Walking through the Waghri and Sikligar slums, it is glaringly apparent that none of the children have safe play areas or toys to play with. It is not uncommon to see little ones toddling along busy roadways, playing with an exposed wire dangling from the web of cables through which the communities tap their (illegal) electricity connections, playing with (and putting in their mouths) glass bottles, metal cans, sharp/rusty/filthy/choking-hazard-sized items, playing dangerously close to open fires, peeking down from open rooftops, etc. Once they stop nursing, many toddlers are left to be supervised by their well-intentioned-but-easily-distracted older siblings, who are often barely even school-aged themselves.
This week at AIC, we launched a playgroup for children aged 2-3 years and their mothers! The playgroup eliminates a gap that had previously existed in AIC’s services for this particular age group: children from 0-2 years attend regular Mother-Baby classes, but after graduating from that program, are not eligible for admission into the AIC Nursery School until they turn 3. The playgroup provides mothers with the opportunity to continue to learn about critical areas of childcare, including health and hygiene, nutrition, and the role of play in stimulating brain development, and allows toddlers the space and resources to fine-tune their motor skills, social development and independence.
We are proud to say that, with the creation of this playgroup, children of the Waghri and Sikligar slums are now completely covered by our tightly-woven net of interconnected, age-appropriate services and program, beginning before they are even born (through our comprehensive antenatal care services), and continuing until they reach adulthood.
The children are completely in awe of the shiny, colorful toys that our local supporters have generously donated; watching them play and discover new objects is a treat for their mothers and the AIC staff!
Will this playgroup solve all of those problems overnight? No, certainly not. However, for one hour every morning, the children and their mothers now have the chance to gather in a safe, clean, comfortable space for the little ones to play with toys and make friends while their mothers connect with other mothers and receive the support and guidance of our trained staff.
And while it may not alleviate the crushing poverty into which these children are born, a safe place to play goes a long way toward giving them a shot at a brighter future.
[To our friends in Pune – if you have gently-used toys that you are interested in donating to help us keep the playgroup well-stocked with fun, engaging materials, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, thank you, thank you!]