The plight of the families evicted from Charan Khad, Dharamsala in June is desperate. After a horrendous time on the road in monsoon rains, the majority have erected flimsy shelters on small pieces of land rented from private landlords in five main locations near Gaggul (about 15 km from Dharamsala itself). To save on rent, a simple home may be shared by more than one family. Life in these make-shift shelters is nowhere near as bearable for the families as their life in the Charan slum camp where, over the past twelve years Tong-Len has been able to provide facilities such as access to fresh water, solar-powered lighting and health clinics. Moreover, the demolition of the tent schools has deprived the children of education, daily showers and a nutritious midday meal.
A few families have found simple one-room rented accommodation and some from the Rajasthan communities have returned to their home state.
Tong-Len has been supporting the families in a number of ways since their eviction. In August Tong-Len conducted a survey of the dispersed communities and found that there were 192 children requiring educational help. Prior to the eviction some of these children had been attending school but were no longer able to do so for a number of reasons including lack of transport and the families’ emphasis on daily survival. Mothers were having to leave their young children unsupervised while they searched or begged for food.
In November Tong-Len started a new project. The children have been divided in three groups. Group A comprises 27 children who had previously attended school in Dharamsala. Tong-Len collects them in the early morning, drops them at their respective schools and collects them at the end of their school day. They are then taken to a newly-rented Tong-Len education centre where they are met by one of our teachers from the tent school and her two assistants. The children are helped with their homework and have opportunity to discuss their school work before being transported back to their families.
Group B comprises 46 children of school age who have not previously attended school regularly. Tong-Len has enrolled them in a local government village school and provided them with uniforms, stationery and books. They are washed and made ready before being picked up and taken to school. Like Group A they are taken to the Tong-Len education centre at the end of their school day to receive extra educational help before they are returned home.
Group C comprises about 50 pre-school children who need supervision and care while their mothers struggle to support their families by begging or collecting rubbish. These children are first taken to the Tong-Len education centre where they are washed and dressed. They then go to a nearby government care centre for small children where they join in a 2-hour programme which includes some food. At 1 pm they are collected and taken back to the Tong-Len centre for early educational activities led by our teacher. They are transported back home about 3 pm when the driver picks up the school children.
This very important work requires funding. Tong-Len has started it in good faith. The minimum requirements are the rental of the centre, staff salaries and the purchase of a school bus, for which Tong-Len has taken out a loan.
The 123 children who are currently in the project may soon be joined by others. These children are very vulnerable and may not survive without Tong-Len’s urgent action. If you can help, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.