The organisation provides education, healthcare, nutrition and career counselling to children from impoverished backgrounds.
Children don't choose to be born into poverty, and many are trapped in a cycle of deprivation of basic necessities such as education, healthcare, etc. A small percentage, though, manage to escape these circumstances and become successful with help from organisations that are working for their development.
“Most grow up never realising their potential. Instead, they face physical and psychological trauma, hunger, malnutrition, low self-esteem and lack of opportunity,” says Jaison C Mathew, CEO, Christel House India.
To address these challenges, Christel DeHann, a businesswoman and a philanthropist, founded Christel House learning centers in 1998. With a focus on education, healthcare, and nutrition, the Indianapolis-based organisation aims to provide holistic development for individuals from early childhood through its educational institutions.
Archana, daughter of a cook, is one among the beneficiaries of this organisation. She says: “I joined Christel House in Bengaluru for Kindergarten and I am in 10th grade now. I am the only one in my locality who has finished high school.”
From working in laboratories in her school to attending the Culver Summer Leadership Academy in Indiana, US, Archana received numerous opportunities through her association with Christel House in Bengaluru.
The organisation, with two learning centres in India, South Africa and Mexico, and four in the US, has impacted over 4,500 children globally.
In India, Christel House school started in Bengaluru in July 2001 with an annual budget of $1.6 million. Apart from the founder, it also received donations from individuals and multinational companies such as Karma Royal Group, Klaus Luft Foundation, Dell EMC, RCI India Pvt Ltd and Target Corporation India Pvt Ltd, among others.
With a strength of about 1,220 students, 68 support staff and 60 teachers in India, the school offers education opportunities to children whose parents’ income is not above seven and a half thousand per month. It takes care of their transportation, school supplies, uniforms, meals and medical facilities free of cost.
The school offers students film production, animation classes and sports including soccer and volleyball and yoga to motivate and engage them better.
“The major challenge is to motivate students to come to school, work hard and persevere, as there is no learning environment in the communities. We do have failures, although the percentage is very low,” says Jaison.
Counselling students and parents alike
The mentor-driven Jiva programme of the organisation helps students to dream big and free their mind from any inhibitions.
The teachers also conduct remedial classes for students who find it difficult to study. The career guidance programme helps the students explore their potential and have a career plan in place. Based on their performance and on the economic condition of their families, some students are offered scholarships to undergraduate and professional courses.
That apart, the organisation organises meet ups and interactions with companies such as Dell and Target India, helping students with career counselling and job opportunities post education.
Community programmes on hygiene and illness prevention are offered by medical professionals at the school. Further, Christel House in Bengaluru has partnered with ACCEPT, an NGO that educates people about HIV and AIDS.
Parents also have high participation in the community programme. They are asked to volunteer 40 hours in the school every year to assist with gardening, cooking and laundry services.
Education for impact
“After my husband died, I was left alone with my children. The slum where we used to live was dangerous and we often faced abusive remarks,” Rehana, a single parent, remembers. In 2005, she chanced upon the Christel House in one of their community outreach programme where her children were offered assistance in education. Her elder son is now a college graduate while her younger child finished 10th grade this year.
“The obstacles facing Christel House students are daunting —daily exposure to gang warfare, drugs, alcoholism, hunger, abuse, negative role models, violence, suffering and discrimination — but every day our students come to school, learn and set their sights on a better tomorrow. They have dreams, and at Christel House, their aspiration is to make those dreams become a reality,” Christel DeHaan says.