Vibha consistently strives to positively impact the lives of the underprivileged children in various ways such as by supporting their education, health and living conditions, by facilitating ways to improve their employment skills and recently by partnering youth mentors in the US with the underprivileged children in India through the Pair 2 Care program. Through this program, Vibha youth volunteers from the United States of America who are at least 14 years of age virtually meet with the underprivileged children between 8-12 years of age. These children are under the care of Community Outreach Program (CORP) India, one of Vibha’s partner organizations. The CORP India project is located at Gulalwadi in Grant Road, Mumbai and aims to uplift children living on the streets, near bus stops, on railway platforms, or inside abandoned warehouses.
Vibha youth mentors meet with these children on a weekly basis to help with their homework, provide emotional support while also learning to excel in the shoes of a ‘Big Brother and Big Sister’, learning to get better in Hindi and Gujarati speaking skills through this process.
Spearheaded by Radhika Reddy, an adult Vibha volunteer from the Dallas Vibha Action Center, this program was launched in April 2021. In Radhika’s words, ‘I have always wanted to help the less privileged in whatever ways I can, so when this opportunity was brought to my attention by my action center lead I jumped on it to lead this program for the next generation adults from the USA and India’. Eleven youth mentors from the Dallas Action Center and 10 youth mentors from the Los Angeles Vibha Action Center (21 youth mentors total) began working with 13 underprivileged children from the CORP India project. Mentors and mentees virtually meet on Whatsapp video calls during weekends to help with homework of the underprivileged children along with providing any emotional support they may need to go through their day to day lives. Both mentors and mentees complete the ‘Mentor-student feedback form’ periodically to keep track of the progress made through this program. Radhika adds that both the mentors and mentees look forward to their weekly meetings, and they will resume their weekly meetups in mid-late August 2022 after the current summer break. Radhika also plans to bring in some adult volunteers to this program in the future to overcome some of the language obstacles mentors have during their mentoring sessions.
While at the New Jersey (NJ) Vibha Action Center, Rachayita Shah, an adult Vibha volunteer, led this effort when it first started in April 2021. About 7 youth mentors virtually meet weekly with 7 underprivileged children from CORP India(1:1 mentor/mentee) to provide tutoring support to the mentees in Math and Science subjects. Rachayita says ‘I wanted this program to be a two-way street where both the mentors/mentees learn something new from their weekly meetings, therefore while the mentees receive tutoring support the mentors get adept in their Gujarati and Hindi spoken language skills’. Some of these weekly calls are ongoing in NJ as well.
Like any new endeavor, this endeavor also has its challenges such as poor connectivity issues, lack of sufficient digital devices for the children in India since a family of 4 or 5 is likely to share one mobile phone. When these challenges arise mentors have felt impediment in their communication and overall productivity during their calls. Vibha continues to work with its project partners to bridge this digital divide in India. In conclusion, Pair 2 Care has been a successful program since its launch and Vibha will continue to support this program as long as the mentors and mentees reap benefits out of the same.