At 25, Kapil Pandey had everything going in his favour. A few more months at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and he would be a sought -after man with plum job offers from the corporate world.
At a time when most young people thought only about themselves, Pandey opted to change the lives of the street children instead.
Presently, with the active participation of like-minded friends he runs an organisation called Kutumb (family). And every afternoon these youngsters -Manjima, Devyani, Robins, Raghav, Medha and Sanjay - take time off to employ innovative methods of teaching to make an interesting pursuit for the Kutumb kids.
The children of slum dwellers and daily wage earners who were spending their days on the streets, begging for alms, picking rags and working as apprentices in the motor garages in the vicinity of the posh Khan Market area, are a changed lot.
Fourteen-year-old Ravi (popularly known as 'Hero') who undertook denting-cum-painting jobs in a car workshop, dropped out of school some years ago. But Kutumb brought about exemplary change in his life. For any kind of work he is the most sought-after in the group. Pandey says, "He is one child who has done well in every sphere of development academics, sports, music, voluntary work, organisational duties and craftwork including candle-making."
Similarly, 15-year-old Asha is a Class VIII student. Having an alcoholic father, Asha has to look after the entire household. But that apart, she is considered one of the most talented children.
According to Pandey she has done very well in terms of behaviour, mental discipline, will to learn and impart what she has learnt. She will soon be conducting workshops in embroidery, knitting and similar activities.
Thus, with 200 children on the rolls, 70 to 80 in the age group four to 17 go to Kutumb regularly to pursue academic lessons, play football and basketball and join in the overall development programme.
While some of Pandey's friends are involved with the day-to-day running of the Kutumb Foundation, several others are involved in various events. These include Goal of Life (an annual inter-NGO children's football competition), Josh-e-Umang (children's theatre festival and Gole ke Vaasi (children's film club).
There are other programmes like Indradhanush, which helps children who have dropped out of school. Through the 'open school' programme it enables them to sit for exams and thereby helps them progress further with their academic endeavours.
Saarthi is a placement-driven programme which assists children who despite being talented, face difficulty finding a job. It prepares them for interviews and pre-placement talks. Career counselling has also played a major role, focusing on career guidance and exploring career options that children have not yet considered.
Sfoorti deals with health and domestic hygiene. Kutumb intends to make this a bi-yearly event that will include all-round health check-ups as well as distribution of medicines to residents of the area.
Ask Pandey what pulled him towards street children and he says "That's a tough question. Frankly, I do not know myself. Perhaps my orientation towards theatre while at St. Stephen's College helped me to do a lot of introspection and I think this could be one reason for this drive in me," he says.
Recalling the time when he took his first step towards Kutumb, Pandey says, "I had finished my exams and was working for a marketing consultancy firm. It was in February 2002 that one evening I decided to spend some time with children who were begging outside Gopal Mandir in Khan Market, which is in close proximity to Pandara Road where I stay with my parents."
Pandey chatted with the children and at the end of the conversation, it was decided that they would meet every Saturday and Sunday afternoon to study. Also, each session would culminate in distribution of potato chips, thrown in as an incentive. This went on for some time and when the results came, Pandey was a changed man.
"I needed friends to help support the programme as the number of children was growing each day. And my friends proved a boon. Now their role is similar to that of mine. We are all coordinators of the Kutumb Foundation working on a voluntary basis and each one of us owns the organisation equally. The fact that I started all this is not relevant any more," Pandey said.
"My parents were quite supportive, although I could sense a bit of reluctance on their part in the beginning. But now my mother is an active member of the educational programme Indradhanush," he says.
Pandey also take classes in Hindi, English and Maths. Within the programmes children discuss issues such as family welfare, domestic violence, alcoholism and religion. The programmes give priority to academics, crafts, yoga, sports, physical development, discipline and team spirit. That is not all. There's more to Pandey's life. He runs a design studio, Vision D.I.S, retail and exhibit display solutions firm that designs and fabricates various products used in visual merchandising, and all forms of outdoor advertising purposes. The firm regularly funds Kutumb. Also, Goal of Life organises funds for major expenses.
Pandey says, "Also some people are generous and we have started receiving funds. It is only now that our requirements are increasing because of new income generating and entrepreneurial initiatives by youngsters. And we hope Kutumb will do a lot better in times to come."
Innovative methods of teaching
- Kapil Pandey and his friends set out to change the lives of street children under the banner, Kutumb (family).
- Youngsters take time off to employ innovative methods of teaching to make academics an interesting pursuit for kids.
- The children of slum-dwellers who earlier spent their days on the streets, begging for alms and picking rags, join Kutumb.
- With 200 children on rolls, around 70-80 in the age group of four to 17, pursue academic lessons and join in the overall development programmes.
- Programmes run by Kutumb include Indradhanush, an educational programme, Saarthi, a programme that helps children to recognise what field they are suited for and Sfoorti, a health camp.
- Within the programmes children discuss issues like family welfare, domestic violence, alcoholism and religion.
- The programmes give priority to academics, crafts, yoga, sports, physical development, discipline and team spirit.