After the American India Foundation (AIF) took over the entire Swapath Trust Dang project team and started handling the projects directly, Swapath had to start from scratch in Dangs. With one old team member crossing over the fence and an entire new team slowly getting built, Swapath reached out to only 130 children through four seasonal hostels (SHs) in 2021-22. However, since the beginning of the new academic year since June 2022, it has launched a new initiative of working with pre-primary children (3 to 6 years) apart from the primary school students. Swapath works in ten Bal wadis (Kindergarten) in 8 villages reaching out to 200 children. More are being added to the list. The idea is to give the children a better start during the early years. Some recent research findings held responsible inadequate communication with children up to the age of 5 for their retarded reading abilities later. So, here at the Balwadis, teachers do not teach but just play, sing, dance and do activities with children. These activities give them the much-required love and warmth, learning by listening skills, build up confidence, and improve their motor activities (hand coordination etc). This is very much a part of the New Education Policy introduced by the Central Government. Ten newly recruited teachers are trained every month by an Expert who visits them for 4 days every moth.
As the new innings of work in the Dangs started after a long break and was affected by the pandemic, Swapath decided to do the baseline study in the 30 project villages all over again. So, in April and May 2022, with the help of 25 investigators, Swapath conducted a baseline survey. Results of this survey will give not only the statistical details about children but also the names of regular, irregular, out-of-school and never enrolled children. The sizable data is currently being entered and tabulated.
Along with the baseline survey, Swapath also did a study of migration in continuation with the one conducted in 2017 to understand if anything has changed for the Koytas or not and what has been the impact of the Covid pandemic in this tribal area. The report is awaited.
PLAN FOR 2022-23: This academic year, Swapath plans to launch ten hostels (with 400 children); 20 Bal wadis (appx 400 children); reaching to another 400 launch 4 Child Resource Centre (CRCs) and will activate/revive 20 Self Help Groups (SHGs) reaching out to 800 families to help them improve their economic conditions and will work with Panchayats and School Management Committees (SMCs) to make project villages child friendly.
Currently, 35 university-level students are being offered educational aid. This includes faculties like M. Sc. Agri., M. Ed., B. Physical Education, M. Sc. Chemistry, Nursing, and M. A. in Gujarati and Hindi languages. 31 students were given tablets during the pandemic period to help them in the on-line education. One of the students, Ms. Dharti Rana, bagged a Gold Medal in her M. A. (with Hindi). Another of the HESP students, Arvind from the Dangs, participates in marathons races whenever the college timetable permits him to do so.
Swapath Trust’s work during the lockdown and the unlock period:
- During the lockdown period in April 2020, 16 children stranded in Ahmedabad, at a hostel, were repatriated using the network connections in various parts of the state, chiefly in the tribal districts of Valsad (4 children); Tapi (5); Dang (3) and rest in Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Surendranagar Districts
- About 750 stranded labourers in the south Gujarat districts of Tapi and Surat were helped to reach their homes in the Dangs with the help of respective DCs and the Police. On the way to home, using the contacts with the civil society, Swapath managed to feed them as many of them had been walking part of their 150-plus km long paths.
- In Dang, 500 ration kits were distributed amongst the Koyta families who had left their worksites in a hurry without receiving payments from the sugar mills due to government orders.
- Swapath Trust along with Vishwagram, another of TAF partner, worked with about 100 volunteers to establish 18 Covid centres across the state to prevent patients with mild symptoms to go to hospitals. This was the advice by public health experts who believed that the scarcity of beds and other requirements were due to this undue rush. This effort, known as the “Niramay Network” treated 630 patients with complete basic kits given to each patient along with thrice a day monitoring visit or calls for each patient.
- The Network also identified children who had lost one or both parents to the pandemic for a three-year support. As the number was too big and resources limited, only 600 children were selected for this support programme, under which apart from a small annual aid, every child is visited several times each year to mentor him/her for studies and to make sure that the child as safe with relatives.
- During the unlocking phase, 250 more ration kits were distributed amongst the urban self-employed poor who had lost their jobs or had suffered big losses and were almost getting used to starvation.
- Swapath also has been looking into the facts about a case in which the police had beaten up some Dang drivers who worked for the sugar mills during the lockdown period. A video that has been widely circulated shows how brutal was the atrocity by the police on these poor defenceless tribal people.
Talking to a Koyta about his poverty and the way out…
A child who has lost both her parents to COVID who we now support on an ongoing basis…
Meeting with COVID affected children and their families…
Meeting with COVID affected children’s family members at one of the districts HQs
Children of migrant families who we care for at one of our seasonal hostels..