Rakshak which means “Protector” in Sanskrit was founded by Jay and Anjali Kumar in 2004. Perungalathur, back then had a high school dropout rate and children were usually found playing in the streets during daytime. The children came from a community where most of the parents were daily wage laborers and some would juggle two to three jobs a day. In the bargain, the children were left unattended and without anyone to monitor their school attendance or performance. In a community such as this, the child was automatically introduced into the system of child labor if they are not in school.
Observing this pattern and with an objective to curb school dropout rate and child labor, Rakshak gained its foothold in the community by starting evening classes. The classes were aimed at helping children who dropped out have an easy transit back to school as well as influence and encourage them to take their schooling seriously. Children were taught the fundamentals in various subjects and were monitored of their school attendance. This intervention was done once in a week with a team of 5 volunteers and a gathering of 20 children under a tree. And the approach that was used when the organization was founded was that of a charity.
SUCCESS STORIES: Aishwarya joined Rakshak in her 1st std. Both her parents were woodcutters and came from a tribal community called the Irulas. Aishwarya was just like any other 1st grader, a cheerful child with an infectious smile and a thirst to learn more. As years went by, we found Aishwarya to be determined and focused in her academics.
A year with the children opened our eyes to various other socio- economic issues the children were exposed to. It did not take too long for the field workers to realize that once in a week intervention regardless of how many months it was done at a stretch was still not able to address the issue at hand. When the volunteers met the children during the weekend, the children were taught and encouraged and sometimes even taken to school and enrolled, but there was no one present during the week to monitor the child’s attendance. Similarly, a lot of other issues such as alcoholism in the households, lack of parental figures, a proper three-square meal, clothing and at times even shelter were everyday realities the children had to deal with. And for most children, just the absence of an adult to rely on and help them with their homework and assignments was a barrier when it came to their performance at school. Taking these into consideration, Rakshak moved into the Need Based Approach wherein the community’s needs were assessed and taken into consideration and intervention was tailored accordingly.