Mountain Children’s Foundation » Partnership

Partnership

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1The MCF was founded on the premise that if you activate the children and give them the tools and information they need, they will transform their community from within. Our continuing partnership with CRY, now in its 4thyear, is a prime example of the MCF vision at work. This partnership works to increase child participation and help young people improve their communities by engaging them on the issues ofhealth and sanitation. In 2014, we expanded the focus from sanitation and hygiene to include healthy nutrition. We have also been working with the children on birth registration, which is not only an integral part of a child’s “right to identity,” but is becoming an increasingly essential document for access to education, jobs, etc.

This program includes 16 bal sangathans (children’s groups) with more than 500 active members, approximately evenly consisting of boys and girls.

The children’s groups have matured noticeably since this program began in 2011. And the adults have begun to understand the powerful role children can play. More than ever, this year has shown how children can make their voice heard and can be change agents within their communities.

Key milestones this year included:

  • Bal sangathans made their concerns heard in the 2014 panchayat elections and the newly elected leaders took the time to meet with the children, showing that they are now considered valid stakeholders in the community.
  • The children moved beyond awareness generation to actively intervening to prevent a child marriage and help two young girls go back to school.
  • The children themselves are increasingly taking the initiative in planning and carrying out activities—an important indicator of their sense of ownership of this work and their capacity to plan and implement their vision.
  • The children’s advocacy for health and sanitation has resulted in a visible change in people’s attitudes and behaviors, including getting their parents to buildtoilets (and the family using them). Nearly 1,100 garbage receptacles were made by the children and their familiesthis year. They now contain the waste, such as plastic, that would otherwise have been thrown on the street.
  • This year the children conducted an assessment of their own bal sangathans. They identified areas of concern, such as discrimination among their members between boys and girls, and exclusion of children from other communities, and discussed how they could address these problems.
  • The children wrote to the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and Prime Minister of India about their activities on sanitation and interest in participating in theSwatch Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India) and Swatch Uttarakhand (Clean Uttarakhand) initiatives. We are still awaiting a response from the government, but the children’s desire to reach out demonstrates the wider perspective and greater awareness they have gained through their participation in the MCF.

Over the past year, the MCF team also conducted capacity-building workshops for the children and our facilitators and produced a poster on nutrition to help in discussions around this new topic area.

Because our facilitators for the children’s groups tended to be young, unmarried woman, we were experiencing a loss of staff as they began to marry and moved to other villages. To address this, the MCF changed its strategy and started to recruit young married women from that area to take the program forward. We hope this will reduce the staff turnover. And, because they are married, these women may have greater access to more of the community, especially women.
2This year of the MCF CRY program is notable for the tangible examples of how the concepts of child rights, cooperation, civic engagement, and the importance of health and sanitation, birth registration, and education have taken root in the 16 communities where this project has been active. The children’s advocacy has created not only a broader understanding of why sanitation is important, it has also resulted in people actually building and using toilets and garbage pits rather than dirtying their village. No longer are the young people perceived as “just children” engaged in meaningless child’s play.

Perhaps the most telling impact of the program is illustrated by how the children took charge of celebrating “PABAM Day.” The children from all 16 villages held programs in four different places, bought huge cakes (which they ordered, travelled to town to pick up, and paid for themselves), and put together an entire festival of games, dance and song to mark the anniversary of the MCF’s founding.

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[su_tab title=”GIVE2ASIA – Bridging the generation gap”]

1The Give2Asia partnership is one of our most important because it epitomizes the MCF model of not just working directly with the young people of a community, but also tapping into a network of local grassroots organizations to support the children. Partnering with grassroots organizations to implement our projects serves several key purposes:Primarily, it spreads the concept of child-driven development into organizations that usually focus on more traditional development approaches such as working on health, women’s issues, agriculture, etc. Through the MCF, they learn how this work can be enhanced by the active participation of the community’s youth. At the same time, the children are able to build relationship with organizations that exist within their communities. Ultimately, this model strengthens and builds capacity for the entire community and is more sustainable because it does not rely solely on the MCF. It also promotes cooperation among organizations.

Our 2014 Bridging the Generation Gap project took place in seven communities around the state of Uttarakhand. This was the fourth year of this unique initiative to help build the fabric of these communities by connecting the children with their elders. Due to upheavals caused by high levels of migration out of the villages as well as communications advances such as cell phones, the gap between the youngest and oldest generations has widened. Many elderly people feel isolated and abandoned. By helping build a common ground for communication between the children and their grandparents in the quest to revive their old cultural songs and stories, we enable the children to help relieve the isolation of the elderly, strengthen community ties, and renew pride in their culture and identity.

2The core of the project consisted of two village-level workshops with the children and the elders. In the first workshop, facilitators used games and other activities to break the ice between the two generations and got them talking about the old stories, songs and dances of their grandparents’ younger days. Then the children followed up with their elders to write down the stories, a process that often required talking to multiple people. In the follow-up workshop, everyone came back together to share what they had uncovered. Many of the stories were published in PABAM magazine, which reaches our children’s groups across the state and were also showcased at the village-level mela, or fair, organized by the children.

This year we conducted two statewide trainings for the facilitators from each partner organization and two sets of village-level workshops with the children and elders of each community. While the attendance varied among the workshops, we estimate a total of more than 250 children and 150 seniors participated and generated dozens of stories. (We are also looking for resources to publish the stories from the four years of the program as a book.)

The children, with support from the partner organizations, took the lead in hosting a village-level mela, or festival, which often drew people from surrounding communities as well.  Ultimately, more than 1,500 people were touched by the project.

Although the gulf between the generationscontinues to grow, and the oldest generation is often left alone with no one to talk to, this small initiative was able to bring both generations together.They learned much from each other and gained a better understanding of one another and established new bonds of sympathy and respect.

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