How it began at Salaam Bombay Foundation

The roots of Salaam Bombay Foundation can be traced to the Bombay riots of 1992; and the number of children who were orphaned as a result. It was during this time that the thought of helping children first came to Founder Padmini Somani’s mind.

But it was much later, in 2001,that Salaam Bombay Foundation was officially registered – sparked off majorly by a personal traumatic event in Padmini’s life. At that time, Padmini was a few years into a business career, having completed her degree from the London School of Economics.

Tobacco abuse being close to her heart, Padmini was motivated to work for this cause. Her personal experiences made her believe that it was much easier to stop children from smoking than a 40-year-old. After all, old habits do die hard! She was also aware that children from underprivileged backgrounds were more prone to tobacco and other substance abuse than those from upper strata of society. It was these two reasons that moved her to work towards reducing the instances of substance abuse amongst underprivileged children, which thus became Salaam Bombay Foundation’s mission.

The idea behind the setup of academies came about when she realized that monologue-style lectures on the topic were not going to have much of an impact. The kids were not going to listen beyond a point. Moreover, with Padmini’s background being so different from that of the childrens’, they would not relate to her beyond a point. So, not only was it important to educate children about the issue in an interesting and interactive way, but also ensure that they were given positive channels for their energy.

The model has clearly worked. The organisation has shown that positive peer pressure can be just as contagious as negative peer pressure! They’ve witnessed many cases where smoker-children have given up the habit after seeing positive results in their non-smoker friends. If one were to add up children reached through all their academies, programmes, workshops over the years, it adds up to over 1 crore children!

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