Thakurmunda, (Swarup & Bharati) : Over 100 enthusiastic villagers of Bhaliadal Panchayat including school students, community teachers, PRI members, etc were assembled to receive the visiting guests from Plan India. The villagers gave a warm and vivacious welcome to the representatives of Plan India by escorting them from the village ground to the meeting venue with their cultural dance and music.

With a view to have onsite review of the progress of the Project “Combating Child Labour Free Thakurmunda Block” being implemented by CYSD, a field visit of Plan India representatives (from South India Office) to Baghdafa village of Bhaliadal Panchayat under Thakurmunda block was facilitated.

Miss Jamuna Ho, mentor, along with other child members of the ‘Birsa Munda Child Club’ embraced the visiting guests with floral presentation followed by a cultural welcome song.

With utmost confidence and ease Jamuna hosted the function. Sharing about the club, Jamuna said, a total of 41 children are representing the club (28 girls and 13 boys). On first Monday of every month, all members sit together to discuss the issues of children of their village and chalk out plan of actions to resolve the issues.

The club puts emphasis on regular schooling of children by engaging the elder children to escort respective young ones to the Bhalidal School which is about 3 km away from their village, added Miss Ho.

On the occasion, Shri Mangluram Munduri, a member of village level Child Protection Committee (CPC) shared about the function of CPC and how the members have been coordinating with the child club for timely enrolment, regular retention of children in school and other issues of child labour, child marriage and child protection. He cited various cases where child marriages were detained and children engaged in domestic labour activities were sent back to school.

Speaking about their enhanced economic conditions, beneficiaries of the livelihood support, Shri Lalmohan Mahakud and Shri Baju Ho shared their happiness about the financial assistance received from CYSD-Plan. Today the program has benefitted nearly 12 beneficiaries in the village.

The children also staged a small play on “Prevention of Child Marriage” followed by a cultural group dance.

Witnessing the event, Ms. Yashmin, Program Coordinator (Education), Plan India appreciated the work of child club and the CPC.  Girls are in the centre stage keeping the boys in the periphery, is a very good sign, she added.

On the other hand, the level of understanding of children and confidence of managing children’s affair through child club is really praiseworthy, though the program activities started just 10 months back. If I would rate the progress of the program, during my last visit to 40%, then today’s observation has absolutely surpassed  100%, added Shri Madhu, the Program Coordinator (Child protection), Plan India.

Shri Tushar Das, Odisha State Manager, Plan India also appreciated the work of child club and CPC and said that due to the proactive nature of the club and the village level CPC members there has been a consistent reduction of school drop outs, prevention of child marriages and child labour etc. Sharing his happiness, Shri Das said that through the initiatives taken by the Child Club members as well as instant support from the CPC and CYSD team they could stop the marriage of Sajani Mahakud couple of months back. Further the club members along with the CPC were able to lodge a complaint with the Child Line (1098) to rescue a boy who was thrashed by his uncle as he was interested to go to school instead of cow herding. But, with the intervention of Child Line now the boy has been rescued and rehabilitated at Divine Onkar Sevashram which is a Govt. recognised child care institution, added Tushar.

When the visitors asked about the most influential support the children have been ever provided, the villagers pointed out the “Tuition Centre” as number one followed by the livelihood support provided to needy beneficiaries.

When being asked for any other requirement for the betterment of the Project, Shri Mangluram requested for a full-fledged community learning centre for children.

On the occasion, the visiting SIO team expressed their high level satisfaction of the overall progress witnessed and they expected the CPC, Child Club and community members to continue the same spirit in future days too.

Jamuna and her counterparts were also asked by the visiting team to join any exposure and capacity building programmes being organised by Plan India in future.

Many children from the community are now attending school regularly and education is the biggest priority for their children, happily expressed some parents present there.

The project has not only been successful in terms of getting children into formal education, it has also encouraged the community to lobby before the local government departments to provide the necessary resources needed.