As COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across India and in the world, it is clear that the pandemic will have profound impact not only on the health and economic conditions but also on the mental health and psychosocial well being of the people. Amongst this, the worst hit are the children within India’s juvenile justice system.
Project Ashiyana was initiated in 2013 at the Umerkhadi Children's and Observation Home, Dongri, Mumbai with the aim of creating safe transformative spaces in Child Care Institutions.
‘Ashiyana’ works with 200 + at-risk children in Mumbai who are either living in two of the oldest Child-Care Institutions at Dongri, Mumbai or those who have stepped out of these institutions and are in the community.
These children are either ‘Children in Need of Care & Protection’ - Children who have been rescued from begging, child labour, are runaway, orphans, victims of trafficking and domestic violence or ‘Children in Conflict with Law’ - Juvenile undertrials awaiting a verdict.
All of these children are between the ages of 12-24 and come from extremely low-income families. Ashiyana also works with the various stakeholders involved in the lives of the children like the parents, probation officers, police and the judiciary.
What is the problem ?
Each year more than 2000 children pass through the Child Care Institutions in Mumbai. The growing poverty, unemployment, increase in slums and violence in communities, intolerance and easy access to drugs, alcohol and internet has resulted in more and more dysfunctional family structures. We see an increase in the number of children in institutions who are abandoned, orphaned, have run away from abusive alcoholic parents or have come to Mumbai to work and be the breadwinners for their family. There is also an increase in juvenile crimes in the country and the uproar for harsher punishments and justice.
In Umerkhadi children’s Home and Observation Home, lockdown was something children faced on a day to day basis. Our mental health unit saw children suffering from self harm, anxiety, depression, aggression and suicidal tendencies in non - Covid-19 times. But today, in the midst of this lockdown and given the worsening situation of the pandemic in Maharashtra with regards to COVID- 19, there is very little engagement and children are not able to meet or see their parents, the situation has worsened and the violence has increased in the Homes. Children in institutions are going through an increased level of fear, anxiety and stress. Many of them have been waiting to be re-united with their families for over 6 months. Those in conflict with the law have not met their parents in 7 months.
In the community, our children are spread across Mumbai city. Ashiyana team is in touch with 100+ children who have been released from these homes and are now in the community. Most of the families of these children are daily wage earners and we have supported them with ration, daily essentials and rent. A lot of our youth have come out of life of addiction and violence and the fear is that the pandemic coupled with the need for basics will push them further in to situations they have come out of.
Given the fragile nature of their age and the traumatic experiences they have passed through, making necessary interventions was hard even normally but during this Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected everybody’s lives, these children have become even more vulnerable and are in need of urgent help. We hope that you will be able to extend this support and enable us to take care of our at-risk children and their families.
What is Ashiyana doing?
1. Mental Health and PsychoSocial Support: Certified mental health experts develop trauma informed care at three levels: a) Children residing in Institutions b) Children released from institutions particularly Child Conflict with the law only c) Parents or caregivers to ensure their mental health and well being and successful reintegration into society.
2. Reflective and Arts Based Interventions: Trained staff and volunteers conduct reflective and arts based therapy sessions such as dance, theatre, speaker talks by real life heroes, origami craft, rap and music sessions to help them release their pent energy, build rapport and engage them creatively and constructively which results in children reflecting on their life and expressing themselves.
3. Rehabilitation and Social Integration:
a) Children released from the institution are closely supervised and coached by trained social workers to ensure they don’t go back into the cycle of addiction and crime. A care plan is developed and intensive counselling is given.
b) Subsequently, the team enrols children into educational or vocational programs as per their age. The team facilitates services such as work ethics and career skills, support in vocational training, education and job placement.
How will YOUR CONTRIBUTION support?
There are just a handful of organisations that work with children who have come in contact with the juvenile justice system. Ashiyana being one of them. Your support will enable us to continue this difficult yet important work.
Support counselling sessions of 1 child : Rs. 1500 (for 6 sessions)
Support dance classes for 30 children : Rs. 700/- per session
Supervision and case management of children: Rs. 1000/- per child per month
Support medical, Ration, mobile recharge and other needs : Rs 2000/- per child/family
We hope that you will come forward with an open heart to support this cause so that we are able to change the stories of our children at risk.