Encouraging Children in Child Care Institutes to Dream ….And Realize Those Dreams
Encouraging Children in Child Care Institutes to Dream ….And Realize Those Dreams

By auther pic. Gaver Chatterjee

February 11, 2019

Encouraging Children in Child Care Institutes to Dream ….And Realize Those Dreams

My Dream is to Fly

When Sacred Heart Boys Home, a shelter home in Kochi, received mosquito nets for their dormitories as part of an overall renovation, not even the providers foresaw quite how effective this intervention would be. “All our boys are finally getting a full night’s sleep. So much so that, it’s becoming difficult to get them to wake up in the morning now…earlier the mosquitoes used to do the job for us,” says the shelter authority. The benefits on the physical and mental health of the boys follow automatically.


It stands to reason then that the intervention has been implemented by a team that has had in-depth experience in the field of child-care. Upgrading India’s Childcare Institutions to deliver the Gold Standard in Childcare, is the by-line of Guardians of Dreams, (Go Dreams) a not-for-profit organization set up by a young, driven team comprising  of Gloria Benny, Sujith Varkey, Aditya Surneni and Mekha T. Says Benny who has worked extensively with 5000+ children across more than 80 shelter homes in 23 cities for close to a decade, prior to setting up Go Dreams; “It is through this exposure that I gained an in-depth understanding of the sector and saw a critical need for an organisation focusing on the full gamut of childhood inputs required to produce positive adult outcomes for children living in orphanages and shelter homes.”


Go Dreams is an organisation that is working towards improving life outcomes for children living in Child Care institutions (CCIs) in India including orphanages, open shelters, observation homes, adoption centres etc. Elaborates Benny; “There are 10s of lakhs of children live in CCIs across India. However, neglect, unhygienic conditions, poor nutrition etc. is widespread, automatically resulting in poor young adults emerging from these institutions who are vulnerable to substance abuse and are unemployable.”


Set up in August 2015, the organisation has built a network of 250+ CCIs across Bengaluru, Chennai and Ernakulam, reaching out to over 2500 children through its current programs.


Says co-founder Varkey; “Our organisation is aiming to form a 360-degree holistic childcare plan to every child in CCIs across 20 cities in India. We aim to design, implement and maintain effective, scalable child care systems. We have adopted a holistic child care model that touches upon 5 key areas - Infrastructure, Education, Healthcare and Nutrition, Caregiving and Aftercare.”


While the healthcare and nutrition and caregiving verticals are currently in the nascent stages, Go Dreams is actively working on infrastructure improvements in CCIs, including kitchens, toilets and dormitories. 6 institutes have already been improved while 1 is currently in progress.


To enhance the education that the children are receiving, Go Dreams has instituted a remarkable teaching volunteer network that provides 6-days week after-school tutoring. The pilot for this is currently running in Bangalore. “Over and above this, we provide financial support to 50 meritorious students per district for their academic excellence in their 10th and 12th board examinations. This is an unrestricted cash award given in recognition of their hard work and perseverance despite their adverse circumstances,” says BennyThe impact is noticeable and is creating a ripple effect. “My selection as an Awardee of the Guardians Scholastic Awards inspired me to continue my education,” says Janardhana, Scholastic Awardee 2017. “Others from the shelter home now look up to me as a role model. I feel like I have to do well now, to not let them down.”



Reaching for success


But it is Go Dreams’ aftercare vertical that addresses a space barely touched in the country. Explains Benny; “Children transition out of CCIs once they turn 18. This phase, is a crucial period for our young adults. Often, they are unable to continue their education and instead, take up small odd jobs for sustenance. They are vulnerable to exploitation, substance abuse, abusive social relationships etc. and are often, one life-crisis away from being pushed back into poverty. We are building a network of mentors who will coach the children during this phase, along with providing financial support and ID documentation to allow them to access their rights and opportunities. This is currently being actively run across Bengaluru, Chennai and Ernakulam districts.”



Meaningful and Far-Reaching Volunteering


That the work is being well-received is obvious from the network of volunteers that it has attracted. Currently, 240 volunteers are working with Go Dreams from Bangalore, Cochin and Chennai, including professionals and students. Also testimony to the substance of the work is the kind of funding that the young organization has attracted. With a total program spend of close to INR 1 Crorein FY 2018-19, Go Dreams which is currently being incubated by IIM-B’s Social Incubation Program, has received a large portion of their grants from corporates and individuals who believe in the urgent need to build childcare systems in the country. . “Since we understand the needs of shelter homes across the district, we are able to match donors with specific shelter homes based on their requirements. This has allowed us to channel resources and support to those institutions that are otherwise unknown and are struggling for support.


Apart from being aguardian of many children’s dreams, Go Dreams has opened up the doors for  many others from the community to be the same and participate in creating a support system for the most vulnerable in the country.


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Gaver Chatterjee is a freelance journalist who has worked with many publications in the past including Education World, Hindustan Times, PowerLine and many others.


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