After months of searching for the perfect building located close to Kamraj Nagar, we finally found what we were looking for, and in the early fall of 2007, opened our Health and Education Outreach Centre. The new building provided enough space for our rapidly burgeoning Education Program. Although we had previously only offered educational support to girls, we decided to start allowing boys to join the program at this juncture, based on the overwhelming demand for co-ed services expressed by the Kamraj Nagar community.
For the first time since we started our work in 2006, begging and pleading with parents and guardians to let their children attend school, we were finally seeing the fruits of our labor: adults asking us to enroll their children in schools. Increasingly, we also noticed parents taking an interest in their children’s educations, in the form of dropping their children to and from the Centre for tutoring and agreeing to meet with their children’s school teachers. Parents and guardians no longer immediately rejected contact with school officials as they had previously, fearing ridicule for their own illiteracy, poor appearance or livelihoods begging on the streets. They began approaching the idea of education with a newfound confidence and pride. By fall 2007, the Education Outreach Program included over 40 children, with many more on the waiting list.
The new Centre also allowed us to launch something we had been dreaming of for quite some time – AIC’s very own Health Outreach Program. Since initiating the Education Outreach Program the previous year, we had observed that children frequently missed school and tutoring sessions because of the stress and pressure of their or their family members’ health problems. After witnessing too many cases in which a father’s battle with tuberculosis or an aunt’s complicated pregnancy forced a child to take an extended leave from school to work or provide support at home, we decided that something needed to be done. The Health Outreach Program was our solution to that problem.
In line with the mission of AIC, the Health Outreach Program sought to improve the health of the Kamraj Nagar community such that adults were healthy and able to work and children were able to consistently attend and excel in school. Like other AIC programs, the Health Outreach Program supported a holistic view of health and development, incorporating a strong desire for social justice. To this end, the Health Outreach Program was designed to be flexible and adaptable to the needs and desires of the communities in which we work. The Health Outreach Program was created to provide a wide variety of healthcare and health advocacy services, working to ensure complete and equal access to free and low-cost government and non-governmental health programs, and providing financial assistance where no such facilities exist.
Through the Health Outreach Program, we began routinely providing treatment for a variety of ailments, ranging from routine issues (scabies, coughs, colds, anemia, diabetes, broken bones) to very serious health conditions (complications from pregnancy, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis, HIV). We also initiated work with a broad range of private doctors, non-governmental organizations and government programs to conduct medical camps (cataract screening camps, anemia screening camps, dental services, immunization drives, etc) and educational lectures (domestic violence, nutrition, the spread of tuberculosis, etc) at our centre, allowing us to educate and interact with a large number of people from the target communities.
Alongside our ever-expanding outreach work in the community, our Residential Program began increasing again in November 2007 when we welcomed 11-year old Ashwini to the family.