Parichay is located in a poor, densely populated neighborhood of Delhi. Open drains, mosquitoes, garbage dumps can be seen on every street. Many residents of the area are rickshaw-pullers, day-laborers, or hourly factory-workers. At-home births are common, as is the incidence of disabilities and illiteracy. People believe in myths and black magic to the extent that their beliefs can cause monetary and physical harm to their own families.
Championing the cause of education in such a community is a bigger challenge than it sounds. Children are seen as sources of income from a young age. Government schools overflow, while private schools are too much to afford. What you end up with is tens of thousands of children who cannot even write their own names.
Located in a set of 2 small rooms, Parichay, Vijay told me, started on the principle of self-sustainability and community partnership. It would be a place where anyone could come to learn, and the volunteers would seek to go beyond just classroom teaching, by creating awareness about social, economic and other issues that are relevant to the community. This involves knowledge-sharing around hygiene, birth-control, education for girls, and awareness of government schemes designed for poor and the specially-abled. Currently, the women of this community run a Spices unit and HandiCraft unit to generate revenue that helps run Parichay.
About 70 kids of different age and ability groups are currently a part of the Parichay Parivar (Parichay Family). They come to Parichay before — or after — school hours. “The teaching is centered around developing communication skills”, Vijay told me. “We first want these kids to learn to communicate, because everything else is dependent on that. Once they master a language, they can read, write and become aware of some of the very basic things that we might take for granted. For instance, filling a form in a bank, getting an ID card, applying for a government scheme or a job.”