CRY Volunteers’ Online Sessions A Boon For Mumbai Children During Lockdown

In an effort to keep the many underprivileged children across the city updated to their daily study schedules as well as help them through the lockdown period, volunteers of child rights organisation, CRY – Child Rights and You —CRY rolled out ‘Mentor-Mentee’ virtual workshops on April 7.

Around 61 volunteers will reach out to 85 children from various Public Action Groups (PAGS) functioning with CRY through these online workshops which will be held till the end of April. PAGS are volunteer-driven groups that work for the welfare of underprivileged children in the communities and government schools in Mumbai and Pune.

So far CRY has reached out to five PAGS located in the slums of Vile Parle East, Kalina, Kalyan, Airoli and Rabale in Navi Mumbai and Shivaji Nagar in Pune. These one-hour-long daily study sessions will focus on both academic and non-academic subjects and would be conducted over through video calling over Whatsapp. The organisation has already begun its first series of workshops earlier this week, with mentoring around 61 children in the first week alone.

A majority of the children participating in these sessions belong to families of rag pickers and daily wage workers living in slum areas, and since the lockdown have been struggling to lead their normal lives. With the closure of schools and daily tuitions attached to them, most of them are forced to abandon their regular study schedules.

“The idea of a Mentor-Mentee session was formulated as we realized the huge impact the lockdown will have on our children. Not only they will be missing their schools and studies, but they are not even allowed to go out and play. These children belong to underprivileged families and their parents may not be equipped enough to guide them with their studies. The result would be that the children would lag behind in their studies and eventually drop out from school. The Mentor-Mentee sessions will ensure that they are connected with their studies during the lockdown days, thus stay assured that volunteers are taking care of their needs,” said Puja Marwaha, CEO at CRY.

She further explained that the concept of this is thus to engage with children for one hour every day and to make sure that they don’t suffer a loss in their academic progress and that their mental well-being is looked after. The mentor-mentee programme will also ensure that one volunteer will get to look after all the needs of one child, and give their full attention to them. “It will establish a special bond between them and the child will also feel free to speak of their personal problems to the mentor. It is thus, an intense interactive process,” Puja said.

CRY volunteer Shreya Pol, who is mentoring at a Kalyan locality believes that “the mentor-mentee concept will help children deal with their struggles and build their resilience and capacity to manage difficult situations like the one they are facing right now.”

“This program is an attempt to inspire purposeful learning for kids at home and is for anyone who is willing to ensure that kids are learning, enjoying and cherishing their time at home,” says Gargi Mishra, another volunteer with CRY, working at a locality in Bandra.

The sessions have become an instant hit with the parents as well. Janama Kunchikurve, a resident of Kalina’s Kurchikrave Nagar community said, “I am not only relieved, but also grateful and delighted that in such times of hardship, CRY and all the volunteers are standing strong by our side and helping us with all the resources and teaching the children and keeping them not only occupied but also engaged in activities while staying at home.”

CRY volunteers make sure that a smartphone is available with at least one member of the family or with their neighbours as the sessions are conducted via whatsapp video call. Since most children belong to different grades and come from different backgrounds, volunteers map the child’s skills and interests, and accordingly plan their sessions. The volunteers make use of special workbooks and e-study material created by CRY. They will not only be checking on the progress of the child with their parents on how the experience is helping them but also be helping them in their mental well-being as well.