Apnalaya originally began as the Holland Welfare Centre, named after the then Australian Consul General in Bombay, Tom Holland. This was back in 1973. A really-hard-to-believe photograph shows how the center stood where the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) stands today! It was a day care centre for laborers’ children in Nariman Point. Moved by the poor living conditions of children in the area, Mr. Tom Holland along with his wife June began providing daycare so that the kids could be well-cared for while their parents were away at work
It was only in 1990’s, when the need to give a more local name was felt, that it was rebranded as “Apnalaya” meaning “our place”. The organisation realised that the next big step that would lead to improvements in the children’s lives – immediate and future – would be education. That lead to increased educational efforts at the grassroots.
The relocation of the organisation to Tardeo took their work to new regions of the city – to the New Jaiphalwadi slums. Once onsite in slum communities, they began to further concentrate their efforts in increasing overall health and hygiene. They also began educating the community on sanitation and basic healthcare. Momentum continued building and over the next 5 years, Apnalaya opened doors in three more communities.
The toughest times came in 1977 when the organisation opened its center in Wadaripada. Wadaripada comprises of the stone-breakers community and people here would literally throw stones at them! They were protesting Apnalaya’s efforts and questioning their motives because they truly believed that there was no point in educating their children if they were going to grow up to be stone breakers themselves one day.
But with persistence and dedication, this was another battle that Apnalaya was able to fight successfully. Wadaripada is one of the slums where development objectives have been realised, allowing Apnalaya to withdraw activities. This has also been the case at Datta Mandir, Jaiphalwadi in Malad, and Chikuwadi. And hopefully this is a trend that will follow in more communities to come!