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Apnalaya, Our Space in English, is a non-profit organization, founded in 1973 by Tom Holland, who was then the Australian Consul General in Bombay. At that time it was called Holland Welfare Centre, which was a day care centre for labourer's children in Nariman Point, the place where National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) stands today.
The President, Annabel Mehta, is a social worker who has dedicated 40 years to the cause of neglected communities in slums of Mumbai. Presently she is also on the board of Give India, and a member of the Accreditation Committee of Credibility Alliance. Apnalaya is now working with the most marginalized people living in highly under-served slums of Shivaji Nagar in M East Ward, Mumbai.
Shivaji Nagar is located adjacent to Asia’s largest waste dumping site and abattoirs. For over a population of almost 6,00,000 people there are no secondary schools and hospitals. Civic amenities for drainage and sanitation are abysmal. Rag picking and waste segregation being one of the key occupations here, M East Ward has the lowest life expectancy rate at 39 years and is ranked the lowest of the performing wards in Mumbai (Mumbai Human Development Report, 2009).
Apnalaya believes development to be sustainable in an extremely under-served area, it is imperative to eschew a single-domain focus. Basic necessities of life like health, education, and livelihood are seldom realised in isolation. Fulfillment of one inevitably depends on the realisation of the other. Therefore, we work with an approach of integrated community development.
Partnership and participation is the key to all of Apnalaya’s activities. From identification of needs and problems, to planning and execution of projects, local people are involved at every stage. Our programmes are carried out by trained and dedicated community-based staffs which work hand-in-hand with professional social workers, teachers, doctors and volunteers under the guidance of the CEO, Dr Arun Kumar, who has worked with both implementing and support organizations, including Oxfam and CRY. Human Rights and Non-Violence inform his perspectives on a host of issues including education, gender, health and livelihood.
With a vision of enabling people of Shivaji Nagar to take charge of their development with the lens of gender parity, Apnalaya aims to work on the holistic development to break the cycle of marginalization through various programmes:
Health and Disability: Given the context of lowest life expectancy of 39 years, Apnalaya’s health and disability vertical serves the severely affected malnourished children and women. Programmes under Health and Disability cover the following:
- Mother Support Groups that work with pregnant and lactating mothers
- Mata Samitis (Committee of mothers) comprising mothers, MCGM personnel and Apnalaya representative to monitor nutritional standards at anganwadis
- Mahila Arogya Samitis (Women Health Volunteers) are equipped to address health issues, follow up on cases and facilitate referrals
- Male Groups act as a supportive mechanism for mother and child care
- Adolescent boys and girls in the age group of 10–18 years undergo education on Sexual and Reproductive Health
- Children’s groups work on safe water and sanitation
- Armman (Apnalaya collaborates with Armman, an NGO that works with latest messaging technology for expecting women and infants. With this project, we reach out to the population of 280,000 spread in 29 clusters of M East ward)
Apnalaya intervenes in all eligible cases pertaining to education, health, vocational training and employment. We facilitate government scholarship for students in special and mainstream schools to help children continue in the education stream thereby enabling families to have increased financial support for their ward’s education.
Apnalaya works with Self Help Groups, active mothers of children with disability and persons with disability themselves who are educated and/or employed. In order to scale-up for a better community-based model for people with disabilities, we work with these community volunteers on sensitization and other issues related to disability.
Education and Citizenship
Apnalaya strengthens and sustains citizenship education among youth and adults in Shivaji Nagar to be able to build capacity of the community to:
· Access Educational opportunities
· Become responsive and active citizens
· Interface with government institutions to access rightful entitlements 
To achieve these goals this department runs the following projects:
• Youth Fellowship Programme: Conceived with adolescents and youth to sponsor education and to equip them as young community leaders engaging in community development, this programme will engage young people in a youth leadership curriculum. The aim is to build life skills so that the fellows take the journey from the self to the society as they learn collectively • Experiential Civic Education Curriculum: The curriculum adapted to the school civic syllabus will equip school teachers to prepare young people as responsible citizens and to infuse an innovative pedagogical approach into civics and political science • Community Management Groups: A Community Resource and Advisory Centre (CRAC) and groups comprising community volunteers forms the backbone of this programme. These groups will understand the Constitutional framework and form advocacy committees working within the community and with government institutions to access entitlements, run projects such as community based water purification units and so on
True empowerment comes with financial independence and access to a world of opportunities. Keeping this in mind the Livelihood vertical runs various vocational training projects that gives exposure and life changing experiences to women in Shivaji Nagar, such as: • Self Help Groups (SHGs) Economic hardships make saving for a better tomorrow a distant dream for the people living in M East ward. Apnalaya works with women in the community to help them in providing a better quality of life for their families. The Self Help Group (SHG) has proved to be a good rallying point for women to come together, to not only save and carry out small businesses but also to become centers for social change. • Skilling Program Apnalaya recognizes the challenge that women face in this area to learn a skill. Venturing out to train for a means of livelihood is often outside the realm of feasibility, given their multiple responsibilities and perceptions about safety. We train women in sewing skills over a six-month period to enable them to earn a livelihood. • Independent Incomes Apnalaya believes that women being enabled to seek a livelihood will enhance the quality of life for the entire household and break the inter-generational cycle of poverty. Towards this end we run two crèches with 30 children each. We are also piloting a Fellowship program for women to run home based crèches from their homes in order to make a sustainable livelihood in conjunction with another partner woman who will run a small business herself as also to contribute to the betterment of their locality. • Financial Literacy Apnalaya works to impart rudimentary financial literacy to women starting from their future dreams, differentiating between “needs” and “wants”, to budgeting expenses and saving for a future goal.