Kusumpur Pahari Centre, Vasant Vihar

Kusumpur Pahari, a slum inhabited by hundreds of poor migrant families from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, is a stark reminder of the flip side of India’s urban growth and lopsided development. Many of its poverty-stricken inhabitants, now on the verge of displacement (by the authorities of Delhi’s Department of Urban Development), had once toiled for the construction of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University. Situated at the heart of a posh market in south-west Delhi, an all-encompassing atmosphere of dejection and hopelessness pervaded Kusumpur Pahari.

In April 2003, Ritinjali began voluntary work here by involving the children and the community as a whole through the promotion of participatory learning. The ultimate aim was to chart out a path for these children to help them evolve into socially responsible citizens. A library was also set up to serve this purpose. Today, the site is visited daily by scores of out-of-school children, who come to learn; while several women also benefit from the various income-generation activities.

Within a short span of time, the Centre has been able to expand its purview from being just a Learning Centre to being a hub of community activity. The Centre also doubles up as a gymnasium for the youth from the community, while for the women two vocational courses are run to empower them with skills to earn a livelihood and stand on their own feet. The two courses offered at the Centre include Cutting, Tailoring & Dressmaking, which is affiliated to the National Institute of Open Schooling and a course in Beauty Culture. The Centre Head and teachers also counsel the women on financial management; and are helping them in opening bank accounts.

Through the Vocational Centre, more than 60 students have completed either one of these courses. Before joining the course, most of the girls and women would sit at home doing nothing, but now they have been equipped with skills to contribute to the family income. This has given them a measure of pride and a sense of fulfilment. After completing the courses, some of the women have started working from home and are earning between Rs. 3500 to Rs. 5000 per month. Some women have also joined advanced courses to hone their skills further or taken up jobs at export houses and design firms.

Over the years, Ritinjali, through its Kusumpur Pahari Centre, has been able to integrate a number of children into the nearby Government Schools. Ritinjali wishes to continue with its mission of bringing these little ones back into the folds of the society, and ensure for them a bright future.