Backing dreams

DEVELOPMENT

‘Spoorthi’, the women’s wing of the Builders’ Association of India’s Mysore chapter, is devoted to the welfare of construction workers. This group has adopted a school at Mooganahundi, a village near Mysore. Most of the students here are children of construction workers, and ‘Spoorthi’ is trying to bring joy back into schooling, writes Jyothi Raghuram.

Vivekananda High School in Mooganahundi, a non-descript village about 15 km from Mysore, is nowhere on the horizon of fame. Yet it has been picked up by a women’s organisation of Mysore and showered with acts of appreciation, with promises of more and better facilities. Vivekananda High School is a private school run by a Trust devoted to the education of underprivileged children. ‘Spoorthi’, which has adopted the school this year, mobilises funds for such activities and has no corpus of its own.

Most of the students are children of construction workers—a segment of unorganised labour that ‘Spoorthi’ knows all about, and whose welfare it has taken up as its responsibility. Set up by a handful of genuinely concerned women, ‘Spoorthi’, the women’s wing of the Builders’ Association of India (BAI) (Mysore chapter), is the first such organisation in the country arising as an offshoot of the BAI, and devoted entirely to the welfare of construction workers. “Children have been our main focus. We searched for a school that really needed impetus and found Vivekananda High School. We are looking to uplift facilities to help the school academically and bring joy into schooling,” says Prema Badarinath, President of ‘Spoorthi’, and one of its founding members.

Slew of activities

Vivekananda school is unlike many others of its ilk. The teachers here take free tuitions for their wards both morning and evening, free of cost. The school boasts of many children who have passed the 10th standard with distinction, which is remarkable for children from a rural and deprived background. “We began by felicitating the teachers there for their dedication. A lot of fun activities and innovative programmes are awaiting the children, beginning with Children’s Day on November 14,” says Prema. ‘Spoorthi’ has already donated books to the school library. The out-of-the-box thinking of ‘Spoorthi’ has brought larger dimensions to its very idea of helping. The organisation has identified dyslexic children in the school, and is undertaking an orientation programme to sensitise and train teachers to handle them with care.

Construction workers essentially comprise migrant labour, which makes it difficult to help any one segment on a sustained basis. Yet ‘Spoorthi’ has kept track of many children good in their studies, and even helped them financially to take up professional courses. Vinay is one of them. A qualified engineer, he can aspire to become a member of BAI itself, his life and the efforts of ‘Spoorthi’ turning a full circle.

“We have been emphasising the importance of general health and hygiene,” says Prema, pointing out that talks by medical specialists on basic aspects of health which construction workers can follow easily, have helped increase awareness levels among them. Regular health camps lead the workers and their families to a clinic run by ‘Spoorthi’ in the BAI premises. Besides free distribution of toys and groceries, and the much-needed footwear for the labourers, blood grouping for the children is also taken up. May Day celebrations are relaxing affairs for the families—a fun fair, free food, sports competitions, and even cinema tickets make for a fun day instead of being bombarded by preachy speeches.

Course for women workers

Being a women’s organisation, ‘Spoorthi’ has a soft corner for women. “We are planning a certified course for women construction workers, which could help them get into specialised areas of work, with better wages,” says Prema. A woman engineer from among builders is identified and recognised annually, and a deserving girl child is given full financial assistance from the 10th standard to complete her education as she chooses. Special children have also come under its ambit. The rehabilitation of  one child from the Association for the Welfare of Mentally Disabled, an NGO, is the responsibility of ‘Spoorthi’ every year. These activities have been going on for ten years, with Vivekananda school being taken up as a pilot project now.

‘Spoorthi’, meaning “inspiration” in Kannada, has been just that to the marginalised community of construction workers of Mysore. Its activities have also inspired the spouses of the Jaipur wing of BAI. A group of members went from Mysore to help set up an outfit in Rajasthan last year.

Spurred by this, “we are working towards making ‘Spoorthi’ a national movement”, says Prema. ‘Spoorthi’ is a conglomeration of the wives of members of the BAI. Their children, in turn, have set up ‘Chaya’, to help their mothers organise programmes. If this isn’t passing on a heritage, then what else is.


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