It all started when a twelve member team from PCVC reached Rudraprayag in first week of July 2013 to assess first hand whether there was any threat for child trafficking which generally follows when children are separated from their families, unaccompanied, orphaned or displaced following a disaster. While the team was reassured that no child trafficking threat existed, instead it observed that a large number of schools have been severely damaged. By third week of July the we helped restart the Taxila School in Vijayanagar, Augustyamnuni, which had been completely washed away. The school was restarted under a tent canopy. The students came; Augustyamuni town was not ready to give in to nature’s fury! This is an example of the initial steps towards long term recovery which the state and non state agencies took in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
The reason for the high toll of children in the flash floods gave the idea that a residential school be started. The practice of children joining their fathers during their summer vacations in and around Kedarnath to ferry pilgrims on ponies meant that a number of such children were present directly on the path of the flood. Pratham started working on setting up a residential home for the orphans and single parent children in September 2013. Data available at the time with Pratham indicated that in Rudraprayag district there were 59 child casualties, 184 children were missing and 477 children were left with a single parent. The upkeep and care of these vulnerable children was high on the agenda of the district administration, and when Pratham suggested setting up of a residential home for disaster affected children, it was immediately approved and facilitated by the district officials. United Way of India agreed to fund the initiative.
By September 2013, with a MoU with the district administration in place, Pratham was on a look out for a facility which could house about 60 children. Given that in hills large buildings are seldom available, finding the right accommodation was proving to be a stumbling block. Most of government buildings were either damaged or in use for relief work / designated activities. It seemed like a dead end, when the owner of Poonam Lodge, where the Pratham team was staying, offered the facility to Pratham at a very reasonable rent for setting up the residential home.
With the infrastructure in place, Pratham started its outreach in 60 villages of Ukhimath and Augustymuni blocks. 6 local staff were recruited and trained for providing outreach to a catchment of 60 villages. Outreach intent was (i) education and child right advocacy in the catchment, (ii) creating awareness amongst the villagers about the residential home , (iii) identification of children in need, (iv) gaining faith and familiarity with the villagers so that they may trust Pratham with their children. The outreach team started identification of vulnerable children and met their guardians. Senior staff from Pratham offices all over the country volunteered to help in the outreach activities. Within a month and a half the home started functioning and was inaugurated on 14 November 2013. The residential centre home is also the hub for regular outreach activities to the 60 villages in its catchment. Each field staff has been allotted ten villages where he/she visits as per a set schedule and provides sensitization on child rights. It is also planned to setup children protection committees in these villages which will act as pressure group against out of school children and ensure Right to Education (RTE) norms are being met at the government schools Also would be set up children parliament (Bal Sansad) to give children a say in the development of their village. Work will also happen in improving the academic standards of the schools in the catchment through teacher training and introducing better teaching tools and mechanisms.
- Prevention Program
- Residential Program
- Digital Literacy Program
- Child Rights & RTE awareness sessions