Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My experiences with Muskaan -- Intro

(An old post from my previous blog: posted on February 15th, 2006)

I am part of a group called "Muskaan" which teaches kids of slums near IIIT in the evenings. This post gives an introduction and logistics of Muskaan.

About two years I joined a group called "Muskaan" which started just then. One of our professor Dr. Prosenjit Gupta took the initiative of teaching kids of near slums of IIIT in the evening. He called me and asked if any students in IIIT will be interested. I spoke to my fellow Ph.D. and MS students and was able to group about 9 people.

For a long time, I was very much interested in doing something for the poor and economically disadvantaged people. I was very happy to part of Muskaan and serve these kids. In the initial days, we used cow shed of a man who owns cattle. Kids used to reach there by 5:00 PM and we conduct classes till 8:00 PM. Initially, our biggest challenge was to make these kids come to Muskaan regularly. We used to give them intensives like chocolates, books etc and conduct fun classes like story telling etc to evoke interest towards Muskaan.

By the end of 2-3 months, we had about 25-30 kids in Muskaan. Then something went wrong: we were asked to vacate the cow shed we used to use. Then we shifted to another room which was across the street of the old place. Things went fine for about month or two and again due to some problems, we had to vacate even that room. We then approached a school in Indira Nagar to use their classrooms in the after hours of their school. The school people were more than happy to give us the place. This also didn't last for long. We were again thrown out for no reason.

The first set of kids at Muskaan The first set of kids at Muskaan
Muskaan in the initial daysMuskaan's first annual day celebrations

At this, we thought we had to close down Muskaan. We even conducted classes under a tree on the side of the road. Then finally, Muskaan moved to IIIT which is its permanent location. IIIT's old canteen which is located very close the main gate was given by the institute to support this initiative.

Everyday kids collect at two pick-up points. Volunteers collect these kids at 4:45 PM and bring to IIIT for classes and again drop them back at the pick-up points at the end of the day. We have currently about 20 kids. Recently there was an overwhelming response from volunteers and we have about 80 volunteers who signed up for Muskaan. Muskaan is also part of IIIT standard curriculum where in UG students can join Muskaan for a semester and get one credit of extra curricular activities.
The first set of kids at Muskaan
Excited kids during the function Volunteers with kids Volunteers with kids

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