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From Slums to Search Engines

As the name suggests project e-Drishtikone is founded on a vision to uplift marginalized children living in the slums by educating them on modern technology. It is a program run by a Kolkata based NGO Treasures of Innocence (ToI). The children are taught the importance of incorporating technology in the contemporary world and are trained to use computers and various software programs. This knowledge will empower them. It will open up doorways to a plethora of opportunities for them to have a strong foothold on their careers to secure a better future for themselves and their families. 

This four-month long digital learning initiative is for the slum children in Garia, Kolkata, West Bengal. The process of this project is fairly simple. The first step entails conducting a need assessment to estimate computer literacy prevalence rates and understanding the mindset and need of e-learning practices among slum children. The next step involves promoting awareness among the families regarding the importance of digital learning. Only after the base has been built among the children and the adults, the activities begin. 

Community mobilizations and counselling sessions for parents and children are conducted to alter their mindset towards computer learning. After which computer learning practices commence using creative learning intervention frameworks to improve the technical skills of the children. Groups are formed with group leaders to ensure productivity and motivation to reduce dropouts and improve peer-to-peer learning. Capacity building of team members is also undertaken to support the children in their erudition to get a deeper involvement in the computer learning program.

Community mobilization through sensitization of community members is also present to keep up the motivation of the children. The children are kept engaged in different creative projects, educational tours, distribution of learning materials, health kits, food and refreshments along with learning the basics of computers.

Consultations with resource persons and volunteers of renowned IT companies and Educational Institutes are maintained throughout the project for constant improvements in the curriculum, classes for better participation and a joyful learning experience. Support from partner NGOs, patrons, other corporates and media is a crucial facet for keeping the children’s and the team’s spirits high through the course of the project. Mapei India has partnered with Treasures of Innocence for their CSR activities and has contributed to the funds for making project e-Drishtikone a reality.

At the end of the project, the aim is for the children to have enhanced skills in digital learning and an augmentation in creative thinking and deeper engagement. The key takeaway here for the children is to change their outlook towards IT and understand its importance to secure future job opportunities. This year’s program started on 3rd April, 2021 and is ongoing in its efforts to educate the children. 

On 3rd April a small inauguration ceremony was held for e-Drishtikone where IT Industry veterans were invited to address the children. IT major, Mr. Suman Das, Ms. Shampa Chatterjee, an IT professional from a renowned software company and Mr. Devashish Majumder, an IT professional and the president of Treasures of Innocence were in attendance at this event.

The program kicked off with the lighting of Diyas by Ms. Rani Bhowani, Founder and Secretary of ToI, Mr. D.K. Bhowani Assistant Secretary and Mr. Prabir K. Banerjee one of the faculty members. A group of bright students from the Heritage Institute of Technology also joined the session to support the children in digital learning. Mr. Suman Das talked about the History of Computers, Miss Shampa Chatterjee discussed various application areas and future opportunities of computer learning. And Mr. Devashish Majumder gave a short speech on how to use computers for the betterment of society. Baseline study and evaluation were done by the volunteer groups and members of ToI to understand the knowledge level of these first-generation learners.

 Through the enhanced capacity building of team members, systematic evaluation, training, counselling and special attention and care given to each child, Treasures of Innocence strives towards educating these first-generation learners from socio-economic challenging backgrounds on modern day technological advancements to help them brighten their tomorrow. 

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Impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health

All children have within them the potential to be great kids. It’s our job to create a great world where this potential can flourish
Stanley Greenspan

Childhood is all about going to school, making friends, doing homework, playing, jumping, running around, and also growing strong and confident with the love, affection and care of parents and near and dear ones. Every child is the king/queen of his/her own kingdom and they are capable of ruling over it. A child’s mental health is as important as his/her physical wellbeing. As elders, it’s our primary duty to provide them a healthy environment where they can grow as healthy individuals and provide them opportunities to hone their potentials.

