PROJECT PROPOSAL ON DEVELOPING A CULTURE AND DEVELOPMENT CENTRE FOR KASHMIRI CHILDREN LIVING IN MIGRANT CAMPS IN JAMMU (year 2009)
Gaurav Kaul, Gen Sec BWF & Ms Akanksha Kaul – Program Officer, BWF submitted this proposal to BWF and after reviewing the proposal BWF started this Home in 2009 with the help of Senior Kashmiri Pandit Members.
Mission, Vision & Situation Analysis
THE TARGET GROUP: Kashmiri Children living in Migrant Camps in Jammu.
The project aims to work with children in the age group 10-15 years. The project will associate itself with schools in various camp areas, since this would provide a convenient way to reach out to maximum number of children in that camp and also provide the space needed to carry out various activities. It will initially involve only children one camp in Jammu, depending upon the feasibility and co-operation from the school in question and if successful, will look to expands to schools in the other camp areas.
Also, the project will initially work only with children living I the camps owing to the fact that they belong to the periphery of the community as far as opportunities are concerned though later (depending upon the results of the project) the project might be opened to all children of the community feeling, and not create a gap between camp and non-camp people.
The project will start with a pilot project of three months duration which will help us to make any modifications required in th project plan and will thus help us to improve upon the plan.
PROJECT GOAL: Ensuring that no Kashmiri Child living in the camps suffers in any way for want of developmental opportunities. The aim of the project is to make sure that the opportunities are there, whether children choose to carry the present KP culture forward or not and the decision they make regarding the same will be entirely up to them; in no situation will they be dictated or brainwashed to do anything. The idea is not to force culture on them; it is to simply make culture available to them.
Two of the important rights of a child as given by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN are:
“Rights to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, Mental, spiritual and social development.” (Article 27 Para 1).
“Right to rest and leisure and to engage in play and recreational activities”. (Article 31)
Various studies conducted in migrant camps in Jammu (including my own M.A. level research) have proved that life in migrant camps and the various constraints (space, financial, environmental etc ) that it brings about with itself have hampered the development of children living in them. In the one room tenements in which each family of this section of the community has been forced to put up, the entire family has to stay together and the concept of privacy does not even exit; living conditions are poor ad needless to say, there are no playgrounds or recreational facilities for children. What makes matters worse is that because parents are busy fighting for the primary necessities of life, they either do not have enough time or the peace of mind to worry about their childrens’ development other than the basic requirement of enrollment to school and at times tuitions. It wouldn’t be out of place to mention here that holistic development goes much beyond literacy and schooling; completing schooling doesn’t always mean that an individual is equipped with the basic life skills required for coping with what the future might unfold. Non-academic activities are equally important for the holistic development of children. I am sure most of the people who read this proposal make sure that their children get the best even after school, be it sports, art classes, hobby classes, picnics and even movies. I would only be unfair if we let the catastrophe that shook the entire community affect a part of the community’s young members for no fault of theirs.
It is our 19th year away from our motherland. Again, researches have shown that the community faces a threat of cultural extinction inn the future if the situation is not taken care of as early as possible. Quoting my own M.A. (TISS, Mumbai) level research (for want of any other research conducted in the camps, known to me, on this topic) titled ‘Loss of Cultural Identity in Kashmir Pandits Living in migrant Camps in Jammu’.
“It is felt that Kashmiri Pandit children living in Jammu have adopted a lot of elements of the local culture and there is a sense of disengagement on their part, towards Kasmiri culture. Also, it is perceived that the future generation will not be able to preserve the present Kashmiri Pandit culture, especially sp if they settle outside Jammu or marry non-Kashmiries”.
Material is available, in both decent quantity and quality, on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandit culture but what id missing is the motivation to access this material and for children living in the camps, many-a-times, even accessibility and opportunity is an issue (a lot of material is easily available on the internet but children living in the camps have either no or very limited access to it). Also, another concern is that even while writing folk-tales for children, our well-read Kashmiri Pandit scholars seem to forget a fundamental rule while writing for children, the books and especially the language needs to be child-friendly.
- To facilitate an integrated learning (no-academic) environment for holistic developments of children through structured activity-based learning.
- To promote Kashmiri culture and language through various day-to-day as well as special activities.
- To provide a space for children to unwind, have fun and explore their creative side.
SPECIFIC SERVICES THAT THE PEOPLE WILL PROVIDE:
- Development related:
- Conduct day-today development activities [life skills (values, discipline, communication, etc.) through games etc.]
- Exposure Trips: Plan field trips to libraries, banks, newspaper offices; showcase movies for children. Discuss about various cultures and also children in various parts of the world, the kind of lives they live, the problems they face etc. Also, cover child rights using various media.
- Camps (to places nearby Jammu) conducted in small groups.
- (Long Term Plan) Mentoring Program: Either older children or young adults (preferably non-camp) can be mentors for children in their early teens to build a meaningful relationship. This process will be kept very flexible such that both individuals in the pair are comfortable with the arrangement. This will ensure networking between members of the community from different backgrounds, will enable the children to see the world with a different lens, and might help them share things and experiences that they might not feel comfortable sharing with the entire group. Special activities will be planned for these pairs to help them build a sound, meaningful relationship. This will also give the youth of the community an opportunity to volunteer for activities related to the community and encourage them to contribute their bit to it.
