How it began at Sahaara, Mumbai

How many times has a beggar-child approached your window at a traffic signal? And how many of those times have you turned away and just let out a big sigh when s/he went away? A sigh of helplessness, of guilt, of empathy?

In the year 1994, eight friends in Mumbai realised that they could not be mute spectators and decided to do something about it. Thus, Sahaara was birthed. Arthur Thangiah, one of the eight friends, quit his job at IBM to give Sahaara shape and direction.

With a vision of gifting dreams to these children, Sahaara began working among street children at Churchgate and CST Railway Stations. As the involvement with the children grew, so did the realisation that the environmental factors around them did not offer them the opportunity for education and a secure future. Various other influences also promoted a lifestyle of easy money among them. Thus, Mahima Home was started as the need for care and proper guidance in a stable and conducive environment was felt in order to help them see their dreams to come to pass.

Mahima Children’s Home began in July 1999 with just two boys. Orphans and children whose parents are unable to look after them find a place at Mahima Home. Holistic development is provided to these children through a home environment with a dedicated house parent.

Today, the home is a haven for 8 boys between 6 and 18 years of age and 5 boys over 18 years of age, all either orphans or with terminally ill parents or children of trafficked women unable to care for them. Mahima provides these children with more than just their basic needs. These boys are educated at an English medium school, actively participate in sports, school dramas and have been elected school leaders and captains. The older boys live in a separate home and manage all the household chores by themselves.

At Mahima, this is just the beginning. In a family atmosphere, these boys are nurtured and raised to believe in a dream that was once far away, but now within grasp! And each child has a bigger dream!

Many children whose parents cannot care for them, or who are orphans land up in Children’s Homes. Those who are deemed to have committed an offense are admitted in Observation Homes. Of one of the regular visits to the Byculla District Prison, the Sahaara staff met a woman whose child had attained the age of 5 years and was placed in the Children’s Home to continue her education. This distraught mother pleaded with our staff to find out whether her child was well. Seeking to help her, Sahaara went to the Children’s Home to find out about the child and realised that there was a huge need for remedial education so that their foundations were firm. It took a year of persistent follow-up with the authorities for permission to begin operating in these Homes, but Sahaara finally got the approval to begin remedial education. Over the next few years, Sahaara noticed that the children did not know what a computer was and hence, had no skill in its operations. Keeping the digital age in mind, Sahaara began basic computer literacy for the children in these Homes.

What began as a response to children begging on streets has resulted in Sahaara meeting the needs of children through Mahima Home and interventions in education and skill development at the Children’s and Observation Homes.

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