In 2008, Vatsalya expanded its focus from urban child protection to rural livelihood development. Years of experience and interaction with children on the streets has shown that a majority of them are migrated from rural areas. In order to prevent children from migrating to cities and live under appalling conditions on the streets without any opportunities for education, growth and development, Vatsalya initiated its rural development programme in Shahapur taluka of Thane district.
Vatsalya has adopted a twofold approach to address this problem - enhancing the quality of education; and initiating developmental project that improve the quality of life for the community, especially women. The intervention area at present includes Shahapur, Kasara and Murbad. The prime objective of the programme is upgrading the quality of life and developing work opportunities in the selected rural areas.
The focus of Rural Programme is on pre-primary education through the Learning Centers set up in tribal padas /villages where the services of the government-run Anganwadis do not reach. The project aims at running Anganwadis or Learning Centers in such villages focusing on early childhood education, nutrition and development of children. The center is run by a woman from the community and trained for the work by Vatsalya.
The Learning Centers are located in the tribal hamlet so that the children don't have to walk miles. These centers are made attractive with various indigenously made as well as readymade teaching aids and other activities. At present Vatsalya has 15 Learning Centers in Shahapur taluka covering approximately 500 children.
Vatsalya works in close partnership with 36 Zilla Parishad Schools in Shahapur and Murbad talukas which are important stakeholders in the education of rural children. It helps the schools improve the environment in the school and the classrooms by providing school stationery and computers to the students as well as conducting sessions for students on important issues. It organises fun-filled learning activities to promote joyful learning.
Towards holistic development of children of Zilla Parishad Schools Vatsalya has initiated three interventions:
Jeevan Shodh: improving the quality of education
Jeevan Sampada: improving health and personal hygiene
Jeevan Sankalp: creating opportunities for sports and cultural activities
Towards the empowerment of individuals and community as a whole, Vatsalya has initiated development programmes for girls and young women. The strategy is to empower them by providing income generation and other development inputs. The objectives of the project include enhancing confidence and capabilities of women and as well as motivating them for taking up social responsibilities particularly related to development of the community.
A training centre has been developed at Shahapur following courses are offered.
Basic computer operations
Boys and girls opt for basic computer course which helps them in higher studies and employment openings. Young women learn the tailoring and beauty care skills which provide them a means of earning immediately after the training. In addition, a teachers' training course is also conducted in order that young women become equipped for taking care of children in the age group of 0-6 years. Every year close to 100 women and girls benefit from the project.
Community bore-wells are drilled with the aim of improving basic infrastructure in villages. Vatsalya gets sponsorship for drilling of bore-well and develops those in participation of the community. The maintenance of the bore-well is looked after by the community. At present, 11 bore -wells are functioning benefitting close to 400 families.
The SHGs encourage entrepreneurship amongst women and, more importantly, pave a way for women's empowerment. Vatsalya trains these women on marketable skills and capacity building, and guides them towards potential business opportunities. At present it reaches out to 249 women of 19 SHGs in Shahapur and Murbad talukas.
The project is aimed towards providing livelihood opportunity to widow and poor women in Murbad taluka. Since goat rearing is an enterprise easily managed and sustained in rural areas having low fertility land, it is a suitable livelihood option in the villages of Murbad. A woman is given 3 to 5 goats on loan which she rears for further production and sale. The project is sustained by taking back 3-5 goats from her over a period of time when her enterprise has stabilized. The goats taken back from the woman are then given to another needy woman. At present four women and their families are being benefitted by the project.