Door Step School and the “Child Friendly Builder”

On December 29, 2008, I visited Pune. Along with a few Vibha volunteers from Pune, I first visited DSS (Door Step School) and met Rajani Tai and her staff. I introduced the “Child Friendly Builder” campaign to her – something that’s been on my mind regarding getting the overall community involved in making sure that children of all migrant laborers are given an opportunity to be educated. We visited two sites – one a DSS center at a construction site and the other a supplementary reading class run by DSS at a local municipal school. Sreekanth was also present for this visit. Some interesting findings:

Child Friendly Builder

DSS already has 10 builders in Pune that actually call DSS whenever they start a building. This is absolutely excellent, however there is no press coverage about this. Pune volunteers plan on working on a series of local press releases with one article per builder, highlighting them as “child friendly builders” and of course, describing the work done by DSS and Vibha. This in-turn should of course entice other builders to start the same practice, and from there on the public in general will begin to start questioning if the flats they are buying are being built by child friendly builders.

Tracking Children From Site to Site

Next we talked about tracking kids as they go from one construction site to another. DSS has instituted two mechanisms for this. One is a postage stamped self-addressed post card that they give to every child when they leave so the child just can have someone fill out the address where they move to and mail it. A second method is a little children’s activity book that they provide which has the last page filled with telephone numbers of a slew of organizations that DSS works with – so the child can have someone call any of these numbers to tell the organization where the child is – DSS gets the info. Both methods have come with very limited success – 54 returns from 2000 post cards provided. Now the interesting part. The biggest issue with tracking is neither the builder nor the laborer, the issue is the labor contractor the builder contracts out the job to. These labor contractors have no vested interest in ensuring the laborers children get educated and at the same time can move a labor camp within 12 hours, i.e. if we visit the camp at 6.30pm and all is well, it is very possible that at 9.30 am the next day, the camp has disappeared with absolutely nobody to say where they went. Thus, it becomes even more imperative for the builder to contract out labor to labor contractors that will tell the builder where they move the camp to. We expect this series of press articles to start affecting this.

Infosys – A Child Friendly Builder

Infosys, which is building a large campus in Pune actually, has forced all their builders who intended to submit bids for the building of this campus, to ensure that they will work with DSS in order to even be considered for the bid. This, however, has never made the press and nobody even knows about this. This is another success story that the Pune volunteers will work on to highlight in the press so that other large corporations as they give building contracts will ensure they do the same.


Airports Authority of India is doing some heavy building in Pune. They approached DSS to start various centers in all the labor camps. Guess what, DSS declined – the question begets “why”? Well the answer is not lack of resources or the ability to teach a bunch of resources to grow and cater to this demand. The answer is because Rajani Tai needs another one at least and preferably two C-level executives that can manage this large workforce and projects. She categorically mentioned that there was no shortage of teachers to do this, the problem was the managerial skills needed to scale like this. This of course immediately led to the fact that “how many people know this” – that the AAI approached DSS and DSS could not cater because of lack of managerial resources – another story needed in the press here to get former executives who have taken VRS (Voluntary Retirement Schemes) and still have a couple of years of active ability to step-in and help. This also led to the discussion of tapping Infosys per its new CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Plan, to allow employees that have been with the company for 5 or more years to take a year sabbatical doing NPO/NGO work at 50% pay – we could institute a program here to tap this effectively for Infosys managers that wish to do this and start an annual rotation program of bringing Infosys executives in with one month transition in and one month transition out on an annual basis. Pune volunteers will look at what to do here with any help required from me.

Collaborating with other NGOs

The final item I discussed with DSS was related to providing employable skill sets to those children of laborers that complete SSC – while they are literate, by no means are they employable. This is one of the biggest factors that causes drop outs too – the “whats the point in being literate, I’ll still be a laborer” syndrome. Thus, here, I connected DSS with another organization I work with called Yuvaparivartan – which does exactly this i.e. provides vocational training to slum dwellers. We have a meeting between DSS, Yuvaparivartan and myself tomorrow in Mumbai. This also proves the need for our Vibha India projects conference where we invite other NGOs/NPOs so they all connect and can take from each others already developed skills. Venky has assured me that this will happen in Q2 this year – we need to make it compulsory for every project to send a rep to talk for 20 mins on what they do, their successes, failures and above all their needs. More on this later. By the way, even Bharti foundation whom I met the next day immediately leveraged the DSS post card idea – details in Delhi trip report.

In the evening we met with Pune volunteers for a volunteer meeting – Venky was present for this one. We discussed the above and Pune AC has its work cut out for it based on the above.



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