“We don’t want to pull the curtains and leave just like that. We want the work to continue even after the project is over.” The simplicity and sincerity with which this statement was delivered left me speechless. These were the words of a simple girl Sridevi, living in Bekkeri village in the Belgaum district of Karnataka. She works as a computer operator for MASS, an NGO working for rehabilitation and betterment of former Devadasis and their children. In January 2006, MASS embarked upon a journey which changed hundreds of lives; along with 3 other NGOs in Karnataka, MASS started working on EveryChild project in partnership with EveryChild, an international development charity. That journey is at its end now, and EveryChild team is faced with a question which is at the core of social development.Will this be a long-lasting change? For 9 years now, EveryChild project has been going on in Raybag taluka in the Belgaum district of Karnataka. The vision is straightforward, “To create a world where every child enjoys the right to a childhood in a safe and caring family, free from poverty, violence and exploitation.” The project had international funding, and locals appointed for various posts were provided with required trainings such as psycho-social care, vocational trainings etc. More than 4000 children belonging to SC, ST and other backward communities have benefitted from the project. Self Help Groups have been formed in 38 villages to help parents and ensure awareness among them for Child Rights Protection and other such issues. But the project will end in 2015 and all the outside support will be withdrawn along with that.Does the end of the project mark the end of the vision as well?“We have worked for 9 years. Just like parents hold tiny fingers of their children and teach them to walk, we have showed these people the way. But now they have grown up, and they will have to walk on their own, and we are trying to create awareness for that” says Sridevi. In 9 villages funding has already been withdrawn. Villagers in these villages have come together to continue the work. By contributing as little as Rs. 1 per family per day, they are able to run child activity centers and ensure unhindered educational support for their children.No social change can be long-lasting unless the target community gets directly involved and starts working towards the intended cause. Outsiders can work and provide support for a time, but at the end only a self-sustaining development process can lead to long-lasting changes. It is the hope of EveryChild team that before the project ends, all the process will become self-sufficient, Swayam Prerit as they call it; and the work will go on. Each and every member associated with this project belongs to target community. After spending 2 months among them at Raybag EveryChild office, I've come to realize that with the end of the project, only funding will stop. The seeds of change have been sown within the community, and they will take root with or without outside support.
EveryChild: Towards self-sustaining development