Juvenile delinquents lodged in remand homes can live without occasional gifts and creativity workshops. What they need is someone who would give them attention,someone who would guide them to take self-confident steps in the right direction.
Not all juvenile delinquents will end up becoming habitual offenders if they are taught to explore within,feels Pune-based NGO Tej Gyan Foundation,which is currently engaged in formulating a transformation programme for juvenile offenders lodged in Mumbais remand homes.
The programme that may span out over a year,would essentially involve helping the children to discover their core competencies,helping them overcome the stigma of being offenders and helping them choose what their future holds for them. For monitoring purposes,the children would be divided into stable and unstable groups based on the number of days they will be at the home.
The NGO had first conducted a session on November 14,during the Childrens Day celebrations organised for street children by the South Mumbai police. After the programme earned a positive feedback,the NGO had approached Deputy Commissioner of Police,Zone I,Vishwas Nangre-Patil with a proposal to conduct a similar programme for juvenile offenders.
During the Childrens Day programme organised for street children,the Tej Gyan team had interacted with the kids and told them about self-discovery and positive thinking. We realised that if these attitudes are imbibed in children of juvenile homes,it will change the way they see themselves and their future. The police will act merely as the facilitators for the programme,the actual work will be done by the NGO, said Nangre-Patil.
A five-member team of Tej Gyan representatives visited the Dongri childrens home on February 28 to conduct a pilot project with the children. They have another visit planned next week.
Our first visit was essentially to gauge the receptiveness of the children as well as to ascertain the categories of the children we would be dealing with. We interacted with a group of around 30 boys and some 80 girls and though we hadnt expected them to open up in our first meeting itself,they surprisingly were receptive. In the second visit,we will be drawing up the finalities of what the programme would hold. said Manisha Kulkarni,who is a part of the programme.
When we conceptualised this programme,we agreed upon the pre-condition that it would be a long-term one. In the name of rehabilitation children in remand homes are visited by NGOs and private individuals who stay with them just for a day or two. Then there are vocational training workshops that are meant to prepare the children for life outside the remand home. However,no one focuses on the fact that unless the children are inherently happy,all these wont hold any meaning for them, said Kulkarni.
When the team had visited the remand homes,they realised that the thing the children needed most was time and attention.
The children were initially distracted but when they realised that we were there to listen to them and not just speak,they soon began speaking to us. One of the girls told us that they wouldnt have been here if they had someone to tell them the difference between right and wrong. Our programme would essentially focus on helping them overcome their guilty conscience at being offenders,elevating their sense of self-worth and then planning with them their plan for their future, said Kulkarni.