On Sunday 19th July, I will be attempting to run a self-organised marathon in under 3 hours, a feat achieved by roughly 4% of amateur runners. Initially to keep me occupied during lockdown, it quickly dawned on Sanbi and I that this was an opportunity to raise much needed funds for two very worthy causes we encountered on our recent trip to India.
The two beneficiaries are from Dharavi, an area often deemed as Asia's largest slum, located in the heart of Mumbai. The first is an NGO called 'Reality Gives' and the second is a tour guide named Sabina & her family. To make your altruism as effective as possible, we'll be capping the donations to Sabina & her family at £250, with all other funds going to Reality Gives. There’s more information below to help you understand why we've chosen these two causes and I would love for you to hear their stories. First, an overview of Dharavi:
Dharavi & Covid 19 impact:
Dharavi is made up of just two square kilometres of land, but is home to approximately one million people. Conditions are stark. Space is limited, typically areas of just ten square metres are shared by seven inhabitants. Most of Dharavi’s population work within the slum; there are numerous factories covering industries such as clothing, food production and recycling. Whilst Dharavi has a bustling commercial environment, incomes are relatively low, whilst land and house prices are relatively high - inaccessible by the majority of its workers.
Needless to say, Dharavi is being impacted heavily by the virus. Controlling the spread of disease in a place where families live so closely together and have to share key amenities such as toilets, is an almost impossible feat. With a backdrop of closed factories and income sources ceased for many who have limited contingencies to fall back on, the situation in Dharavi today needs more help than ever. Whilst various external NGOs are trying their best to provide supplies, the on the ground translation is a first-come-first-served system resulting in unequal distribution and an increased risk of viral transmission from the ensuing crowds.
1) Reality Gives
Vision: A world where underprivileged communities have equal access to opportunities and resources.
Mission: To provide young people from underprivileged communities in India with high quality education and experiences to help them maximize their potential.
Reality Gives is the sister organisation of ethically run tour company, Reality Tours & Travel. Reality Tours was created in 2005, with the main objective to show the positive side of slums and to break down negative stereotypes about its residents, and Dharavi in particular. After discussing the community's needs with its residents, Reality Tours set up a Centre in Dharavi in 2007 to provide English and computer classes using tour revenues. As Reality Tours grew, the founders decided to expand on their social work and in August 2009, the NGO Reality Gives was born. You can watch their story here (Our Story | Ten Years in Dharavi)
Due to the pandemic, tours cannot be run. This has caused a drastic reduction in funding for Reality Gives, who are now relying solely on donations. Reality Gives is still running their educational programmes for children by doing so online, but this is only available to the select few that have access to an internet connected device. Crucially, they are also providing much needed education to the community about the virus in the face of fast spreading rumours and misinformation. As a collective organisation, they are prioritising their employees and paying them a % of their wage, but this cannot continue without support.
2) Sabina & family
Meet Sabina, who completely touched our hearts and minds. Sanbi and I met her whilst on a tour of Dharavi, the place she and her family have called home for three generations and where she currently resides with four others including her husband and 3 year old son. Life has thrown many challenges her way in the 25 years she's lived. From being brought up in some of the poorest conditions imaginable, to having her modern ambitions and progressive mindset conflicted against the cultural traditions of her community. From being a young working mother whilst managing the needs of her autistic son, to caring for a mother-in-law who is undergoing chemotherapy.
Given all of this, you'd expect Sabina to hold a lot of resentment towards the hand she's been dealt. Well, you'd be very wrong indeed. Sabina has an inconceivably positive attitude towards life, one that has seen her work her way into a tour guide role at Reality Tours. The job provides her with great personal fulfilment and usually with financial stability. However, Sabina and her colleagues now find themselves out of work. Whilst Reality Gives are able to provide some financial cover for the next few months, the period beyond this is uncertain. We desperately want to help Sabina. Not only is she one of the most wonderful human beings we've ever met, but her positive approach in the face of such adversity and the way she tirelessly navigates problems is truly awe inspiring. Not only will your money be going into the hands of a woman that really needs it, but also to someone who will support her community through this crisis.
I am aware that this is also a very difficult time for a lot of our friends, family and others here at home. Please do not feel pressured to donate. If you are willing and in a position to contribute some money during this period, Sanbi and I would be extremely grateful. Sabina, the team at Reality Gives and ultimately the people of Dharavi need all the help they can get and you would truly be making a difference to the prospects of some of the world's most vulnerable people. Thank you for your time and I look forward to keeping you all updated.