Meljol- bringing things together!
Meljol, (‘coming together’), is an organisation which promotes child rights and responsibilities, bringing children and teachers from different casts and backgrounds together to understand each other and share common experiences.
Through their ‘Aflatoon Programme’, children’s camps and teacher training programmes are organised to promote rights issues. Meljol have also produced a series of children’s books and teacher training manuals around the issues of child rights, using the character of ‘Aflatoon’, a fireball from outerspace, to explain the concepts!
In the schools, Meljol also helps to set up 'Aflatoon Banks', child savings groups in which children are encouraged to save whatever money they can. For some this may only be a rupee or two, but over time, this accumulates and can be used to buy school materials or go on class outings. The concept has really been taking off, and through the saving schemes the children are learning the importance of budgeting and financial management. What’s more, their parents are also learning, and so it is having a knock on effect in the communities. When parents see what their children are able to do with their saving, it encourages them also to plan and manage their finances.
I went to visit one of the schoolsm, Gunj Budhavli Ashram School (An Ashram school is an boarding school), in a rural area about 2 hours drive north of Mumbai, to see the set up of the schools and talk to the teachers and pupils about the banks.
I received an amazing welcome, and I seemed to be somewhat of a novelty. The children sang and danced for me, and in return I was asked to Irish dance, and sing… mmmm, embarrassing! But when travelling, sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and this time the flow meant joining in and making a bit of a fool of myself.
Of the 400 pupils in the school, 87 pupils are involved in the saving scheme (which has be running for less than a year)- they are 87 kids who will learn key skills, and which will impact on their families. They sure know how to welcome too!