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Unfortunately, the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic has severely impacted our livelihood and normal schedules. The imposed lockdown has forced everybody to live like caged birds especially children who love to go to schools, to parks to study, to play, and to make and meet new friends. Most of the children are sitting idle indoor and getting addicted to gadgets like mobile phones, computers, television, or play stations that may cause addiction disorder. They may also experience phases of anxiety, fear, insecurity, irritability, and anger which can sometimes require medical attention.

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It is important to counsel the children and help them children understand that the pandemic will end soon and they will be able to come back to their normal routine soon. It’s crucial to educate them on the dos and don’ts to be done in the current scenario. Keep up a daily routine as far as possible, help them in online classes, and very importantly spend as much time possible with them. As far as possible make them talk to their grandparents and friends through audio/video calls. Avoid any discussion that could make them feel insecure such as talking about the death rate or the number of increased cases in presence of them. And if the fear or anxiety still persists, do not hesitate to consult a mental health professional.

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Written by-Suravita Sen

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Internship experience of Bodhisatva Sengupta

Treasures of Innocence has helped me to make a mark in the most sustainable way for society as a whole. During my internship, I had the privilege to work for slum children. Under the supervision of Rani Ma’am in every step, the workload seemed very connected to me as the mission directed towards hope for change. ToI works for their children and is always on the run to bring up new ideas to engage them, benefitting them, and help them. ToI has enriched me regarding the socio-economic condition of the slum children and has helped me to explore my field area which is HR. From relief operations, creating awareness & thinking about specific local needs, taking care of physical and mental wellbeing of slum children through online activity and tele-counseling, giving them chance to beat boredom and advent newer ways to unlearn and learn with their new venture FRIENDSHIP BOAT, I participated in every possible sector.

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So, in a nutshell, ToI has made me realize how privileged I am and what should I do to help the underprivileged class of society so that they can get equal opportunities. The internship was amazing and I still talk it about frequently at work and with friends.  It challenged me in so many ways.  I found myself participating in activities. I am thrilled that I was given the opportunity and made it happen.  I always recommend internships to anyone who is looking to change my career or study.  Doing an internship was one of the best decisions I have made, both professionally and personally, and is an experience that I will cherish and value forever.

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Internship Experience of Adrijja Saha

I am Adrijja Saha, currently pursuing Media Science from The Heritage Academy. I did my internship at Treasures of Innocence in the months of June and July. Due to covid situation I was not able to visit the organisation and all the communications were done virtually, yet, I didn’t feel disconnected with the organisation for even a second. I was immensely awestruck and amazed to see how the organization relentlessly tried to reach out to the underprivileged children, helped them with their education and to stay healthy mentally as well as physically. Not only the underprivileged children but Treasures of Innocence also reached out to the people who were in need of basic amenities due to the disastrous cyclone Amphan and provided them with reliefs. The work culture in this organisation is very good and one thing that I learned the best is time management. At the very beginning it was difficult for me to cope with the speed and the amount of work load but with time it became fun and eventually, I started enjoying it. I would like to express my gratitude to Rani ma’am and Mekhla ma’am for constantly guiding and correcting me.

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Internship Experience of Rachana Das

I had been associated with ToI as a part of my Summer Internship Programme arranged by my college IISWBM .  My journey with Treasures of Innocence has been overwhelming. It has shown me the reality of the less-privileged children, their misery, their unfortunate predicament and also unfolded before me their innocent yet resilient fortitude to fight against all odds. While dealing with case studies on children, being part of the making of their report, I came across stories of their innocent efforts and success in overcoming their inhibitions and insecurities, diligently and professionally assisted by the facilitators at ToI. I have gained a lot of perspective and also understood how important it is to bring these children to light and help them hone their individual skills, as they are very capable of becoming equally self-reliant and self-confident adults as any of those children from a privileged background.

In each children lies a genius, be it in any field, and the members of ToI makes sure to bring to surface the potential of individual children through different activities carried out as a part of its different programmes and projects. The positive impact that ToI makes on a section of society with under-privileged children coming from slums, orphanages and childcare homes, in Kolkata and its suburbs, is worth appreciation and it feels great to see that each member continuously works towards the betterment of their endeavour to make a significant impact on this part of society. I’m grateful to be a part of their work on this noble cause of uplifting the lives of these children.

