2018 Kumar's Year in Review
2018 Kumar's Year in Review
2018 was a massive year for My Name is Kumar. With the help of CARE Foundation, we continued to work toward providing all of the children born into the Londor community with access to education. A commitment we believe will help achieve the greater goal of alleviating poverty within the wider community. In 2018 we recorded our highest school attendance to date, with a total of 121 children jumping aboard the school bus each day.
We also opened the doors to our first community centre. Here, the children are provided with facilities to wash and dress before school, eat breakfast, come for an afternoon snack and join in after-school activities. 2018 also marked the first occasion that the entire community - including the MNiK team, children and their parents - celebrated Diwali together. The day was a hit, with delicious food, fireworks and non-stop dancing. This was a meaningful milestone that saw us celebrate as a close-knit community, and shift the focus away from begging.
As you can see, we squeezed a lot into 12 months! For a more detailed summary of our busy year, click on the photos below
In the second quarter of 2018, the MNiK Foundation ordered 40 smart stoves to create a safer environment for children and adults at home. These smart stoves have a 70% smoke reduction and 65% fuel saving. Not only has it made cooking cheaper and safer, but it has also made it a little speedier! With a little of the foundation’s support, we now ensure that all children at home have access to three meals each day.
In 2018 we achieved a 0% school dropout rate, with all of the children supported through MNiK returning to school. This was a wonderful feat for the families, the children and the foundation.
Previously factors such as a death in the family, ill-health and a change in living situation have all contributed to children leaving behind their education. One of our biggest priorities at MNiK is to ensure all of the Londor children have the opportunity to attend school. We’ve also been working closely with families to help them understand the value and long term benefits of a consistent education for their children. Therefore it's always a cause for celebration when all children return to school after the long break.
On top of this good news we’ve also welcomed 24 new children to our programme. Some of these children are already of school age and are being provided with a little extra support to smooth the transition into a formal education. Others are starting school for the first time, and despite the usual teething problems that can occur when starting a new routine (especially in the morning!), they are loving it.
For the first time ever, we have five students sitting their 10th standard state exams this April. A wonderful achievement, and one we are extremely proud of. Most of our students come from homes where access to, and importance of education was not highly prioritised. For our students to engage in school, commit to study and help change their family’s attitudes is a great achievement. We wish them all the best during the exams. Results will be released in May, at which time successful students will decide whether to continue their 11th and 12th standard studies or begin a vocational training program.
Karthick became part of our programme at the age of five. From around this time, he began receiving treatment for cancer, and previous to this he had had been ill for roughly one year. In the two years that followed, Karthick received chemotherapy and gradually the swelling in his eye reduced.
However, after returning home from a treatment, Karthick fell very ill. Despite the best efforts from the community and the team to rush him back to hospital, Karthick very sadly passed away.
We are all very upset and still grieving his loss. He was a sweet, quiet, considerate and loving young boy, and was only eight when he died. He’ll forever be remembered by the MNiK community and will hold a very dear space in our hearts.
This project has been in the works for quite a long period. As more of our children started joining the private school and continued to live at home with their parents, we noticed the families required a little extra support.
By opening the community centre we created a place for parents and children to gather and receive any necessary assistance. From 06.00 to 21.00 each day, the centre is abuzz with adults learning new skills and taking part in education workshops, while children bath, dress and prepare for school, eat breakfast or afternoon tea, receive extra tuition or simply play and hangout with friends.
This extra support helped the community to achieve a 0% school dropout rate in 2018, a result we’re optimistic that we’ll achieve again in the current academic year. It’s also with enormous pleasure and pride that we await the April 2019 opening of a second community centre, complete with daycare facilities. By providing care to our littlest members of the community we can prepare them for school life, while simultaneously enabling and empowering parents to head back to work.
Although there are still three more months to go before the academic year draws to a close and the summer holidays begin, the children have already brought home a number of accolades from school. Quite a few awards were won at the school sports day. Nine of the foundation’s children won prizes in various disciplines - no mean feat with a talent pool of more than 1,000 students competing. We think they did an excellent job.
We’ve estimated that throughout 2018, our fantastic driver Logu made approximately 980 school trips, ferrying the children back and forth from their homes. For those of you who also do a regular school run, I’m sure you can appreciate the hard work of our Logu-na (Logu brother). Imagine coordinating the school run for over 121 children, while also being the foundation’s official driver in between. Our sincere thanks to Logu, we love you!
MNiK and CARE Foundation find it imperative to try and keep families together. We have noticed that at home with the family is the place where children feel happiest and most comfortable. We also don’t want the children to miss out on the wonderful dynamic that is family life. Perhaps even more important for the foundation is to ensure the children are growing up in a safe and nurturing environment. A place where they receive three nutritious meals a day; have access to functioning sanitation facilities, running water and electricity; and where school attendance is guaranteed.
This is why MNiK has invested in hiring more staff on the ground to monitor the wellbeing of the children. These team members offer an extra set of hands to assist the parents around the home, as well as hold workshops educating the parents about nutrition, self care and hygiene. The compassionate and skilled staff also help the community address the tougher issues of alcohol misuse and domestic violence. All integral steps that we believe contribute to creating a safer environment for the children to remain at home.
Part of our community programme is to ensure that all children have access to three meals plus one snack each day. Parents and families are being educated on the importance of nutrition, and the need for the children to eat a decent meal before attending school in the mornings. MNiK and the families join together in the community centre to prepare these meals. A routine which has in turn created a very important habit for children and families alike. Now the parents take a deeply proud role in ensuring the daily wellbeing of their children, plus also eat a meal themselves. A win-win for everyone.
Karunya our community centre manager and Presanna one of our social workers got engaged at the end of 2018. We are so thrilled for them!
We’ve known Karunya since she began receiving help from CARE Foundation at the age of 15. Both of her parents passed away when she was only 13, and then following a motorcycle accident Karunya was left with only one leg. In 2016, Karunya travelled to the Netherlands to receive a prosthetic, and not long after she started working with MNiK as the community centre manager.
In March 2018 Presanna joined the team as a social worker and it didn’t take long for the duo to fall in love. We wish them a very happy life together.
For the third year in a row CARE Foundation welcomed a group of visitors from the UK. All visitors are participants in our child sponsorship scheme that we run in partnership with UK Charity, Salt of the Earth. The trip was part of a journey around Tamil Nadu that also included visits to some of the other projects Salt of the Earth supports. During their time at MNiK, participants met members of the Londor community and were shown some of the ways in which their sponsorship has helped the families and children.
For several years now, the MNiK Foundation has been working closely with the adults in the Londor community to develop their working skillset. This is an integral part of the foundation’s programme, and an initiative we hope will help break the cycle of begging.
By teaching the parents a skill, we aspire for all of the families to have the capacity to generate a more secure income. And as a flow on effect of this, we’ll also eradicate the need for children to beg for their families.
Women in the community in particular, are developing a broad set of skills including basket weaving, tailoring, building, cleaning, cooking and farming. In December 2018 a company in Chennai employed seven Londor women to weave lunch baskets. Now, everyday after the children have gone to school, the seven women gather in the community centre to start their day’s work.