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Good Work Spotlight: Mumbai Mobile Creches

Mumbai Mobile Creches (MMC) is an NGO founded with the belief that every child has the fundamental right to security, education, health care and protection. Running day care centres on construction sites in Mumbai since 1972, MMC at present runs 19 centres in the metro as well as Navi Mumbai and Thane. Our focus is on holistic development of children of all ages, and our day care centres provide education, nutrition and healthcare services. Our model of comprehensive child care and work is in close partnership with parents, the construction industry, labour communities, government agencies and other concerned NGOs to promote child rights. Over the last 43 years, we have developed and pioneered a model that supports the development of very young children, frees parents from the burden of child care, and helps children get into and stay in school. Since inception, Mumbai Mobile Creches has reached more than 100,000 children through its 270 centres.

The construction industry is the largest employer of migrant labourers in urban India. These labourers are usually the poorest of the poor, and millions are employed on construction sites across the country. They are largely unorganized and move wherever they can earn an income. Most migrant labourers are illiterate and speak only their native language. Their lives are characterized by insecurity over wages, dangerous working conditions, and lack of access to employee benefits.

The children of these workers are even more vulnerable. Because of the extreme poverty of their families and because their parents are constantly working, these children are left to fend for themselves. They suffer from malnutrition, undernourishment, accidents, and innumerable health problems and are marginalized from formal schooling, day care centres or any sort of support system. The dangerous construction site is their only playground.

Our education programme is the backbone of our work with these children. We set up crèches for kids 0-3 years old, a pre-school (balwadi) for kids 3-6 years old, and after-school support for kids 6-14 years old. For the youngest, our interactive programme encourages physical, cognitive, emotional and social growth. School preparedness is a focus for the balwadi students, while skills necessary for integration into municipal schools are taught in the after-school support classroom. Programmes in all of the classrooms are based on learning models of engagement, intellectual imagination, individual initiative, and teamwork. Arts and crafts, song, dance, puppetry, and other creative means of learning are central to our curricula.

We work hard to improve the health of the children living on construction sites and to maintain a clean, safe space in which they can learn and play. To reduce the incidence of malnourishment, we provide them with two nutritious meals and two snacks a day — comprising fruit four times a week, eggs every day and nutrition supplements — that take into consideration the recommended caloric, vitamin, and mineral intake for promoting healthy growth and development. Any children identified as malnourished or with specific deficiencies are put on an enriched diet. Furthermore, doctors make regular visits to the centres to monitor children’s health, track their weight and provide them with necessary preventative, curative, or rehabilitative medicines. Lastly, the centres are regularly cleaned and swept, and children are taught important hygiene practices to encourage healthy personal habits. MMC staff members are constantly keeping an eye out for any medical or health issues in order to treat the children promptly and effectively.

MMC sees the community as the central focus for creating awareness and sustainability of its intervention. Through workshops, training, monthly community meetings and street theatre, issues such as child care, child labour, hygiene, nutrition, health care, family planning, AIDS, substance abuse, and others are discussed. MMC also trains community women to manage the crèche and pre-primary programme and to serve as teachers. Currently more than 30% of our teachers are from construction sites!

Mumbai Mobile Creches has worked hard to address the health, nutritional and educational needs of children living on construction sites for four decades. Through customized day care programmes, intensive teacher training, and community advocacy work, MMC strives to ensure each child has a happy and nurturing childhood.

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