Kids play while their parents build
The concept of a crèche is a boon to all working mothers. They can leave their precious babies in a safe and healthful environment, confident of the care they will receive while they go off to earn a living. The babies are fed and bathed, put to sleep at nap time, encouraged to play, changed and kept entertained by myriad activities while their mums finish office.
This facility doesn’t come free, of course. Crèche fees can be quite high and finding a crèche that will meet all their requirements is quite a challenge for working mothers. Spare a thought then, for the teeming millions of poverty stricken women who have no other choice but to work brutal hours in harsh conditions because they need the paltry sum they make to feed their children. They don’t have a place to leave their children in while they work back breaking hours- and more often than not, the babies lie in dirty surroundings, malnourished and uncared for. These children do not get a stable future because they are left to fend for themselves in their infancy.
However, among them, construction workers in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune have some hope. In 1969, a discerning Indian citizen, Meera Mahadevan founded Mobile Crèches in Delhi with the outlook that the tiny lives who are left with no choice but to fend for themselves while their mothers work, should find a safe haven.
Meera, then a housewife, was passing by one such construction site at the Gandhi Centenary Exhibition in Delhi, when she saw a child lying in the hot midday sun without any cover or protection. This sight touched her heart and she organised a makeshift tent, hired some people to help and started the very first Mobile Crèche the very next day. This initiative has expanded into a trusted presence in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune in 2007, comprising of people who follow the principle of believing that “early childhood matters”. Its members believe that children should not be left without care while their parents work and older children should be absolved of adult duties. Mothers who work by selling vegetables and on construction sites can now leave their babies in the hands of “didis” who take care of them, setting the foundation for a stable childhood and a confident future.
The organisation works tirelessly to promote safety and security of children of marginalised sections of society and collaborates with other NGOs, trade unions, women’s organisation and volunteers to empower women and children and raise awareness and battle for government advocacy of children’s rights. They have special nutrition, education and awareness programmes for the children who are left in their care. They also send children to schools when possible and feasible. Apart from this, they conduct training programmes for women who work at the construction sites as well – they train them to be teachers because they believe these women are deserving of a better future than one in construction. Issues that affect the lives of the community they work for are taken up and addressed. Not only the children, but even their immediate and extended families are reached out to because they all play a role in the development of the child. They educate them on issues such as hygiene, malnutrition, education, safety whilst working on construction sites, etc.
Mobile Crèches also spread their message in a creative way by organising puppet shows, road plays, child art exhibitions and so on. Those who are interested to add to this noble cause can look up their website (www.mobilecreches.org) and can volunteer, donate or help raise funds.