Shaila Brijnath, a stockbroker from UK and now the chairperson of Aasraa Trust, Dehradun, is ecstatic about her decision to return to India. Sahila who spent 40 years of her life in the US and UK came back to Dehradun in 2008 to dedicate her life to the cause of the downtrodden and homeless children. Her dream to provide a home, education and vocation to every poor child in Dehradun is a resolute target. She works for children who live in ghettos near Uttarakhand’s Bindalpul, on the banks of River Bindal, in highly unhygienic conditions.
On her return from the UK, Shaila assisted in running an NGO to help children with disabilities. Later, she agreed to work on the Bindal project with Dr Giribala Juyal. She began to teach slum children at an abandoned space in a shopping complex. They managed to collect 100 children for the classes, which continued up to May 2011, after which the land was no longer available. They were allowed to use the panchayat school complex at Kaulagarh for six weeks wherein they held a summer camp. “The children were provided with sports accessories to play various fun games. Governor Margaret Alva provided us with financial assistance, which was used for transporting children back and forth from Bindal on three wheelers,” she said.
“It is difficult to discipline orphans, homeless and poor children. There are some who come with their vices at first but with affection and care, they are gradually made to learn to live with dignity,” she said in a report in The Tribune.
Since its inception Aasraa Trust has mainstreamed and sponsored a large number of children in various schools. The after school project, Wings, has been split into five programmes on different campuses. The anti-begging campaign is being carried out in conjunction with Childline and the district administration. This programme brings children who beg at traffic lights and street corners, off the streets. These children are imparted with basic literacy and vocational training. Children who graduate from Street Smart and join JOYN INDIA (both, programmes at Aasraa) are scaling new heights. They now are master craftsmen and women. They have identity cards, bank accounts, pan numbers and provident funds.
There is a constant induction of children into these programmes. Aasraa takes comprehensive care of them.