Vision rescue, a non-governmental organisation founded by an import-export businessman, Biju Thampy, with three of his friends began with them providing food and interacting with children at Mahim station.
“We wanted to educate them. However, we could not afford to buy a place where they could be taught. Therefore we came up with the idea of converting a bus into classroom,” Thampy said.
Thampy was motivated to help when his friend spoke about a newspaper photograph of a 3-year-old child sitting next to a dog with a caption that said, ‘This dog is his mother’.
“I thought if I could save even one child from dying because of starvation, I would do something worthwhile,” said Thampy.
The NGO now owns three buses, which are designed like classrooms and have desks and a board. Everyday, a team of two teachers, a team leader, a helper and a driver for each of three buses start from Vikhroli and reach their scheduled spots across the city.
Children are taught subjects like English, Hindi, mathematics and moral science. Students begin the day with daily prayers. The NGO provides them with special exercise books to write in. “Our main aim is to motivate them to go to school. They are depressed by other kids who tease them for not being clean, but we teach them the importance of cleanliness,” said teacher Seema Kamble.
After classes are over, they are given meals like dal-rice, which are freshly cooked everyday. These meals provide much-needed nutrition to the children, some of whom cannot afford three square meals everyday.
“We don’t have a regular source of income as my husband ran away six months ago. We survive on the food provided by the bus to my children,” said Shirin Ansari, mother of 9-year-old Fiza, a student.
The volunteers often come across children who have deep psychological problems. “We have a student who was always quiet. We counselled her and realised she was severely depressed and got her treated,” said Abhilasha Abinezer, team leader. The group runs on donations from a church in Kerala and other donors from city.