To build a self-sustaining environment that empowers and provides direction to those in need.
Imparting education and life skills to facilitate marginalized children, youth and women, thereby creating change-makers, who become wholesome contributing members of the society.
ROPIO Foundation started by working in urban slums three years ago, catering to the educational and developmental needs of children and youth. Our mode of operation was to work inside slums and improve the situations from within by building a relationship with the slum dwellers. We started working at the slum clusters based behind RML hospital, Kali Bari Marg in April 2010 with 60 Kids.
We conducted tuitions for children belonging to government schools there, studying in classes between 1 and 10 (ages 6 – 18) as well as conducted creative workshops in art, craft, dance, music and theatre. With ample support and encouragement from the slums, our number of children reached 100 by August 2010. We also encouraged drop-outs to enroll back into school by counseling them and their families, on importance of formal education. Our momentum reached a screeching halt when the slums were demolished by CPWD in November 2010. A huge blow to our mission, this stalled our progress and severed ties with many kids as they along with their families had to move away to other slums and houses. This hand of fate steered us onto a different path. The long term vision remains the same but the journey has taken a detour. We decided to gather the 25 kids determined to continue with us and took a rented apartment in Satya Niketan in December 2010. With exams around the corner, our first concern was their education. We struggled to retain normalcy in their routine but forged on with the support of our volunteers and families. From Satya Niketan we moved to Patel Nagar which has been our home since April 2011.
Moving from the “informal city” (slums) setting to a rented abode brought its own set of challenges. The expenses skyrocketed as apart from education, food, lodging, utility bills, transport, health and nutrition of these kids became our responsibility. Providing them home away from home became a priority.
Like a phoenix rising from ashes, ROPIO got up, dusted itself off and embarked on this new tumultuous journey, adapting to the changes and challenges thrown our way. A centre for kids which was part of the ultimate goal and expected to come into the picture a few years down the line when we were more experienced and prepared was now thrust upon us by circumstances and we had to own it and move forward with it.
This change brought along a lot of clarity of where we were and where we are headed. This led us to our vision, mission and goals as an organization.
ROPIO evolved into a place where kids are taught to be good human beings along with educated responsible citizens of the society. Values like compassion, sense of belonging, courage, friendship and respect are the pillars, this organization stands on. Kids are raised to not only have the knowledge of distinguishing right from the wrong but also, the virtue to choose the right path as well.
All the kids are enrolled in government schools and get after-school assistance at ROPIO centre in the form of tuition, discussions and study sessions conducted by volunteers, members and tuition centres. It is the character building and personality development activities that make ROPIO stand apart. For e.g. Cleanliness drives and nature walks teach them to be responsible and answerable to nature. Car washes in the community teach them that no job is menial when done with diligence and respect. They learn how to spread the love and share the good fortune with those who need it most by being a part of initiatives like Santa workshop and Kilkari. Orphanage visits where free goodies, blankets, clothes, etc are distributed to the needy. Tournaments like Futsal- a soccer tournament taught them the spirit of sportsmanship. Events like Udaan- a cultural program taught them how to develop the craft of dramatic arts and dancing. Artees- a T-shirt painting event where ROPIO tied up with WWF taught them to work for the betterment of endangered species along with discovering their penchant for painting. We are especially proud of our initiative ‘National Children’s Parliament’ which was aimed at developing the quality of leadership in students and make government & civil society understand the common children’s point of view by expressing it in an articulate manner. To make them understand and live Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of ’Be the change you want to see in the world’. It made them realise the power that they held in their hands as the future policy makers and change harbingers of the country.
Events like Udaan and Artees were fund raising events that came about with our need to spread awareness about our work and find ways to financially sustain ourselves.
During this period of adjustment, Social Media channels like Facebook and Twitter have been messiahs sent by God. They helped us via kind, cash, Human Resource etc. At the time of slum demolition and our subsequent move to a centre, we were able to furnish our new home with help of these digital messiahs who showered us with ration, art supplies, education/study material, stationery, kitchenware, fridge, gas stove, blankets etc among other things. We boast of a great relationship with our online well wishers. Apart from the obvious material help, it brings in a steady flow of volunteers, spreads awareness about our NGO and is great promotional space for our events.
ROPIO’s USP- Teaching and Learning which has been restricted to and often even crippled by formal education is supported by rich values based system.
Overtime our Kids have witnessed, learned and imbibed these values and it’s a moment of humble pride when we see examples of them passing it on to others. As an instance, we received more jackets to ward off the winters than we required, in that situation our kids were excited to distribute them to needy kids of the nearby area. It’s endearing to see the elder kids helping out the younger ones with their studies and their everyday chores around the centre. Values like sense of belonging and friendship are so deep rooted in our kids that now they can sense if others are neglected without any verbal discussion and make it a point to bring it to our notice so that emotional and physical help can he extended. It is at such occasions that we realize that we are heading on the right path and need to continue go forward.
‘Teach to Learn and Learn to Teach’ initiative whereby all our kids will hold classes in their community to pass on the academic, vocational, skill based or character building values which they have learnt. We will teach so they learn and they learn so they can further teach it to their brethren. So our 25 messengers can go out into the world and spread their knowledge to 100 more and those 100 go out and touch another 200 thereby making this small ripple into a big wave of change.