How it began at the Community Outreach Programme (CORP)

The journey of CORP ( Community Outreach Program) began in the year 1976, with an American couple’s yearning to visit the slums of Mumbai. This couple was Mr. Jesse and Mrs. Molly Clement and the slum they visited was Dharavi. Little did they realize at that time that their simple walk through the slum’s ubiquitous poverty would change the lives of many people to come. They noticed kids under the age of five roaming around naked and playing in the dirt and filth of the open drains. This sight melted their hearts, but they thought empathy is not what these kids need. Thus began CORP’s first initiative in the form of a daycare centre.

It’s said that when something good is envisioned, things fall in place eventually; and Mr. and Mrs. Clements’ experience while setting up CORP is testimony to that. So where would this daycare center be set up and more importantly, how? As the stars would favour it, they found a Methodist Church in the Dharavi slum itself, which they requested to lend their premises for this cause. On learning of the couple’s noble idea, the church was happy to lend a section of their premises for the centre, at no cost!

As Mr. and Mrs. Clement were only on a two month visit to India, after establishing the center with two teachers and 40 children, they left to go back to the USA. But their work didn’t stop there. Once home, they started collecting funds from friends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances for the kids back in India. This helped keep CORP activities going.

Based on the requirements of the community, CORP adopted various programs to tackle different issues. Like in 1978, when they came across differently-abled kids in the Dharavi slum and observed that they were not receiving proper care due to their parents’ financial condition. The organization was disheartened to learn that parents considered their own children a curse! So, with the aim of changing their mindsets, CORP began counseling the parents. Simultaneously, they began to focus on the development needs of the children themselves – be they mentally/ physically challenged or even hearing impaired. During the year 1978-79, more than 100 differently-abled kids were enrolled for this program from the Dharavi slum alone! This programme was also being conducted on the premises of the Methodist Church – from Monday to Saturday as the Church conducted its own services on Sundays.

Another activity the organization undertook was vocational training. After observing that many school going girls dropped out due to financial constraints, CORP decided to open a vocational training centre for women; offering tailoring classes, a beauticians’ course, mehendi classes, teachers’ training (for those who have completed the 10th standard) etc. These courses range from 6 months to a year. This course currently benefits close to 500 women/girls a year. CORP also helps these women/girls to get jobs at the end of the course, enabling them to utilize their learnt skills. In the case of the tailoring course, CORP gives all students a sewing machine, on completion, so that they can immediately put their skills to use.

CORP wanted to amplify its reach to other slums of Mumbai and not just restrict itself to Dharavi. Today, the organization operates out of 13 slums across the city. All these slums now have daycare centers, allowing both parents to go out and earn an income. Over 1,500 children below the age of five are enrolled in CORP’s daycare centers today. Clearly, these centers are catering to not just the needs of the children but their families too! In 2013, CORP moved their initiative to Thane, where they established a daycare centre cum school for the diffently-abled; and serves more than 150 kids today.

The organization has also established shelter homes for runway children in Dharavi and for the children of sex workers in Thane. Its three shelter homes have close to 80 children. There’s a day care center for senior citizens too; that cares provides for 300 poor, elderly people. From a two teacher 40 children initiative, to a 40 teacher- 1,500 children initiative today, the organization has come a long way. And with time only more and more lives will be touched and healed!

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