The H.E.L.G.O. CHILD LABOUR PROJECT is a manageable organisation:
At two locations in Kolkata/Howrah we currently support approximately 140 children who are either former child labourers or living in extreme poverty. Considering the 40 million Indian child labourers this might seem like a drop in the ocean but we know that we are able to focus on each and every child in the project. We know his/her background, we can help him/her get through all those years of schooling and in cases of emergency we can also help the family.
For our work in India we naturally depend on Indian partner organisations and an Indian team. With these we work together closely and are constantly in touch. Several times a year one of our board members from Germany is on site in Howrah to be involved in the development of the project.
How do the children find their way to our project?
Various ways lead to H.E.L.G.O. Very often our employees notice the children during the course of their work; sometimes the parents approach us directly. Basically, although it is absolutely no problem to find children for the project; it is moreover a problem finding a way to select the right children from the hundreds of registrations we receive. Our social workers visit the families multiple times to understand the situation and the actual need of the family before they confirm the admission.
The basic prerequisite to be accepted in the project is that the parents have to agree to their child attending school for ten years during which the child cannot work and has to focus on its education. Our social workers are monitoring this and are continuously in close contact with the child and its family.
Usually children come to the project when between six and eight years old. As far as possible we try to send the children to a school where the language of instruction is English but should this not be possible the children will attend a school where the subjects are taught in either Hindi or Bengali.
The freshly enrolled children must first go through a probationary year to see if they are sufficiently committed to their new task in life: going to school regularly and studying. Even when the children have declared their commitment to learning, there will always be the occasional case dropping out of school. At the end of the probationary year they have then become real project children and know that H.E.L.G.O. will accompany them side by side for all those years until they have then completed their education.
We try to ensure that the number of boys and girls are equally represented in the project.
From Kindergarden to Vocational Training
Our objective, which we don't always achieve, is to send the children to school until the tenth class. Some of the more talented children can continue for two more years at school. Once they have completed their schooling we organise an appropriate vocational training for each project child. It is only on completion of this vocational training that we really do regard our objective as fulfilled. The young person is now in a position to lead his own life and ensure a materially secure basis for his or her children in the future.
Food is Life
At the beginning of our work we discovered that many children were malnourished. Since then all children receive a cooked lunch daily. The improvement in the childrens’ learning ability was a great experience for us after starting a hot meal on a daily basis. It often happens that this food for some children is the only proper meal during the day.
Social Work in close contact with the families
Central for our work supporting the children is our team of social workers. They are in close contact not only with the kids but with their whole family. Knowing the situation of each family they convince, encourage and advice - and in particularly difficult circumstances also arrange special help - e.g. in the form of food rations.
For our project children we don't stop at providing school and tuition, we also offer many extra-curricular activities: Excursions, sports and workshops to a diverse range of topics help these children to develop their personality and gain important practical life skills.
Network in Kolkata
We cooperate with various Indian organisations who we help in their endeavours to support children from the poorest of families so as to receive a school education. Examples thereof are our primary local partner Southern Health Improvement Samity (SHIS), Samaritan Help Mission in Tikiapara, South Kolkata Hamari Muskan or Ankur Kala. Consequently we are in a position to ensure that many children will receive a school education.
Our network reaches out to even more co-operations. We support NGOs who in return help our children. For example we cooperate with a vocational training unit from Don Bosco or Howrah South Point which is also supported by the organisation German Doctors who give a helping hand should any of our children become seriously ill.
The German Consul has visited our project and confirms our quality work for the underprivileged.
> Letter of the German Consulate in Kolkata about HELGO (.pdf)