- Culture Related:
- Get resource persons from various fields to share their knowledge (on topics related to kashmiri heritage and culture) and experiences with children.
- Develop Kashmiri folk-tales into child-friendly story books: Folks tales are an important part of every culture/community and offer a convenient and entertaining medium to pass on the culture to the future generations. As mentioned before, a lot of material is available but almost none that is child-friendly and would actually appeal to children. Again, in the activity, I feel older children and young adults could be of help by helping convert the folk-tales available on the internet into child-friendly story books (easy language and colourful pictures to go with the stories). I intend to seek help for this through the various social forums of the community on the internet
- Organize competitions (theatre, storytelling, painting etc) to promote culture: Children would be encouraged to prepare plays related to any aspect of our culture. Theatre workshops will be conducted (with the help of professionals from the field) to explain the finer nuances to the children and to get them started. For story-telling, even our Bob jis and Babi jis from camps can be approached and after a few sessions children would be encouraged to make-up and tell stories in Kashmiri.
- Set up a library which houses books related to Kashmir, its history, culture and people. Also, material created by children at the centre. Again, this is a long term plan and will start from a few books on a shelf to then gradually talking the shape of a library (however small it might be). Also, if recourses allow and people co-operate, I feel it would be beneficial to have books other that those related to Kashmir, for children.
- Organize events from time to time for the entire camp community (starting with the parents of the children) to showcase learning and achievements and also to maintain accountability. Also, there will be ‘open days’ for parents and people from the community to see for themselves how children are spending their time at the centre.
- Organize programs on important Kashmiri festivals and auspicious days.
- For recreational Purposes, games and fun activities will be conducted on a regular basis. Also, as far as possible, a sincere effort will be made to make each activity (even the ones related to culture and development) as enjoyable as possible, for children.
CHILD RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE:
The project has been developed with a child-centered approach, keeping the child and the best interest of the child as the centre of focus for any intervention and as such looks at children as the primary right-bearers. Also, it focuses on the principles of ‘best interest of the child’ and ‘self-determination’ in every activity that it undertakes, keeping child at the centre while planning and working. All the activities in the project have a strong participatory component where children will be involved in the decisions making at every step. The entire work with children will be very democratic in the sense that they, in their feed-back, which would be an integral part of each activity, can propose changes or modifications that they want in the way the activities are carried out or about an activity itself.
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To open a residential facility for children living in camps in Jammu, the things that need to be kept in mind:
SITUTIONAL ANALYSIS AND NEEDS ASSESSENT:
- A situational analysis needs to be conducted in the form of either a survey or at least by generally meeting the people concerned and talking to them, to understand whether their needs are actually as we understand them or not. We need to be very sure of the feasibility of the project before we invest in it. We need to check if there are enough beneficiaries for this project (children whom we want to work with) and if parents and care-givers will be ready to let their children stay in a residential facility like the one we want to provide.
- What has worked in Kupwara, Anantnag and Beerwah, might not work in Jammu or Udhampur because the realities of people lives in Kashmir are different from those of people living in Jammu. Kashmir has been seeing a gory past since the past 20 years and it continues to face a situation where even the lives of children are not safe. Also, a lot of people have died in terrorist attacks in Kashmir and have left behind innocent children with nobody to care from them. On the contrary, Jammu or even Udhampur are comparatively safe areas and in the camps, the number of children who are parent-less or have only one parent is not very large.
- Also we need to be sure about where we want to start the residential facility, Jammu or Udhampur. This, to quite an extent, will depend on where the need is more. From whatever knowledge I have of the two places, there are more number of camps in Jammu than in Udhampur, though the number of people living in these camps needs to be found out.
ESTABLISHING THE RESIDENTIAL FACILITY:
- An area needs to be identified which fulfills the criteria we set for the home and at the same time fits into our budget. As far as I believe, trying to keep children far away from their parents will not help because in that case parents might simply refuse to send their children, to which they, of course, have a right.
- We need to check if we will construct the building or buy an already exiting one. If it is to be constructed, low-cost, high durability materials can be used and power saving sources such as solar heaters etc can also be used.
- Staff to be appointed can be, as far as possible, taken from the camps itself. Since they will know the children and the children will know them, the children will not feel alienated and will be able to provide a source of income-generation to people living in the camps.
- For any donations, if required, KOAUSA (Kashmiri Overseas Association of USA) can be contacted, they are already sponsoring the education of a lot of meritorious children in the camps. I personally believe, this opportunity should not be limited to only a few children who are already good at academics. In fact, other children who need this encouragement even should be helped and motivated to do better.
DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN:
- As far as schools are concerned, there are army schools in both Jammu ad Udhampur close to where the camps are situated, so if collaboration with them is what we are looking at, it should not be a problem in either of the places. In fact, the number of good schools in Jammu is much more than in Udhampur.
- Children need to be encouraged not only for academics but also other interest that want to pursue.
- Activities from my project proposal could be conducted with the children living in the home depending upon the feasibility of these activities.
- Vocational training could be provided to the parents or care-givers of these children to ensure that our endeavors are sustainable and this could also an added incentive for parents to send their children to the home