A Balwadi for Kids of Construction Workers
Construction sites are the largest employers of migrant workers, with approximately 11 million men and women working on projects across India. The children of these workers suffer from a lack of proper food, hygiene, sanitation, education, etc, and are left to fend for themselves in tiny shanties or at the dusty sites where their mothers work. For the past 40 years, Mumbai Mobile Crèche (MMC) has been striving to help migrant families and their children. 
 
“MMC’s vision is for all children to have a nurturing and happy childhood and, with this vision, we have been running day-care centres for children of migrant workers for over four decades,” says Vrishali Pispati, chief executive officer of the organisation.
 
It is one of the few NGOs that specifically supports construction labourers and has reached over 100,000 children across 270 construction sites in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. 
 
MMC’s marvellous story begins in 1969 when its founder, Meera Mahadevan, picked up and soothed a wailing baby near Rajghat, during the Gandhi Centenary celebrations, and realised that many children and infants at the construction site had nobody to look out for them. It is then that the idea of a mobile crèche was born and she was joined soon by her friend Devika Singh as co-founder.  
 
In a matter of years, there were many helping hands; in 1972, it branched out to Mumbai and in 1980 to Pune. In September 2006, the organisation split into three separate entities—Mumbai Mobile Crèches, Mobile Crèches (Delhi) and Tara Mobile Crèches (Pune). MMC is now a Section 25 company that reaches out to 4,500 children every year.  
 
MMC’s day-care centres cater to children from birth to 14 years. Ms Pispati emphasises, “We aim to promote ‘child-friendly sites’; where every child living on a construction site is safe, healthy and educated, and able to enjoy their childhood. The challenge is to look after children whose families come from 15 different states of the country and speak over 10 different languages.”
 
MMC’s education programme includes a crèche, Balwadi, and an ‘after school support’. The crèche, for babies under three, concentrates on creating a safe environment; the Balwadi, for children from three to five years, tries to promote overall growth and development of the children and get them ready for school. The ‘after school support’ is for children from six to 14 and targets enrolment and retention of these children in municipal schools. 
 
“The curriculum is planned yearly and teachers meet every other month for feedback and support. Centres follow the same standardised programme to ensure consistency and better sharing, learning and monitoring,” adds Ms Pispati.
 
Nutrition and hygiene is a big priority at the centres with a planned daily diet for children of all age groups. They are given four meals a day, as well as calcium and vitamin supplements. There are weekly visits from doctors and MMC also organises special health camps for eye and dental check-ups to screen for common illnesses.
 
In recent years, MMC has observed a proliferation of smaller construction sites across Mumbai, which makes it difficult to set up a full-fledged day-care centre. In August 2013, this led to creation of ‘Care on Wheels’, a mobile bus that is equipped with educational and health materials and MMC’s care-givers. 
 
Ms Pispati says, “It is deeply ironic that the children of the very people who produce the symbols of economic development—skyscrapers, residential and commercial complexes—are denied the ability to participate in and benefit from the progress the city promises.”
 
Donations are eligible for exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act. You can also offer support by volunteering.
 
Mumbai Mobile Crèche
1st Floor, Abbas Building, Mereweather Road, Colaba, 
Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001 
Contact: 022 22020869 / 022 22020879

 

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    COMMENTS

    Silloo Marker

    2 years ago

    Mumbai Mobile Creches is doing extremely useful work by taking care of children who would otherwise be left to fend for themselves. Anyone giving time or money to such an organisation is certainly giving to a good cause.

    Hi-tech, Low-cost Gift to the Blind
    When Surabhi Srivastava from Mumbai was judged the winner of the prestigious 2017 ASME Innovation Showcase competition, it was a reconfirmation of her belief that technology should improve the quality of life for the disadvantaged. BrailleMe, the award-winning product developed by her company, Innovision, makes it possible for the visually impaired to access any digital information instantaneously in their own tactile script.
     
    Their product, BrailleMe, is the world’s first ever low-cost digital aid which enables the visually impaired to access digital content and devices in their own script in multiple languages. It is a digital Braille assistant aimed at digital accessibility for the 39 million visually impaired members of the global community.
     
    The core content of BrailleMe is the ‘magnetic Braille actuator technology’, for which Innovision has a patent application pending. This breakthrough provides a huge price advantage over their competitors’ products. It sells for just $300 compared to competitors’ price of over $3,000. “The technological challenge attracted us the most, as affordability is embedded in the technology itself,” says Surabhi.
     
    Their core aims for the product range from increasing the rate of literacy of the visually impaired community to creating ergonomic change in the workplace that can help increase employment opportunities for them—that is, “to create a social impact through an affordable product.” Innovision categorises the daily challenges faced by the blind in accessing information as: the lack of availability, accessibility, affordability and, finally, having it in audio format. BrailleMe surmounts all these challenges. It allows them to access any information in digital Braille without paying a fortune. It can provide e-books and  also Braille access to MS Office and other software. More importantly, it allows them to access social media and social network apps in Braille. The product itself is “multi-lingual, portable, battery-powered, ergonomic and affordable,” says Innovision’s website.
     
