Sophiya, our senior most staff came to us one day in 2003 and told us about the plight of children in the area where she lives – Okhla. Okhla is a Suburban colony in South Delhi more commonly known as Okhla Industrial Area, situated near the bank of Yamuna river. The ‘area’ is a mix of factories and slum tenements that are tucked away in-between the factories.
At that time, over 90% of children in the area did not attend school.
The Okhla education entre began its activities in 2004 to address the problems of an extremely vulnerable group of children who were targeted by drug and other mafias. Space was not easy to find and the only option was a space near a garbage dump. It was ‘reclaimed’ and classes began under a plastic sheet held by bamboo poles. It took a while for the community to realise the worth of our intervention but they did and we could carry on unhindered.
Today, Okhla Centre has a pucca structure, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Kabir Suri of Azure Hospitality. Both Primary and Secondary support classes are supported which cater to over 183 children in two shifts. A computer centre was added in 2005. Environment and other related issues are also part of our program and the children have themselves planted green plants in front of the school. This year we plan to extend our educational support to include classes of 11 and 12.
Over the years this location has seen many projects come and go. It is here that we seeded our first primary support project that was located in a reclaimed pig park and then bulldozed out to land on the roadside!
We then opened other primary projects in neighbouring slums but always retained one in this location.
Fifteen years down the lane we have come full circle as it is one of our alumni who teaches this class!
Our Senior Secondary Project was born and never looked back. The children were taught in the freezing winter mornings and did us proud. Today most of them have secured good jobs and some have even started families!
Every year around 20 students pass their class XII Boards and many top their school.
We watch them find their wings with immense pride.
In no time, we managed to get a few old computers and our computer project saw the light of day.
Over time, we realised that our computer project could also be a possible income generation project and thus opened to students outside project why. The centre runs 6 month courses in different batches and some of the courses on offer are: courses Basic, Tally, DTP, Flash Animation. We also offer hardware courses. Many of our students have secured good jobs.