Project Basera-e-Tabassum (BeT) (meaning Abode of Smiles)
Basera-e-Tabassum (BeT) in Kashmir, and the centre in Jammu are not hostels or orphanages – They are Homes. They are homes where girls from two to seventeen years of age live together as one big family. The head of the family is a female who juggles her role of manageress, elder sister (didi), mother (mimi), counselor, disciplinarian, teacher, guide – whatever it takes to keep the children happy: individually, and together.
The militancy and conflict in the state of Jammu & Kashmir has affected thousands of children. Girls are particularly vulnerable in the face of such conflict due to excess moral and cultural policing and most of them drop out of school. The conflict has only resulted in worsening the living conditions of the economically backward classes in Kashmir.
In the interior areas of Kashmir where the population is deprived of access to the civilized world, such intervention is the need of the hour. Children are growing up in an environment which tends to teach them A for AK47, B for Blast, C for Crackdown….At its Homes, bwf aims to provide the children a normal and healthy environment and a real chance for overall development and a positive future. The major areas of focus are rehabilitation & education of the girl child, with particular emphasis on their overall development.
The children were initially identified in Kashmir through an extensive survey – “Children affected by armed conflict in J & K”, funded by UNICEF and conducted by Bharti Mamani and Adik Kadam, founders of bwf. Many of them have been brought to our Homes by locals who had heard of the Homes. The Home in Jammu is a mission initiated by Gaurav Kaul (another founder of bwf), and Akanksha Kaul, both Kashmiris. The Jammu centre is home to girls from Kashmiri families displaced due to the conflict in the valley.
An estimated 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits – about 95 per cent of the original population in the valley, became ‘internal refugees’ when they were leave their homes as a result of disturbances in valley. About 200,000 Pandits still live in abysmal conditions in Jammu with families of five to six people, huddled into a small room – 10×12 sq feet in size. Various constraints (space, financial, environmental etc) that life in the Camps brings with itself, have hampered the development of the children. In the one-room tenements that they have been forced to live in, the entire family has to stay together and the concept of privacy does not even exist; there is no space to study – not even to change. 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 children’s development other than the basic requirement of enrollment to school. There is a very real danger of the catastrophe that shook the entire community affecting its young for no fault of theirs.
When bwf started its first Home in the village of Sulkoot in the Kupwara district of Kashmir, in 2002, there were no such facilities for girls affected by the conflict, in Kashmir. What started as a small family of six, has today fifty five children. Basera-e-Tabassum at Beerwah (Budgam District) was the second Home. It was started 8 march 2006, and is now home to twenty seven girls of five to seventeen years in age. The third home was started in december 2006 in the Anantnag District with fourteen girl children, and today Basera-e-Tabassum there has twenty two children. The Home in Jammu was started in august 2009, and has nine children today. Its doors are open to more.