The next time you see an upcoming building in Bangalore, spare a thought for the families of the labourers who help cities develop. That’s what Mr. Thomas Swaroop and five of his friends did back in 1992. Infact, they continue to do so through the organisation that they set up to better the lives of children from construction worker families – ACCESS.
While the initial purpose was to make the quarry workers of Marenahalli Bande in north-east Bangalore, aware of the importance of sending their children to school, the organisation has a multifold mission today – to provide quality education, create a healthy family and community environment, encourage people to develop their own potential, and develop talent in children.
Says Thomas, “I was fortunate to have been helped in my education. Therefore I feel confident that children can stand on their own feet, with all-round education.”
At ACCESS, children are provided with all the skills and knowledge they need to be independent. One of the problems that children face in continuing their education is that once they become older, they are compelled to go to work in factories, garages and quarries or as domestic help to supplement the family income. ACCESS encourages them to continue with their studies by providing for their needs – fees, clothes, books, food, milk which otherwise puts a burden on the family. The organisation provides help that is supplementary in nature. From education to healthcare, assistance is provided that childrens’ families do not voluntarily provide.
The organisation firmly believes that “It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” It is not just a project to send children to school. It is a project where they build relationships, mentor children, and help them to shape their lives, so that they can confidently go out in the world.
Their Benjamin Nursery School has 100 children in nursery, lower and upper kindergarten. Educational assistance is given to 10 children every year at risk of dropping out of school for want of financial aid – to ensure they finish their education. The Karuna Foster Home for Girls has 10 girls between the ages of 8 to 18 years. They also organize tailoring classes for girls who have dropped out of school and for for young mothers, who are looking to improve their family income and circumstances.
In 1992, work began in a rented premises, which became home to orphaned children, a school for the boys and girls, a medical clinic, a place of worship on Sundays and a community center for everyone. As the numbers grew, there was need for more programmes and space. Finally in 2007, the organisation was able to acquire its own center today. Located in Chellikere, this 3,676 square feet facility houses their offices, children’s center and girls’ hostel.
So what does the future hold? Thomas shared with me that he would like to improve upon the quality of care that they give their children, so that they are truly able to shine in society.