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Dheeraj Mehta's Project Experience

Dheeraj is a CRY America volunteer from Seattle.

Never could I have imagined meeting people who'd been living in the same place for 30 years, yet were denied acknowledgement as citizens of India. Such is the grim reality for the Banjara community in Nangloi who are ostracized by their neighbors, shunned by society and forgotten by their government. They have no proof of residence for they live in homes made from sand and tart. Their neighbors want them gone, because property values aren't growing due to slums in that area. Their children are denied admission to the local government school because they reside in a 'different section' of the neighborhood.

A close parallel is the Gosain community where children are the family breadwinners, expected to earn while adults spend the day playing cards and drinking alcohol. These children are most likely to be found at a railway station, instead of a classroom. These are the same children who vanish all of a sudden, never to be found again; not even in a 'missing persons' report at times.

Even though these two communities have different situations, the tragic consequences are the same - children being denied an opportunity to education, a happy childhood and the possibility of a bright future.

Navsrishti is an NGO based in Nangloi, that has received regular support from CRY since 1998. CRY provides financial, and legal help to the Navsrishti team as well as guidance on how to fight this battle efficiently.

On my recent trip to Navsrishti Nangloi, I had an opportunity to meet the Navsrishti team, and I was amazed by the stories they had to share. One story was about Anuradha, who fought against the police in order to protect a girl from the police. Another story was about how another employee, Ganga challenged the school administration to gain admission for the children. Then there was Najmaji who has been working with locals since 1998 and has saved multiple children from child marriage.

My account of this project visit doesn't do justice to the dedication and hard work these people have put into upholding basic human rights. So when they told me that CRY has been a great pillar of support for them throughout these years, it made me feel great about the NGO that I volunteer for and believe in.

 

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