The Muskaan Foundation, true to its name, is putting a smile across the face of orphaned children.
The warmth of home is irreplaceable. We humans are dependent beings no matter how self-sufficient we portray ourselves to be.
Every so often we take our families for granted, but we do so with the assurance that if all fails, we have our families to fall back upon.
A parent is a role model and is elemental in moulding a child’s future.
Ever wondered what it is like not to have a family that loves you unconditionally and believes in your dreams, or parents who take time off to watch you grow into a better person?
Meet Abhishek Dubey, a 24-year-old BTech student from Gwalior who asked himself these questions, and has worked towards answering them. Today, he has given over 350 orphan, underprivileged children the pleasure of knowing what attention and love feels like.
From a feeling to a foundation
Born into a middle-class family, Abhishek was adopted by his uncle when he was five years old. “My uncle never had a son and took me into his family as one of his own. They gave me all that I asked for but what I missed most was love, care and support.” he says.
Growing up, this missing link was what connected him to children living in shelter homes. The very first step he took was to feed these children at McDonald’s and spend a few days with them. They expressed their feelings to him. They wanted to be taught. “These kids seemed depressed and lonely. It was then that I knew what they wanted was more than just education. It was love and a mentor, someone to look up to.”
Initially, with a few friends, Abhishek began teaching and mentoring 70 children on the weekends in the orphanages of Gwalior with 20 volunteers. This was how he started Muskaan Dream Creative Foundation in May 2014.
From the pressures of having to choose between a government job and his dream to friends and volunteers leaving mid-way, Abhishek’s resolute loyalty toward his foundation always remained intact. “Left alone, my aim only grew stronger. I built a new team of volunteers and full-time employees who work whole heartedly till this date.” says Abhishek. Giving credit to his team that has turned into family, Abhishek is thankful to his co-founder, Basant Sharma, and friend Akshansha Dixit for their undying support.
A strong support system
Muskaan presently is a youth-driven, non-profit organisation working to ensure educational, emotional and financial support to the children living in shelters and orphanages.
After completing a year of teaching and nurturing 70 children in Gwalior, youngsters from Bhopal and Indore approached the foundation to expand chapters to their cities. In 2015, Muskaan set up divisions in Bhopal and Indore.
The focus of this foundation is to identify and understand that children without parental love require support and to provide this additional care to help them flourish. “In order to pull this off, our mission is to enable the youth to take complete ownership of underprivileged children helping them recreate and develop,” says Abhishek. “To deliver on-ground impact we recruit a highly efficient team of volunteers from various colleges and corporate sectors. They're then trained to be mentors and positive role models in the lives of the children allotted to them,” he adds.
This is primarily delivered through three core programmes for children between ages of 10 and 18. Each of these programmes work together and complement each other. Under the mentorship programme each mentor is allotted five-eight kids acting as an adult anchor. The same mentor teaches English and Math dedicating two hours to learning and 30 minutes before and after the session to conduct either an activity or group discussion. This is done every week as part of the classroom programme.
This year the foundation has launched the high fly programme where an 18-year-old, after passing the Class XII, is provided with a job. “We have tied up with a few corporates ready to adopt our children for higher education or placements. This prevents them from going back to perpetuate the cycle of abandonment or poverty. In the coming years our target is 500 children placements through this programme and providing a family and excellent education to 2,000 children,” says Abhishek.
Challenges en route
The Muskaan Foundation observed that children attending government schools were taught in Hindi until Class V and then made to study in English thereon. This was challenging to the mentors as orphans have no previous knowledge of the language. Eventually, with individual care and learning, as opposed to government schools crammed with 100 kids in one small classroom, this problem was solved.
Initially, small amounts of money was collected from friends to establish the foundation. Presently, the Muskaan Foundation runs on a self-sustainable model. Every month they conduct charity events across the three cities. This works as a platform to help sensitise the community towards underprivileged children.
A light at the end of the tunnel
very anniversary is celebrated with introducing something new. In the first year, they conducted health check-up camps, and the following year they set a world record in Gwalior by distributing 2,500 educational kits in one day at the same venue.
This anniversary, the Muskaan Foundation introduced India’s first digital school in a village near Gwalior. “Digitalised from scratch, we have restructured a government school and equipped it with state-of-the-art facilities that will provide the students a futuristic, conducive and fun environment to learn and grow in,” says Abhishek.
Today, this organisation works with over 350 children in 4 different shelters across Gwalior, Bhopal and Indore. By the end of this year they look to expand to seven cities and transform lives of 2,000 children.