Improving lives in Asia’s largest slum – Dharavi

Gazing out of the car window thinking of how the day would pan out were the only thoughts on my mind. I had signed on to be a volunteer with GiveIndia and this was my first volunteering task. Morever, it was also one of the first visits I would be making to an NGO to spend time with the beneficiaries. My stomach was a bit queasy because of a mix of excitement and nervousness. Would I be comfortable speaking to them? Would they not shy away? Would I be able to deliver on the assignment? Next to me sat CORP’s (Community Outreach Progamme) Director, Mr Nirmal Chandappa. His effortless smile make me think that he could probably sense by queasiness. We drove through the city’s chock-a-block Saturday afternoon’s traffic quite quickly. Gradually the highway turned to roads, roads to broad lanes, broad lanes to extremely narrow ones and with that we reached our destination, CORP’s Shalom Centre in the Dharavi slums.

As I was introduced to this center, my queasiness seemed to dissipitate. This centre serves as a daycare centre for differently-abled kids and senior citizens. I noticed that those with disabilities had been provided with appropriate gear to make them independent and mobile; the hearing impaired had been given hearing aids. Meals and recreational activities are also provided for. One thing that was brought to my notice about this centre is that nobody goes home empty stomach. Infact, neither did I! I can also now vouch for the quality and taste of the food – it was really good!

Mr. Chandappa shared with me that CORP had recently started a “Food Box for Granny”, monthly ration for senior citizens. The reason for starting this was because most senior citizens at their center , went to bed empty –stomach – primarily because of their family’s inability to provide them with a meal at night. After interacting with few of the senior citizens I learnt that they are very happy and content in contrast to how they use to feel before coming to CORP. As an elderly lady said, “CORP has rescued us from our problems. If they wouldn’t have been there, none of us would have be sitting here before you.” CORP also provides medical assistance to senior citizens in the form of cataract operations, diabetes control etc.

The differently abled are also provided with necessary operations and treatments. I have to say that these kids are a talented bunch despite their infirmities! I was lucky enough to see an exemplary dance performance put up by the hearing impaired kids.

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. I know I left with the same effortless smile that Mr. Chandappa had earlier.The beauty of this centre is in its ability to make every individual feel like a family member. I was glad to have been a part of this family, even if it were just for half a day!

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