Life changing chances

Two new programmes of education offering awareness, choice and opportunity to some of the most vulnerable

The Scholarship Programme: Climbing out of poverty and changing one's stars is a dream shared by all of us at Haven. So far, we have only been able to take small steps in an attempt to turn that dream into a reality. However, these small steps have proved to be significant in creating a platform for encouragement. Our journey began with the formation of the MBCF Youth Group made up of young people from the local area. Today, within the Haven centre, members have access to a number of opportunities which are non existent within their home environment. A well-stocked library with reference books for private study, an IT suite for computer training and internet based research, sports facilities including a mini gym, and regular spoken English lessons via Skype. As a result, many of the local young people have grown in confidence and now dare to share in the dream of changing their lives for ever. All of this is encouraging, but it is not enough to reach the real goal. Haven's ambitious plan of creating a scholarship programme for the brightest of students living below the poverty line has so far been impossible to put into action.

The candidates for the scholarship programme would have to pass the nationally recognised Joint Entrance exam which streamlines students towards vocational courses like medicine and engineering which would equip them with qualifications to attain soughtafter work and escape abject poverty. In order to achieve this, the programme needs to be extensive involving the appointment of specialist tutors, residential courses for exam preparation, provision of required textbooks, and any other needs. Successful results at the Joint Entrance exam stage will allow the candidates to have access to the best Universities in India. At this stage, the scholarship programme would cover all expenses relating to fees, lodging and meals, books, travel and monthly "pocket money". As one can imagine, prohibitive costs are involved in getting this mammoth programme off the ground, that is, until now. Haven has been most fortunate to recently secure sponsorship from a  family trust based in the UK. Discussions are underway with the trust to finalise all details so that the programme can begin in earnest. The generous funding that has been offered will cover all expenses related to the scholarship programme so that the candidates can have financial security throughout their entire time. Free of such worries, they would then be able to totally reap the benefits in their new world of first class education that their merits have brought them to.

The Scholarship Programme has not yet started but Haven hopes this ambitious project will go ahead one day in the future once substantial funds are secured. Also to note: Spoken English lessons are presently not being offered due to a lack of volunteers who can commit to the amount of time needed.

The Mother's Club: The numerous paediatric and gynae camps held at the Haven centre have brought to light the worryingly high incidence of disabilities in women and children due to poor antenatal and post natal care. In addition, many of the ailments can be directly attributed to the large number of homebirths taking place where no medical expertise is available for complications that may arise. Other international bodies have also come to recognise the severity of the situation existing throughout rural India. Recently, the World Health Organisation WHO, in conjunction with the Indian government, have put together a large infrastructure of ante natal clinics covering widespread areas to try to address the problems. Local midwives and carers have been trained and appointed for each locality and are on call at all times. Financial incentives are now given to all mothers who opt for hospital deliveries, including the cost of emergency taxi services.

The Mother's Club at the Haven centre hopes to complement the WHO programme; our aim is to educate expectant mothers and midwifes on the challenges of childbirth by applying the best practices in preventive heathcare. This, we believe, will equip these individuals to make informed choices and drastically reduce avoidable medical tragedies that mar their lives now. Prevention is better than cure and in no space is it more relevant than in public health. During the regular weekly club meetings, MBCF medical staff will be on hand to discuss  problems, advise on correct hygiene schedules and prescribe medication when required. One of the most common ailments seen during our gynae camps was prolapse, so pelvic floor excercise classes will be run during the club meetings and all the ladies will be encouraged to take part. A tailor made "package" of one month's supply of vitamins and soap for cleanliness will also be given out, ensuring return visits for ongoing supplies and crucial medical check ups. Another aim of the Mother's Club is to try to create a close friendly community, where women facing similar issues can meet to talk to one another even after their children are born. This can be likened to the National Childbirth Trust NCT in the UK, where mothers have stayed in touch to become good friends long after their children have grown up. To promote this idea of community and friendship, the mothers and the carers will be invited to a special Mother's Club lunch which will be held at the end of each month. Hopefully this provision of correct care, essential vitamins, and sound medical advice will go a long way in preventing the occurrence of tragic disabilities that can blight families for ever.

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