suffer from anaemia. They conceal their wounds and diseases because they are scared of doctors and hospitals, and because they lack the money to pay for medical assistance.
We stress that they are not entitled to social security coverage. We run regular, preventative health programmes emphasising the importance of health and hygiene and the dangers of drugs and alcohol. These are prepared in collaboration with government medical staff, hospitals and health centres in order to get their support and to help ensure continuity of medical assistance.
Medical cases managed by Aasara in year 2000-2001
First aid cases ….. 450
Hospitalisation cases …. 560
Medical control cases ….. 290
The majority of street children have never attended school and the few who have, gave up before finishing their first course.
The education of the street children is one of the main priorities of AASARA because it is the key to integrating them into society. Our contact points, research centres and residences do not provide formal education to those without experience of school. At this, initial, stage our objective is to help the children develop to a level that will enable them to be admitted to school.
State Literacy Centres [BALWADIS]
The majority of street children aged between five and eight and living in the poorest districts have never received any basic education. In these centres they are taught songs and they recite poems, they are told stories and taught the alphabet, the colours, the names of birds, animals, fruits and vegetables… AASARA actively cooperates with these street centres and is in constant contact with them. Last year 117 children were admitted to these centres.
AASARA believes that unofficial educational programmes must be made available to street children. These programmes take place in the centres, Contact points and Shelters specifically for those children who are not yet ready to attend school. Last year, 238 children joined an unofficial education programme. The teachers try to unlock the potential ability, learning skills and creativity of the street children through a range of activities such as games, play-acting, debates, talks, audio-visual displays, short stories, theatre, songs and craftwork.
Children are prepared for formal schooling and made to realise how important education is. The next stage is for them to go to the Municipal Corporation Schools. Some of these street children have been top of their class. Those who are not ready for school are helped with private tuition. In the 2000-2001 academic year 114 AASARA children attended school.
AASARA also provides street children and youngsters with the opportunity to identify skills they can develop through a programme of vocational guidance.
Individual and Group Counselling
AASARA firmly believes that these children have emotional problems that will not be resolved simply by giving them food, clothing and financial support. To help them and allow them to express their emotions AASARA gives them support through individual and group counselling work, run by professional psychologists every week. These counselling sessions also aim to develop the relationship between the children and to help them assume responsibility and a sense of discipline. These groups tackle issues such as education, health, hygiene and substance abuse.
For instance, one activity for AASARA’s children is an Indian classical dance class each Sunday run by KCPACT.
Group activities allow the children to express their emotions and their creative energy. It helps us to understand their behaviour and their feelings.
AASARA recognises the importance of cultural activities in children’s development; we have classes in drawing, painting, music, dance, handicrafts, theatre etc. These help them express emotions, turning even negative feelings to positive use while broadening their talents and skills. The children also participate in cultural programmes, celebrations, festivals and picnics which they organise themselves.
Right of expression
The right of expression is a fundamental right.
AASARA gives the children the priceless opportunity to express themselves by encouraging their imagination and their creativity to help their growth.
They express themselves, recount their experiences and explain their worries in both artistic and literary forms in their magazine Mulanchi Manogath”.
Yearly camps are held to provide education and extra-curricular needs and to reinforce the sense of belonging to a group