In Ahmadnagar alone, out of the total population of 420 thousand, more than 72 thousand people live in inhuman conditions in slums. Abject poverty in these slums has made them a breeding ground for diseases and other social evils like child labor and addictions. Snehalaya is actively working in these slums for their improvement and rehabilitation, since 2007 and is educating more than 900 students everyday.
Snehalaya runs six Bal bhavans in slums around Ahmednagar town - Sanjaynagar, Dashrathnagar, Mukundnagar, Ramwadi, Bharaskarnagar and Borkarnagar. In these Bal Bhavan, activities such as playgroups, tuitions, health check-up camps, etc, help not only in eductation but also in creating awareness about communal harmony, good health and consequences of addictions.
These centers are well equipped with audio-visual and other educational aids. Children at these centers are provided with recreational learning, that stimulates their minds and helps develop their personalities.
Snehalaya Bal bhavans have successfully reduced child labor, child marriages and commercial exploitation of children in Ahmednagar slums. These Bal bhavans have also been an inspiration for Women's Self Help Groups (Mahila Bachat Gat) in these areas. The self help groups have enabled women in slums to become financially independent, rescuing their poor families from the clutches of unauthorized moneylenders.
Volunteers from other social organizations are emulating Bal bhavans to form a mass movement. In the spate of unabated urbanization, Bal bhavans are part of a significant movement in India.
Activities of Bal Bhavans
Snehalaya has setup nursery schools (Balwadi) for children below 6 years. Older children are admitted to schools through government schemes like Mahatma Phule Shikshan Hami Yojana or The Bal Kamgar School (special schools for child laborers of the National Child Labor Project). Bal Bhavans help children develop their oratory and reading skills, computer knowledge, 'drawing, music, dance and craft. The teachers take special efforts to help build respect for identity, mental well being and personality development. This enabling educational environment is provided through creative auido visual educational material, guidance through voluntary guest teachers and a ‘study hall’ with a library for students learning in 5th to 12th class. Students above 16 years are provided with career counselling and personality development workshops. They are also given earning opportunities by taking benefits of government schemes specially designed for slum people like ‘Rojgar Hami Yojana’ and Industrial training. Literacy classes are conducted for elderly population.
Bal bhavans also provides counseling to parents to send children to schools rather than to work - hence preventing school drop outs.
Health Clinics and Camps
Communal Harmony and Development
Ahmednagar carries a history of of Hindu - Muslim communal clashes which has led to not only loss of harmony but also property. Education and economic development has been a major source of change. Self help groups (SHG) of women in slum are formed. Persons who belongs to same community and economic status are trained as counselors. They have been able to easily understand and connect to slum dwellers. These counselors have succesfully helped tackle important communal issues.
Special awareness programs are organized to make slum dwellers cognizant of their rights, issues and government benefits.