Street and Slum Programs: Gayatri House
All Programs described on this page are dedicated to empowering destitute children in Pondicherry town, and providing them with health, educational, and emotional rehabilitation. Social workers identify many of these children from migrant, itinerant, and homeless populations, encourage them to visit Gayatri House. Gayatri House is a centre for young children from streets and slums, situated on Bharati Street in Pondicherry Town. Gayatri House programs are described below. This program is currently being supported by Fonds du Coeur.
Children who attend this program are between 0 to 3 years old. Around 30 children come to the crèche every day.
When some of the parents are not free or capable of dropping their children to Gayatri House, our social workers pick them up in the mornings by van/scooter, and return them to their parents in the evenings. The aim of the Crèche is to provide a safe, structured environment for young children, off the streets.
After reaching the centre, children are given a bath, clean clothes and breakfast by our early childhood teachers. Basic first aid is provided on site and for any major health issues the children are taken to the hospital.
Jaya, the teacher in charge of the Crèche always tries to have children do some relaxation activities before starting the day. She then takes them through the daily activities and games planned for the children.
After lunch (provided by the Gayatri House), kids usually take a long nap. This rest time is a very important moment since a lot of them are sleep deprived due to their place of living (street and slum).
The Crèche operates between 9 am to 4:30 pm Monday- Friday, and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
Children who attend this Program are between 3 to 6 years old. Around 25 children come to the preschool every day.
The aim (like the crèche) is to provide them a safe and structured environment, off the streets but also to prepare them in the best way possible to their future schooling.
Rani, the teacher in charge of the preschool program, prepares daily activities. She teaches them numbers, the alphabet, music, and crafts. Every day, the children are also encouraged to share their feelings: sadness, happiness etc.
The Preschool operates, as the Crèche, between 9 am to 4:30 pm Monday- Friday, and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
The Drop-in Centre welcomes children from ages 7 years and above (so who are supposed to attend school); those children, who for different reasons (family problems, health problems etc) don’t go to school. The aim of the Program is to offer to those children a safe place and basic education and to re-integrate them into the classical schooling system. This centre also makes sure that children are not exploited as child labor, and attends to problems related to being alone on the streets and slums like sexual abuse.
The Gayatri House staff and social workers are always there to listen to the needs and problems of the children of the drop-in centre; they then provide counseling, and guide them into mainstream education and/or vocational training.
The drop-in centre is open to children between 10am and 5pm Monday- Friday, and 9am-1pm on Saturdays. Only a few children attend the Drop-In Centre during the week, but the program can have as many as 60 attendees on weekends.
Services provided in the Gayatri House centre include:
• Games and educational materials
• Television and DVD player with cartoons/educational videos
• Bathing facilities
• Full time cook and meals
• Staff trained in basic first aid with medical equipment on site
• Immediate referrals to the nearby Clinics/Government hospitals for sick children.
• Regular dialogue with the children to motivate behavioural and attitudinal development
• Drug/Alcohol Addiction Awareness, Sexual Health and Harm Reduction sessions
• Ongoing monitoring of progress in terms of education, social and behavioral development and of their relationships with their families
• Referrals to partner organizations in the cases of children with special needs.
The Gayatri House regularly welcomes specialized professional volunteers who come to present specific activities for the children (Music, dance therapy).
The Gayatri House has been lucky to have Caroline, a French art therapist who comes three times a week for the children, for almost 2 years now. The activity is a huge success. This activity is a chance for the children to externalize and express their feelings, and direct their creative energies into painting. Participants have shown tremendous improvement in two years.
Mobile Outreach Unit
The ability to reach children where they live and work has always represented a fundamental aspect of Sharana’s work. The mobile outreach unit has a dedicated van that transports books and other educational games and materials to the six slums in and around Pondicherry town. Every evening, the Mobile Outreach Unit works with local communities to build trust so that children can be encouraged to come to the drop-in centre and other programs of the Gayatri house.
The team of social workers operates daily in specific areas and becomes the direct point of contact between Sharana and the children, their families, indeed their communities. The purpose of the Program is not only to make educational and recreational activities with the children, but equally to build a relationship with individuals and communities, and crucially to build confidence and trust. Social workers carry a kit comprised of materials for basic health and hygiene, first aid, small games, books, and notebooks. It is with these materials that first contact can be established, and young children initially engaged.
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