ToI is an organization who have awed me in their tireless working structure that assures a holistic growth in the children, marks their safety and security and thus giving them a better future. I am very grateful to be able to work with team ToI and be closely associated to it as a summer intern. Everything learnt here will surely be of immense help in future in my work field and each moment spent associating with team ToI will be cherished and remembered with a grin.

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Internship Experience of Shree Chakraborty

When one joins an NGO as an intern, the candidate mainly has this in mind that he or she will be fulfilling their roles as a community personnel, ToI have completely disrupted that belief in me. Interning at Treasures of Innocence is not merely a social responsibility but helped me dig various skills. As a virtual summer intern at ToI, it exposed me to such diverse works from managing community to be technologically sound.  Considering the current havoc, we are in right now, alongside with creating awareness for children and their family, this internship helped me gain knowledge in things which are so common yet easily ignored. Supervised by Rani ma’am in every step, the workload seemed very connected to my goal as the mission directed towards a hope for change. ToI works for their children and is always on the run to bring up new ideas in engaging them, benefitting them and help them learn to be proud and responsible. From relief operations; creating awareness measures specific to local needs, to taking care of their physical and mental wellbeing through online activity sheets and tele counselling; giving them chance to beat boredom and advent newer ways to unlearn and learn with the friendship boat, ToI has been working really hard to create a strong virtual ground for their children and it gave young individuals like us the chance to hone our skills and ideas to be more humane and see beyond our own world. The whole team at ToI emphasizes on creating a strong bond within our own colleagues to make us feel together and connected to the one cause we are all working for. This internship experience will always be special and unique to me as it brought me closer to my field of study (MSW) by giving me a clearer sight to the vulnerabilities faced and the role privileged human can play in creating a conscious society.

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Am I Less Than a Superhero?

Rajesh Chouhan , is a  26 year old migrant labour who was working for an IT hub in Bengaluru walked 1250 miles(2000 kilometre) to reach his village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. He lost his job when the national lockdown began. He was stranded at Bengaluru with many other migrant labourers without job, food, shelter and savings. With no way to survive in the cities and as the vast railway network was also shut , Rajesh decided to walk to his family with few more labourers of same village. At first he tried for vehicles and train service for going back to his village after 3rd May.  But the vehicles were demanding high fees and he had just Rs150 left with him. Normally he pays 300 Rs for train tickets from Bangalore to his village but during pandemic the train ticket also got high to Rs 1200/-.  On 12th May he decided to walk and started his journey with few other labourers. But he didn’t inform his family that he is returning home walking as his elderly sick parents will get worried.  So he informed his family that he is still waiting for train tickets.

Earlier Rajesh was working at his village at Tribhuvan Nagar, which is a small village at Nepal border and he was earning Rs250/- per day.  He shifted to Bengaluru as he is earning double and he can send money which is enough to sustain his family including his wife, two young children and elderly parents. He lives in a thatched roof house set amid sugarcane and wheat fields.

He walked for 10 long days. His legs were swollen and his blisters had burst. But he didn’t stop walking. Police were stopping migrant labourers from walking, so they followed railway tracks to avoid police on the roads. He was walking with 11 other migrant labourers and few of them had smart phones which helped them to navigate their routes. They used to walk for the entire day and slept for few hours at night in whichever place they halted during their journey back home.

On the journey Chouhan met with many other migrant labourers walking towards their villages.  In the group there were Brahmins and Thakurs, who belonged to upper castes and even Chamars who belonged to lower caste. But while walking back home they were all united and they felt no differences between castes.  People slept together and shared each other’s food and water.  Rajesh broke his slipper on the 2nd day when everyone shared fund to buy him a new slipper. After that they walked for 5 days. They had money for buying biscuits only.  After crossing Telengana- Maharashtra border they came across an NGO who offered them lunch and drinking water. 300 migrant labourers were sitting together and eating when suddenly police came and made them run as they were not maintaining social distancing.  Food and water were snatched from many old men, females and children. Rajesh saw the cruel side of our society. Even the NGO was asked to stop giving food.

