On Sunday I arrived back in Bombay for the final weeks of the field visit and quickly realized that I had landed just in time for the height of Monsoon Season. At first this was such a nice reprieve from the oppressive heat in the dry city of Delhi. However, after a full week of flooding and commuting; I became, as my friend Josie says “A true Mumbaikar” fed up quickly with the rain. In addition to get getting swept up with the water, I also had the opportunity to visit Foster Care with our Country Director Fatima Colaco. Foster Care is part of the Maharashtra State Women’s Council, a Non-Governmental Organization that works with a number of charitable projects throughout the city. Foster Care gives Conditional Cash Transfers to 400 children throughout Mumbai to be used as a supplement to the work the children could end up doing in the labor industry. As the chairperson Aamy Shah mentions, “The idea is that we want to keep the kids off of the streets and in the classrooms by making up the income that the parents so desperately need to survive.” While Foster Care works with both boys and girls, the number is significantly larger for girls as they are the ones that are most likely to get compromised for their brothers. This means that if a parent has to choose between sending a daughter to school or a son, it is the unfortunate case that the daughter will be pulled out.
Commit2Change funds 22 girls who come mainly from single family homes, often run by mothers who believe that education is the way to a better life. I had the wonderful opportunity to not only meet the staff at Foster Care but to interact with 10 of the girls we support. These girls ranged in age from 11-17 and were accompanied by their mothers, most of whom had taken the day off from work. While individually meeting with each one of them, I was warmed by how supportive they were of their daughters. Every single one of the girls was taking extra tuition classes that their mothers had used some of the money received from Foster Care to pay for. I was struck by one particular mother and daughter set. The girl’s name was Arya and she was the last to arrive of the group. Arya is 11 years old, studying in 7th grade and came in wearing a beautiful Indian dress called an Anarkali. It was clear both mother and daughter are exhausted from the journey. When I ask the pair where they have come from the mother says Virar, which is one of the northern most suburbs of Bombay taking 2 hours each way to get to Foster Care. Arya tells me in English how she loves science and dreams of being a doctor. We chat for a while and take a quick “snap” to commemorate our meeting. She promises Fatima and myself to do well in her studies and then they both quickly head off to begin the exhausting 2 hour journey back. I am amazed by this mother’s drive to ensure that by coming in today, despite the time taken, she can help continue the support her daughter gets for her educations. As with the rest of the visits I have completed so far, I am humbled by the lives the girls that Commit2Change supports and am happy that we have the opportunity to make a few of them a little better.