A nation’s development always begins at grass root level.

As part of the Day of Action initiative of United Way Worldwide, Bengaluru chapter’s “Mothering Dreams” tried to highlight the importance of showing young children, who are our future, the road to foster sustainable development in a noteworthy manner.

Anganwadi. Mothers. Recycling. These were the three cornerstones of our Day of Action.

Anganwadi is a type of rural child care center in India. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition. Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages.

Culturally and psychologically unique, United Way Bengaluru attempted to mobilize the rural mothers of Anganwadi children to engage in recycling activities where they recycled indigenous recyclable child safe materials into objects of learning and play for the kids. These were later used by the children themselves.

During the activities, the children had keenly observed their mothers in action and tried to mimic them. They also learnt the significance of green principles in life from their mothers as children in the 0-4 age bracket are at a highly impressionable age. Psychologically speaking, the mother-child bond enabled a better learning environment and it also drove home the crucial role of a mother being a child’s first teacher. In fact, it reiterated the core objective of Born Learning Campaign which cannot emphasize enough the role of a mother in a child’s early childhood education and care. The BLC campaign has been mothering rural Anganwadi dreams since some time now and this event underscored it.

“A Mother, being a first teacher in a child’s life has a key influencing role; formal and informal. ‘Mothering Dreams’ is a recognition of the fact that child’s learning ability can be greatly enhanced if the Mother is given a chance to enter the classroom set up and make learning aids with a touch of love and affection. We had reached out to over 100 Anganwadis and saw the mother of every child take part with fun and excitement”, says Smita Sharma, Program Head – Education, United Way Bengaluru.

The concept does not end here. The targeted Anganwadis were already a part of UWBe’s Born Learning project where the Day of Action went hand-in-hand with the campaign’s goal of strengthening pre-school children’s cognitive and motor abilities. The activities carried out involved creating items which required concentration and skill. The Day of Action aimed to affect learning through 5 developmental aspects – motor skills, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, cognitive thinking and speech and language development.

A educational pulley system created from play items

Children used eco-friendly clay to make moulds

This program was rolled out in 100 Anganwadis simultaneously across the city of Bengaluru with volunteers and extended team of UWBe extending support. While United Way Bengaluru provided them items such as glue, scissors and other stationary materials, the mothers were requested to bring items like newspapers, old cloths, tires and seeds such that they would be available at no cost in their communities. Most of the materials used were recyclable indigenous materials.

Play item made from used bottle caps

The teachers of Anganwadis helped the mothers to understand the requirements of educational aids at the centres and the same were prepared by them from the recyclable materials they had brought with them. About 2035 mothers and 3500 children participated in this program. In this two-hour program held at multiple locations across the city, we were able to make 3300 educational aids that were in line with Chilipili curriculum followed in Anganwadi schools in the city of Bengaluru.

Chilipili is a theme of education or a curriculum followed in the courtyard shelters. This curriculum is in line with Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy developed by Government of India. This policy caters to all children under 6 years of age and commits to universal access to quality early childhood education.

“The objective is to get the mothers in the underprivileged community to come together and prepare child-friendly play materials using reusable and eco-friendly products. We are keen that through this initiative, children should not be deprived of their innocence but kindle their curiosity and encourage mothers to be invested in the growth of their children. Non-availability of funds should never be a deterrent and we need to show case alternate possibilities for these community members” says, Mr Rajesh Krishnan, Executive Director, United Way Bengaluru.

The key highlight of this campaign was the participation of the transgender community and the backward slums in their own premises. About 10 people from the transgender community and mothers from the backward slums took part by preparing creative learning materials at their respective homes.

Slum mothers and children also joined in the activities

Transgender community involved in the activities

Joy and happiness radiated from the delighted faces of little chubby-faced children at their ‘mother-made’ materials which spelled the real success of this campaign.

In learning from their mothers on how to recycle waste into articles that matter to them like educational aids and playthings, UWBe attempted to simultaneously empower the women, children and the environment for a more sustainable future. Mothering the dreams of the little required an extended effort that included but was not limited to the mother alone. It was aided by the able helping hands of the local community and United Way Bengaluru.

Anganwadi is a type of rural child care center in India. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition. Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages.

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