On the highway back to home, pandemic was of low priority to them. They thought they all will die in hunger, thirst, exhaustion and pain.  Many migrant labourers died on the way either through starvation, exhaustion, or road and rail accidents.

Finally on the 8th day he reached the border of Uttar Pradesh and the joy of reaching near to his home gave him immense happiness and it made him forget all his pain. He reached his village on the 10th day when he was placed for quarantine by the local police.

Even after facing so many challenges in his way back home he never gave up. He believed in himself and stayed motivated which made him succeed in his journey back home.

So now, after reading my story, don’t you think Rajesh is the perfect example of a Superhero?

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Written By : Anushka Roy

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কমলাম্মা – আমাদের হিরো ঠাম্মা

কমলাম্মা মাইসোরের চেন্নাগিরিকোপ্পালা নামক এক  গ্রামে থাকা, শোত্তর বছরের এক বৃদ্ধা  | তার দুটি ছেলেও আছে, তবে সে এখনো নিজে খেটে খায় | তার স্বামী অনেক বছর আগেই মারা গেছেন | স্বামী চলে যাওয়ার পর থেকেই সে লোকের বাড়ি-বাড়ি কাজ করে খায় |

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করোনা সংক্রমণের কারণে লোকডাউন হয়ায় আর তার বৃদ্ধ বয়সের কারণে সে নিজের কাজ হারিয়ে ফেলে | সরকারের দেয়া ছশো-টাকা পেনশন-ই  তার একমাত্র ভরসা সংসার চালানোর জন্য | এই লোকডাউনে তার ঘরে কিছু খাবার মতো ছিল না |

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তার কষ্টের কথা শুনে স্থানীয় এক নেতা রোটারি হেরিটেজ মাইশুরু  নামক এক সঙ্গস্থায় গিয়ে কমলাম্মা কে খাবার পাঠানোর আবেদন করেন |  রোটারি হেরিটেজ মাইশুরু থেকে “অন্নদান” শিবির এর মাধ্যমে ঠাকুমাটার কাছে খাবার পৌঁছে যেত |

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পনেরো দিন আগেকার ঘটনা, একদিন কমলাম্মা রোটারি হেরিটেজ মাইশুরু সঙ্গস্থার অফিস এ গিয়ে পৌছাল | সবাই ভাবলো সে বোধয় খাবার পবার আশায় এসেছে | সেই অণুযাই তার দিকে একটা খাবারের প্যকেট বাড়িয়ে দেয়া হলো | কিন্তু সে সেটি গ্রহণ করল না | প্রথমে দ্বিধা বোধ করলেও, কিছুক্ষন পর শাড়ির আঁচলে বাঁধা পুটলি থেকে একটি পাঁচশ-টাকার নোট বের করে বলল, ” আমি জানি এই টাকাটা খুব-ই  সামান্য কিন্তু এর থেকে বেশি দেয়ার আমার ক্ষমতা নেই| কাল-ই আমি আমার পেনশন পেয়েছি, তাই আজ এলাম | আমি দেখেছি তোমরা গরিব-দুঃখীদেরকে অনেক দিন ধরে খাবার খাওয়াছো এই কঠিন সময় | আমার তরফ থেকে একটা ছোট্ট অবদান, রাখো |” সঙ্গস্থার লোকজন লজ্জিত হয়ে টাকাটা প্রথমে তাকে ফিরিয়ে নিতে বলল কিন্তু সে অনুরোধ করায় তার সন্মান রাখতে অবদান টি  সঙ্গস্থা থেকে গ্রহণ করে  নিল  আর তার এই উদারতার গল্প ইন্টারনেটের মাধ্যমে সব জায়গায় ছড়িয়ে দিল | কমলাম্মা ঠাকুমা আমাদের শেখাল যে, কাউকে কিছু দেয়ার জন্য আসলে বড়ো মন দরকার, সে আমাদের আর্থিক অবস্থা যাই হোক না কেন |

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 কলমে :  রচনা দাস

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