Power of Love's Partner in Bangalore, India
Jagruthi, A Unique NGO
Project Manager: Renu Appachu
With the growth of sex trafficking in India, the number of people affected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is rising rapidly. A sizeable fraction of the HIV infected population, are children between the ages of 7 to 18 years. Some children acquired the virus from their parents, while many others acquire it through early involvement in sex-related activities. In 1996, Renu Appachu, a social worker, was engaged in educational programs for sex workers and male prisoners in Bangalore. She observed that an increasing number of children were entering the sex trade often through abuse and exploitation, and were becoming victims of sexually transmitted diseases.
No support system existed to rescue these children and bring them into the mainstream society. Most home care facilities were reluctant to adopt these children because of their sex-related background. Ms. Appachu founded a home-care center, dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of HIV positive children. The formation of this Home Care Center also marked the birth of Jagruthi, which is based in Bangalore, India.
Since 1996, Jagruthi's Home Care Center has provided residential care to over 190 children and currently houses about 60 children ranging in age from newborn to 20. Most of these children have been either sexually exploited or involved in sex work in the past, while some have been orphaned due to AIDS. The programs at Jagruthi strive to protect and nurture these children, leading them towards a better and brighter future. Jagruthi has become a pioneer in its approach towards tackling the problem of sex trade and HIV/AIDS in India.
Partnership With POL
Jagruthi is determined to protect children from sexual exploitation and empower them to lead self-reliant lives. Girls are exploited and subdued in a variety of ways in Indian society and some reports indicate that girls are introduced to the sex trade as early as seven years of age. Neither the government nor many NGOs are addressing this exploitation of girls. Furthermore, the patriarchal nature of society makes it difficult for boys to seek help when they are subject to sexual abuse. The Power of Love Foundation has had a unique opportunity to learn about these complex issues through its partnership with Jagruthi. The Power of Love Foundation supports Jagruthi and its work that is geared towards reintegrating children engaged in sex trade into society.
Home Care Centers (HCC)
The Home Care Center is one of the most important programs at Jagruthi. The Center is home to children from a variety of backgrounds and a sizeable number of them are HIV positive. The Center has trained staff to provide medical and psychiatric care to the children. Doctors at the Center provide symptomatic treatment for HIV positive children. In cases of substance abuse, including narcotics, solvents or alcohol, the Center provides rehabilitation courses to the children. In the event of death, the necessary police clearance and disposal of bodies is also handled by the Center. Jagruthi has successfully integrated eight children born to teen mothers at this Center into its pediatric care program.
Home Care Centers are located in two areas: Bilekehalli and Cox Town areas of Bengaluru. These are a Residential Transit Home for children who do not have a home, a place to live, or a safe home. Education, counseling, vocational and skills training are provided to children with the goal of successful re-integration into society. Medical check-ups, screening for TB/HIV/STD’s are provided with customized diets their stay in this residential care center. In total, the two centers provide care to 75 children. The children are engaged in activities such as games, self-defense, educational trips, yoga, meditation, etc. especially during vacation times. Regular visits and monitoring are done by the key staff as guided by the Director. More ifnormation about the two home care centers is given below:
Home Care Center in Cox Town, Bangalore: Residential care is provided to children rescued from traumatic and unsafe environments. Some children are AIDS orphan, some are living with HIV and need medical attention, some have been sexually, emotionally abused (several times), rescued from sex work, some with heart and other ailments, and some are trafficked and have run away from their homes. Children whose parents can be contacted are provided with education about HIV prevention and caring for an HIV+ child. Despite of these difficult circumstances, most children like school, art work, sports, dance, rangoli etc. and enjoy interacting with their peers and teachers. These children are provided with counseling as needed. Trained staff members and caregivers help the children with daily activities. The children attend MEG High school that is run by Jagruthi. They perform well in all extra-curricular activities in intra and inter-school events.
Home Care Center in Bilekehalli, Bangalore: Most children are children of migrants who have travel from drought-hit areas of North Karnataka and other rural areas of South India looking for jobs for survival. Since, most men do not have proper education, and most women are illiterate they get part-time work on construction sites as helpers, house-keeping jobs, other odd jobs, and part-time sex work. Children of these migrant workers, experience suffering due to extreme poverty and family problems. The children are vulnerable to various forms of abuse as well. The men folk eventually get addicted to alcohol and drugs. The women spend their days trying to feed their family. Most parents, and relatives look forward to getting their children “settled” and married at a very young age. But this is certainly against the right of a child who is already in a vulnerable situation.
