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Neha & Furqan, MSW student from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

‘I stayed in Basera-e-Tabassum (BeT) in Kupwara district of Jammu & Kashmir State for a period of 20 days. As a requirement of my M.A. in Social Work course, I had to undertake a one-month block fieldwork in an organization. I came to know about Borderless World Foundation (BWF), when girls from BeT had come to Pune-Mumbai for an exposure visit. After interacting with the girls, I felt that the organization was doing some genuine work & hence decided to do my block fieldwork with them’……..

‘I was supposed to undertake developmental work with the girls; conduct individual counseling sessions if possible, sessions on health & hygiene, prepare updates & profiles of the girls & interact with the local community. Sessions pertaining to public speaking, confidence building & communication skills were engaged into. Few sessions on health & hygiene were also conducted. The required updates & profiling of 45 girls living in BeT, Kupwara was done. I along with my colleague was able to conduct 1 session in the degree college & one in higher secondary school in Kupwara. We visited different schools, where the girls from BeT were studying. We tried to meet as many people from the community as possible. I also got an opportunity to go to Baramullah, for a meeting with the district collector & a Brigadier of the Army. It was a great learning experience as a lot of responsibility was put on me. I had to be alert, keep presence of mind & act as the situation demands. The experience indeed taught me many things’.

‘When Adik & Bharati started working in Kashmir many years back, the militancy was at its peak. They studied the plight of orphans, who were present in large numbers in Kashmir. After the onset of militancy, the people who were well off sent their children out of Kashmir. However, poor families living in villages had no other option but to carry on. Many of the male members from these poor families joined militancy, some to earn money & others for the cause of achieving freedom. Many of them lost their lives during their militancy years. Nobody was going to look after their families. Once the male member of the family, who is considered as the backbone or sole pillar of any typical family living in a patriarchal society, was gone, the women and children were left to fend for themselves’.

‘The government started homes for such destitutes or orphans. However, they were mostly for boys. The society did not see investment in girls’ development or education as necessary. Adik & Bharati decided to start a home for orphan girls. Their motive was to educate these girls & provide them with a safe & secure environment to grow up in. They faced a lot of opposition from the society the patriarchal society. Against all odds, Adik & Bharati started with a small project in district Kupwara for orphan girls in the year 2002.

Anyone who visits Basera-e-Tabassum, would not feel that they are visiting an institution, a hostel or an orphanage. Basera-e-Tabassum is a home. It is a home where about 45 girls from 4-16 years of age live together as one big family’.

‘What amazed me most at BeT was the discipline in the girls. They have a time & place decided for everything. They get up at a particular time, wrap up their beddings, have tea, go to the Darazgah (for their religious studies), come back, have breakfast, get ready to go to school, leave for school in groups, come back from school, have tea, study, do other house chores, play, eat dinner & go off to bed. Each elder girl has been assigned a younger one to look after. Each elder girl is given house chores to be done turn by turn. On Sundays, everybody washed their clothes & uniforms. The elder girls wash the younger ones’ clothes. The younger ones are given a bath. Every Friday their nails are checked & cut if necessary. They make a line for everything, for eating, washing, bathing etc. Nobody comes out of turn. Such discipline is not even seen, when children stay with their parents. Small families of four cannot manage such discipline & here more than 40 small girls live in perfect discipline. No visitor is sent away without having tea. They know how to treat guests. It was simply amazing to see all these things. These were inculcated by Adik & Bharati in the first batch of girls. The routine is set & now the elder girls pass it on to the young ones’.

‘The exposure visit that few of the girls went on has definitely helped them. They have opened up & express themselves freely with people.

Many of the girls are enrolled in private schools. Though I visited some of the private schools, I did not get the opportunity to interact with other kids there & compare them with the girls of BeT. However, generally most of the girls were doing well in their respective schools. Though it was difficult for those girls, who were shifted from government schools to private schools, to cope with the private school curriculum, they were happy to be enrolled in a private school. They were also participating in extra curricular activities that were happening in their school. It was amazing to see that all the girls were aware of the fact that they had been admitted into BeT so that they could study. It was like their mission to do well in school, as that was what was expected of them. Even at such a small age, having such a kind of awareness is rare’.

‘Overall, it was a great learning experience for me. I was amazed to see how single handedly Adik & Bharati have managed this humungous task. The time they started working was not at all conducive for initiating & sustaining such kind of work. I have tremendous respect for them. They have set an example of how to run an orphanage. It can be an example for others to follow. Inspite of so many difficulties & lack of workforce Adik is doing a great job. My learning has been tremendous. I hope that the girls were able to learn something from me & that I have been able to contribute at least something in their development’.

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