    Innovision’s team, led by Surabhi and her partner Shyam Shah, aims at positively impacting people’s lives with their work. They are both alumni of IIT Bombay. Surabhi manages the production department of the company as also business development while Shyam oversees technology and product development. Surabhi has an MTech degree in metallurgy and material sciences. Shyam is an MTech in energy sciences and engineering. 
     
    Innovision calls itself a product innovation company developing assistive technology solutions for the empowerment of the differently-abled, with a critical focus on affordability for users. It has been working on BrailleMe for the past two years, in an effort to reverse rising global illiteracy rates among the blind.
     
    Surubhi tells us how getting hold of the necessary hardware to start the production process for BrailleMe itself highlighted how scant the work done in this segment was.
     
    Another challenge, clearly, is outreach and implementation of social projects. Surabhi believes that NGOs and government organisations need to be involved in supporting and implementing such projects. Innovision has some experience in this area, having worked with a few government initiatives such as Accessible India (for empowerment of the public works department), Digital India (for digital inclusion and accessibility of untapped communities) and Skill India (for employing and training of the visually impaired in computer-based jobs).
     
    She says, “We were lucky to get some support from NGOs and government organisations, but what about other hardware engineers in other parts of the country? Hopefully, both, guidance and the technical support, that a hardware company requires will become more available.”
     
    BrailleMe’s big challenge will be to create awareness about electronic Braille and promote its adoption by NGOs, teachers, vocational trainers and other channels.
     
    Innovision 
    CN09, SINE (Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship), 
    IIT Bombay, Powai, Mumbai 400076
    Phone: 09167470369
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    Ramesh Poapt

    2 years ago

    Great!

    An Effort to Reduce Medical Errors

    “What is the right approach?” is a question Dr Nikhil Datar has battled with for years while discussing the healthcare system. In a long journey of 20 years as an obstetrician and gynaecologist working for various medical organisations (and obtaining a law degree in the process), he has observed the system from the inside. Small wonder that the anomaly of ‘medical errors’ has engaged his attention.

    The Medical Scribe Journal defines medical errors as “preventable adverse effect of medical care whether or not evident or harmful to the patient.” It is the third leading cause of death in the USA. India is not far behind, in terms of damage, with approximately 5.2 million injuries each year caused by medical errors.

    All this hit home with Dr Datar, when his mother had a personal brush with a medical mess-up. Some unexpected miscalculations during an appendectomy led her into a rare state of ‘awareness during anaesthesia’. This can be severely damaging to a patient’s mental state as the patient clearly remembers the intensity of the pain experienced during the surgery. The incident triggered a concern for ‘patient safety’ in Dr Datar’s mind and, in 2009, after being awarded the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship by the United Kingdom government, he established the Patient Safety Alliance (PSA).

    PSA is an initiative of Atmonnati Charities, a charitable trust started by Dr Nikhil Datar and supported by Professor Rajan Madhok, Pramod Lele (CEO, Hinduja Hospital) and others.

    PSA works to empower patients and reduce medical errors without taking an adversarial role towards doctors and healthcare professionals. Its objectives range from raising awareness about patient safety, creating a resource library for patients and professionals, to supporting healthcare professionals to promote safer care. The Alliance places emphasis on a systems-based approach to the problem rather than a personal one. “Systems errors cause good people to fail,” believes Dr Datar and wants to end such ‘deficiencies’.

    PSA organises two types of educational programmes to spread awareness about medical errors. “Be Alert: Be Safe” is meant for consumers; and “Be Safe” is aimed at influencing healthcare professionals to be more cautious in their practice and procedures. Both sides need to make a conscious effort to reduce errors.
     
    PSA also provides ‘Be Alert tools’ to help patients communicate their problems more effectively to doctors. The tool-kit contains a medical history card, a medication card and a checklist for patients who are scheduled to undergo surgery. There is also a patient communication card, which is actually helps doctors to work more effectively. Dr Datar believes that the knowledge gap in society is the Alliance’s biggest challenge.

    Dr Datar’s idea of a ‘systematised mechanism’ for reducing errors includes a ‘Safe Prescription’ app which, he hopes, will become more popular in the healthcare system by providing automated support to both, doctors and patients. It include prescription, dispensing and administration mistakes and covers issues like bad handwriting and look-alike products. PSA also promotes prescription of generics rather than of brands.

    Dr Datar is a strong advocate for change in the abortion laws. Over the years, he has supported several women in situations where defects, such as anencephaly (an underdeveloped brain), show up in tests only after the legal period for terminating a pregnancy has ended. In 2008, he filed a case in the Supreme Court for his patient Nikita Mehta who had crossed the 20-week mark for abortion as her unborn child suffered from a cardiac anomaly. Dr Datar and his colleagues have also worked on a modified draft of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. PSA’s core mandate and effort affects all of us. You can be a part of this process of creating a better healthcare system by helping to organise awareness workshops or making a financial contribution.

    Patient Safety Alliance 

    C-1001, Siddhi Complex, Tilak Nagar, Off Aarey Road, Goregaon East 
    Mumbai 400063
    Email:info@patientsafetyalliance.in
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