The parents undergo counseling and can visit the child every three months, and can take them home during summer vacation, after they have completed their academic year exams. The children are sent back home only if a safe home is guaranteed by the parents. The center is run in a systematic manner with documentation maintained. All children attend a nearby private school by name Gnanaprakasam School.
Impact: The children have improved well over these years not just in studies but in overall performance including in cultural and sports events. There is a notable change among the children in their attitude towards taking care of themselves, about life overall and promise to become change agents among their communities. This is achieved through regular intervention, interaction, and counseling by staff. Because of the nutrition and medical care provided, the physical growth of most children is normal.
Pre-Schools and Day Care Centers in Two Slum Area in Bangalore
Day care centers and pre-schools are situated in two main slum areas in Bangalore, Doddigiunta and Shivajinagar. The pre-school in school in Shivajinagar area has 55 children and Doddigunta pre-school has 75 children giving a total of 130 children in the two preschools.
Need: In both areas, sex work is a direct or indirect way to supplement the family’s income. Due to parents’ lack of education and poverty, children in the ages of 3-6 years, miss out on their right to education, play and learning. Our day care and pre-schools are a boon to vulnerable children and their families.
Caregivers of children are parents/single parents and are mostly absent from their homes during the day when they are at work or looking for work. Most parents work part-time as daily laborers, seasonal street vendors, or sex workers. They are unable to protect their children from sexual abuse, or in some cases addiction which results poor physical and mental health of the child. In addition, most of the men and some women are addicted to alcohol and tobacco smoking and chewing which further reduces their attention and affection towards their children. In short, the children are completely neglected and do not get help from government agencies either.
Children identified from these backgrounds are admitted with the consent of parents after discussions regarding the benefits of the pre-school and day care center (where their children are provided with food and an opportunity to learn and play in a safe environment). Once admitted, the children are provided educational and medical facilities, along with porridge in the morning, nutritious meal and evening snacks. The children also enjoy extra-curricular activities. A combination of Play way method, and Montessori training methods along with a structured syllabus are used. The children also learn concepts such as color, shape, numbers and communication. They also learn socialization, rhymes, group games etc. We have a team of qualified and experienced staff to carry out this holistic child centered program which is our mission.
A bridge course designed by Jagruthi staff imparts basic primary and secondary schooling to the children at the Home Care Center and prepares them for school examinations. The children are encouraged to attend schools outside the center, but most feel more comfortable with the center's bridge course work. The curriculum of the bridge course includes languages, science, mathematics, social studies, physical fitness, and "team-building" workshops.
Life-skills development is another program offered at the center. Children are trained in income generating skills like mirror work, tailoring and embroidery, cross-stitch and petti-pointing, jute work, screen and block printing and book binding. The variety of educational activities offered has a therapeutic effect on the children and prepares them to lead a self-reliant and respectable life.
Jagruthi has been providing counseling services since its inception, to people from all strata of society. Jagruthi also provides counseling, support, and health education to men having sex with men. Though the subject of men having sex with men is still a taboo in Indian society, it is one of the principle causes of HIV/AIDS among Indian men. As a result of the pioneering work of Jagruthi in this area, organizations from the Delhi and Mumbai areas have sought advice from staff at Jagruthi in the area of HIV/AIDS.
In 2005, Jagruthi formed a theater group to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. The "Street Theater Group" visits rural and urban areas in and around Bangalore and performs short skits focused on the topic of HIV/AIDS. Plays are performed in the local language Kannada, and in five other local dialects, in collaboration with other NGOs. After a performance local talent is identified and volunteers are trained on ways to spread the message of HIV-prevention using their theatrical skills. The Street Theater Group has been successful as evidenced by the increasing numbers of marginalized and poor people who visit Jagruthi for voluntary testing for HIV from areas outside of Bangalore city.
Jagruthi is planning to build two drop-in centers in the red light areas of Bangalore. The centers will allow immediate access to counseling and testing services and serve as facilitators for referrals to the Home Care Center. Through these centers, children needing help can be identified faster, tested for STDs/STIs and provided support by trained counselors. Jagruthi hopes that skilled resource personnel will be conducting classes at the center in the near future. In addition a doctor will visit each center three times a week to conduct regular medical check-ups and referrals for diagnostic tests. The drop-in centers will also help sex workers interested in exploring alternative employment opportunities.