Aseema’s journey began in 1995, when three friends – Dilbur Parakh, a human rights lawyer, Neela Kapadia, a documentary filmmaker and Snehal Paranjape, an advocate in the High Court – registered a public charitable trust while researching the legal aspects of child labour.
They realised that while there were many legal provisions made for children, the ground reality was very different and quite disturbing. As they met children on the streets of Bandra – a suburb in Mumbai – they understood that education was the only lasting solution. These children spent most of their day begging at traffic signals, rag picking or working at tea stalls or garages... Most of them had never been to school and the road that lay ahead of them did not hold much promise of a better future.
Inspired by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and with faith that education could help these children tap the immense store of potential within them, Aseema’s Education Centre was born on 15 December 1997. In a room offered by the well established St. Stanislaus High School, 18 children began their journey of education.
At first, the children – aged between 3 and 15 years – were reluctant to come. They would run around the class, jump on the desks and play with the electrical switches. And all that Dilbur and the volunteers who worked with them could do, was stand by and watch until they settled down. Patiently, lovingly and gently they gained the children’s trust and attention. The children began looking forward to the two hours they spent at the centre each day. Learning gradually became something joyful and the first step had been taken!
Since that first step in 1997, Aseema has taken many strides and has grown multifold. The Education Centre that provided non-formal education to 18 children, now reaches out to about 4000 children providing opportunities that are rightfully theirs.