Dream A Dream, a registered charitable trust based in Bangalore, India was founded in 1999. It seeks to empower children from vulnerable backgrounds by developing life skills. Dream A Dream programs enable children to develop three basic skills: Interpersonal skills, coping skills and cognitive skills. These skills include teamwork, communication, decision-making, problem solving and the like. Dream A Dream currently enhances the lives of 3000 children and adolescents from vulnerable backgrounds and engages with over 1500 active volunteers.
Jubin Mehta from YourStory.in caught up with co-founder and Executive Director, Vishal Talreja to know more about their story. Edited excerpts from the interview.
How did the idea for Dream A Dream come about?
As a kid, I was not allowed to play with the kids on the road. I used to watch them have ton loads of fun on the road below, while I sat in my walled balcony. I wondered why? Every Diwali, I was given a bundle of ten rupee notes and asked to give to our maid servant, our cook, our cleaner, etc. They used to come with folded hands and thank me profusely for giving them a Bakshish. I wondered why a woman old enough to be my grandmother was folding hands in front of me. My mom still complaints that her maid servant wants more wages than the Rs. 300 a month she pays her. "I give her food twice a day, let her sleep for sometime in the afternoon and also watch TV with me sometimes. I give her a Saree every Diwali and an advance whenever she asks for it. Yet, she wants to work in the new supermarket that has come in our neighbourhood that pays her Rs. 1500 per month. Wait till the ungrateful realizes that they make her work from 8 am to 9 pm everyday with no holidays."
Most of us are no different; we have grown up in similar environments building the same mindsets and prejudices that we were exposed to as children. I have always wondered why maidservants are treated like servants, why the toilet cleaners are not touched till date and why I can't play with the boys on the street.
Isn't the maid a human being? Don't poor people have a right to a life with dignity and equal respect? Isn't it possible to respect all services offered by all individuals irrespective of backgrounds? Isn't it possible that we acknowledge that each of us is different and appreciate that difference, rather than discriminate it?
For me, Dream A Dream was born in my mind when I began to ask questions. When I told myself that I want to change the way we look at dignity in our country. There were 12 Founders of Dream A Dream and each of us had a story that brought us to create Dream A Dream. Each of us were unique and were bringing our own unique experience to create Dream A Dream. The idea was finally put to work by Brinda Jacob and Dream A Dream was born in November 1999.
Share some of your success stories so far.
There are way too many success stories to share in a single platform. At a personal level, every single day is a success as every day I learn something about myself and life and become a better person. Today, Dream A Dream has grown to impact the lives of over 6000 children in 12 years through the active support of over 1800 volunteers. Dream A Dream was the regional finalist (south) at the India NGO Awards 2008 & 2009, Has been a runner-up at the Outstanding Annual Report Awards for 2009 and 2010 and was the winner for the same awards in 2011. Dream A Dream was a Global runner-up at the Japanese Award for Most Innovative Development Project hosted by the Global Development Network.
Some of the success can be seen through these stories: Revanna, 19-years old ran away from home when he was 7 years old and landed up in Bangalore. He was found by an NGO and taken into a shelter home for runaway boys. At the age of 11, he joined Dream A Dream’s various Life Skills Development programs while continuing to pursue his studies. When he completed his 12th grade at 18 and the shelter home asked him to find a job, he applied for a job at Dream A Dream. For 2 years now, he has worked at a Life Skills Facilitator and Coach in the “Life Skills Thru Football” program. He brings a rare sensitivity and enthusiasm when working with children. He has experienced how access to life skills has transformed his life and strives to bring the same experience to the batches of children he handles. He is also completing his graduation next year and aims to continue his work with children who come from similar circumstances as him.
In what ways has Dream A Dream affected your life?
It has given me a purpose in life; an opportunity to live my life to my fullest potential and a challenge to bring long-lasting change in our society in my life time. It has given me the honour to meet some of the most inspiring people in the world and has given me an opportunity to learn from people who ‘walk the talk’ every single day of their lives. It has made me relive my childhood for the rest of my life and helped me hold onto some of the innocence that we all had as children. Dream A Dream has given me my most inspiring experiences and helped me believe in human beings. It has helped me hold onto my hope.
Tell us a bit about your partner NGO’s.
Dream A Dream offers its Life Skills programs through Schools run and/or supported by other NGOs. Some of the NGO’s we’re currently working with are Ananya Trust, Bangalore Metropolitan Round Table 44 - Round Table School, Bosco Mane and Yuvodaya, Christ Education Society, Center For Social Action, Each One Teach One - Guru Harkishin School, HPP Indian School, Helpline Charitable Trust – Vishwas. While most of these NGOs take care of the academic educational needs of children from very poor socio-economic backgrounds, Dream A Dream complements their stellar work through our after-school life skills programs thus enhancing the impact on the child.
What are your future plans for Dream A Dream?
After 11 years, Dream A Dream is at a threshold of tremendous growth and expects to positively impact the lives of over 240,000 children/adolescents in the next three years. The organization aims to achieve this through a strategic shift from a strong implementation approach to an enabling approach that will create an eco-system of
Life Skills Collaborators and Facilitators in the community who will in-turn deliver Life Skills to children/adolescents.
Institutions that will adapt the Life Skills Model
Empowered teachers who use the Life Skills Model and Creative Community Engagement to enhance the quality of classroom learning thus deepen learning
In order to be a strong enabling organization, we have recognized the need for a higher level of Curriculum Development of our Core Programs – “Life Skills Thru Football” & “Life Skills Thru Creative Arts” and also deepening our core principles of Life Skills Development such as the Creative Community Model, dynamic teaching methods, facilitation techniques and training design for life skills impact.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the readers at YourStory.in?
I have always believed that one cannot over-emphasis the need and positive impact of a caring and compassionate adult in the life of a child or young person especially if he/she comes from trying circumstances. Hence, my only urge would be to “Go Volunteer – Give of your time, skills, energy, enthusiasm, ideas and just yourself”. Imagine, if every single individual in this country could positively impact the life of another individual – a child or a young person from a vulnerable background? I can assure you we will make poverty history from this country in our life time.
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