We are the second largest country in the world, population wise. We have reached the planet Mars. We have won Olympic medals and world cups. We are a leading sector in many fields. We have engineers and professionals in each and every possible field and we have made a mark in each corner of the world.

But, we are still running quite behind on the most important aspect. Education and Literacy!

Even today, majority of the rural areas and the lower class crowd do not receive any proper education. Cities like Mumbai, Delhi, etc may be developing with each passing moment and there may be strong laws against child labour but even today you will still find small kids working at various places to support their family.

Today, 8th September, we celebrate World Literacy Day.  Literacy doesn’t only mean the ability to read and write. Instead, it is a person’s capacity to apply these skills to effectively connect, interpret and discern the intricacies of the world in which they live. On this 50th Anniversary of International Literacy Day, let’s talk about a NGO that’s doing an wonderful job with spreading smiles along with literacy with their ongoing projects in Mumbai – Mumbai Smiles.

Mumbai Smiles was founded in 2005 by Jaume after what proved to be a life-changing holiday to Mumbai. He started what he calls a “peaceful struggle against poverty”, a struggle that has today been taken up by a growing team of dedicated individuals. It works for the development of the select slum areas of Andheri (East). When Mumbai Smiles approached me to write a blog post on the occasion of International Literacy Day, I couldn’t say no! Answer was simple, you and I as individuals, rarely give back to the society, and that is where NGOs come in who gather support in various forms, on behalf of the society members, and for this they need visibility. And hence, I thought, why not! Something new for my blog as well!

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On this special event, I would like to highlight the Balwadi Project by Mumbai Smiles. The Balwadi Project, as the name suggests is the Project for tiny little cute children to attend pre-schools. This forms the very foundation of their education, career and life! Although this project comes under their HEALTH vertical, since the focus is on overall development of the child, mentally as well as physically, hence their tagline- “Cultivating Healthy Habits through Education” to address the Educational as well as Health & Nutritional needs of children.

Here are some pictures of these Balwadi:-

Tending to the age group of 1-6 years old, they run 30 Balwadis in seven areas around Marol, IIT and Aarey Colony, with 31 children in each Balwadi. In these pre-schools, the kids are prepared for school in some fun and exciting ways which includes learning stories through story-boards; singing various poems in Hindi, English and Marathi and dancing to the tunes of it as well; indulging in games and activities to learn the alphabets of the three mentioned languages, names of birds, fruits, animals etc.

The best part is that all these Balwadis employ the women of the very same community, who are trained to become teachers for the children of their own community. This way, the Education flows from parents to children and in turn to parents of other children as well. Due to problems of low income and unemployment, the parents are unable to provide pre-school education and proper nutrition to their children. The project helps address these needs along with preventing school drop outs in the future.

This project was started with the objective to facilitate immunization of the Balwadi children and to reduce the malnutrition level among them, thereby improving nutrition as well as attendance in schools. In all, 3000 + children are enrolled in the Balwadi since 2010.

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There are several activities that are organized regularly at the Balwadis aiming at a holistic development of the children. Academic progress is ensured through activities like monthly and annual evaluation of the children and regular parent-teacher meetings.

Health and developmental aspects are taken care of through the daily nutrition meals provided to the children which includes different items like Poha, Rajgira Ladu, masala bhat, lapshi and fruits. Balwadi children’s personality development is ensured through several extra-curricular activities like Celebration of National festivals, Sports day and drawing competition. The project, at a broader level also aims at integrating with the community by giving opportunity to the community members to involve as teachers or assistants at Mumbai Smiles.

Mumbai Smiles trains them regularly on various teaching methodologies to ensure quality education being imparted to the children. Mumbai Smiles is that dream which has been supported by their partners, collaborators and volunteers. On this International Literacy Day, it would be such a great support if we can do our bit by donating or by volunteering your time or by visiting their Balwadis and witnessing the ongoing work and helping Mumbai Smiles in this amazing initiative.

We can also be a part of this beautiful initiative by connecting with Mumbai Smiles on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

For any further information/query you can Email them.

 Let’s do our bit and help make the world a better place to live in!

 (Pictures provided by Mumbai Smiles Courtesy Danilo Ramos)