Bina Sheth Lashkari, the Hershey Goodness Hero for Bombay Times this week, had always been inclined to contributing to the society in the form of developmental work and not just charity. Her masters degree in Social Work taught her all the nuances needed to pursue her dream.
In her second year, she visited a municipal school and found that there were dropouts, and also kids who were keen to study but couldn’t go to schools due to their jobs, time constraints and proximity etc. That inspired her to create the Door Step School (DSS) with the primary aim in her mind being, “If the student cannot go to the school, then the school has to go to them”. What started with a non-formal class for 25 out-of-school kids from Cuffe Parade’s slum, at their doorstep, has grown into an organisation that has touched lives of more than 2,35,000 children.
Over the last 25 years, Bina’s relentless work towards addressing the issue of literacy amongst the marginalized sections of the society has brought her many laurels including the President’s award in 2013 (Stree Shakti Puraskar).
Bina’s non-governmental organization, DSS, works to promote education and impart literacy skills among the socially, economically disadvantaged children in more than 35 urban slum communities in Mumbai and in Pune. Their project areas in slum and pavement communities and rehabilitated slum complexes cover a population of about 2,35,000.
In order to cater to the scattered group of children on Mumbai’s streets, she came up with her flagship concept of ‘School on Wheels’, which is a mobile classroom. “Our bus-classrooms are stationed at particular areas where street children come to study. There are five such buses each in Mumbai and Pune. Each bus caters to 125 children,” she says.
Bina’s passion to work for the underprivileged children’s holistic development, has led her to come up with many developmental programs. Through direct intervention in communities and corporation schools in Mumbai and Pune, Bina and her organization reach out to more than 1,00,000 children, essentially by taking education, literally, to every ‘doorstep’.
More than 10,000 first generation learners have been enrolled by DSS in municipal schools since 1990. She says, “The impact of 20 years of work with one community is best seen in the second generation learners. Their parents were among my first students.” Over 100 alumni members have completed their graduation and are now pursuing careers of their choice.
Bal Samuhas or youth groups comprising DSS alumni are emerging in most of the communities and schools they work with. “These young people, over 500 of them, are developing into leaders for their communities and are preparing them to deal with the issues that affect their community,” adds Bina.