About 20% of people in India still live in slums with minimal means and an even lesser motivation to pursue education. This blog is about my experience with an NGO, the Robin Hood Army where we took up the challenge to reach out to the underprivileged and pave a way for them to a better future.
Robin Hood Army was started back in August 2014 with a vision to eliminate hunger by channelling surplus food from restaurants, events, and stores to those who need it the most. During our interactions with the people we serve, a majority of which were slum dwellers, we realized most families did not even think about sending their kids to school. Most of the kids were engaged with activities like begging and rag picking. Their future seemed bleak. This is where the idea to start the Robin Hood Academy came from our team in Indore. Fast forward to now, we are currently teaching 7500+ students across 84 cities and have enrolled about 2000 kids into school. The vision is simple – teach kids the fundamentals, get them into schools and enable them to stay there.
It has been a journey filled with challenges. The first one being the parents. Living in such dire conditions, most of the parents thought of kids as extra earning hands and the idea of education seemed futile to them. Our team conducted extensive surveys of the areas we served and provided counselling sessions to the parents getting them on board with the idea to educate their kids. Surprisingly, most of them agreed. The next challenge was to get the kids interested enough to sit for a couple of hours and be attentive. Of course, kids being kids, full of energy, did not make it easy. We were so new at this that it took us a while to figure out what works. We started incentivizing them to attend classes by offering treats after each session and by introducing fun games and activities during the class. After some teething issues like not having enough supplies, not having a fixed place to teach, we finally got the classes running smoothly.
We divided the kids into groups based on age and current level of knowledge to give as much targeted teaching as possible. We started seeing results as students began showing more interest, began performing better. That was something which motivated us beyond anything to keep tackling the challenges and continue moving ahead. Over time, we started to understand education is so much more than textbooks, it is about the experiences we have in our life. To give our students the best learning possible, we started exploring partnerships with other companies, NGOs, even the Govt. In the past few years, our students have been live on Radio Stations, had fun at museums, seen movies in theatres, learnt about wildlife in Zoos, performed dances and participated in plays, rode around the city in luxury cars and so much more! In addition to aiding their development, these experiences help build a stronger bond between our Robins and the students. That trust between them is of utmost importance.
Our team of Robins ranging from school and college students, working professionals to IAS aspirants, psychologists, retired teachers and principals are working relentlessly and are super excited to see what the future holds.
This is just the beginning of a long journey. As we say at the Robin Hood Army, we are just #OnePercentDone.