MUNA, UNIC and Mumbaismiles NGOs together "Bringing smiles to underprivileged children in Mumbai, 31 January 2014"

“When the Maharashtra UN Association (MUNA) invited me to an event with Mumbai Smiles, I was not expecting at all what I saw”, said UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman. “It really made what we do worth it – reaching out to those who are just waiting for one small chance in life; a chance to develop their talent and follow their dreams”.

Mumbai Smiles began its work with a simple dream to support underprivileged children, in a selected number of Balwadis with support from Spain (founded by Jaume Sanllorente from Barcelona). It moved towards helping hundreds of children to gain access to quality educational opportunities clubbed with other developmental activities. “It is also empowering women as key change agents to provide them new opportunities”, said Mr. Narendra Kumar Dundu, the NGO’s Executive Director, India. “We work with local agencies and the government, in partnership with local NGOs.”

Mapkhan School is a humble yet large school in Andheri East, Mumbai. Mumbai Smiles was launching a new programme of Life Skills Education: Clarity of Thought and Knowledge. This would become part of the general syllabus so that students get through school with the core skills needed to complement a good academic education: Problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication skills, decision-making, creative thinking, interpersonal relationship skills, self-awareness, building skills, empathy and coping with stress and emotions. Mohd. Salim Mapkhan Shah, the Trustee Principal recounted how his father had started this school as a means of imparting knowledge and education to the underprivileged.

Young children performed a play pitched against the scourge of child labour. They stole the hearts of the people and simple but basic truths were portrayed beautifully, to the extent that some of the children ended up in tears because of the high emotions. Most of the audience had moist eyes also. “To see the confidence in these young children, I could well imagine that this school was transforming their present to provide a better future”, UNIC Director said. “UNIC will endeavour to continue to work with such partners, even beyond this one school”.

The evening saw scholarships being distributed to girl child beneficiaries of the Education for Girls project, giving them a chance to continue studying for at least another year. Certificates were distributed to Mumbai Smiles SEED Project women beneficiaries for various vocational training courses that they had completed and which had enabled them to open small businesses. MUNA office bearers A.A. Syed, Mohini Mathur and Ashraf Ahmed Shaikh were also present.