Rianna's Fund have been supporting the Sports and Education Project in Chennai and Bangalore for just over two years now. The projects works in five slum areas in Chennai and two in Bangalore and targets school drops outs in both cities. Slum children are bullied at school and find it impossible to keep up with work without electric lighting in their homes. They are often pushed in to menial jobs, begging or even litter picking. The aim is to find and engage with the drop outs and their families and encourage them back in to school. The carrot is the sports training programme which the children love and which gives them a sense of belonging and builds self esteem. The whole programme is rounded off with After School Clubs where theyare helped to keep up to date with their school work and where tutors can help them with subjects they find difficult. There is also training in life skills including health issues and some fun in the holidays with summer camps.
This is our fourth visit to the Chennai projects and so we can meet up with some of the children we have met before and find out about how well they are
now doing. The change is amazing.
Our day started in an area called SM Nagar. First we met Manimar whose progress we have been following over
the past two years. We heard that he is doing better at school and also involved in his local community Cricket team. His mother is a day labourer earning less than £1 per day and the family have other issues around poverty. Unfortunately Manimar is currently suffering from jaundice (a frequent problem for malnourished children) and so has had to take some time off school.
Our project partner has been working in SM Nagar for just over three years and so this is a well developed project. They have encouraged community involvement and are delighted that some of the parents have now become engaged and with help from the local Church they are now ready to take over the project themselves. Enabling communities to take ownership is the long term goal here, not easy when most of the parents are uneducated. SM Nagar is a great success story. Oasis will continue to monitor things and are able to drop in if help is needed.
Leaving SM Nagar we headed off for our review meeting at the office of our local partner. It is budget time for them and we were very distressed to hear that they have been really struggling for funding over the past 12 months and many of them have not been able to take salaries every month. We are hopeful that we may be able to find some additional funding for their incredibly worthwhile work.
After lunch we were off to visit a failing community school in the slum of Kanikapuram which Oasis are now working with to try and improve attendance, exam results and facilities. There is lots of work to do here!
Back to the office where we met some of the older boys who make up the first football team and have been having great success in the local league. Two of the boys have been selected to
play for the Chennai state teams. Mani the goalkeeper is pictured here with Terry (Mani is in the grey top) and has also recently had full training as a coach. One of the great things about this project is that the older boys volunteer their time as coaches to help the younger children. With training taking place at 0600 in the morning, this means many of these boys have to get up at 0430 to take training before heading off to work, college or school.
From here we visited one of the After School Clubs in Vyasapardy. This club has 50 children attending each day and we met with the teacher Sasikala and heard from her about the great progress they are all making.Sasikala is an amazingly dedicatedleader of the club and gives us much of her spare time in the holidays to arrange extra activities for the children.
Off to our last stop of the day to meet some of the boys who attend football training. As this is exam time the morning football training is not running this week, so we arranged to meet the boys at the Skill Training Centre. The boys were very excited as we brought gift with us - sports shirts donated by Ashtead Running Club who have been great supporters of Rianna's Fund for many years and football shirts donated by residents of Ashtead
Our project visits are now over and we head off to Goa tomorrow for some chill out time before we go back to the UK. This has been another amazing trip to India for us and we are full of admiration for the work carried out by our partners in this country and the resilience of the amazing children we have met.