Monthly Archives: November 2013

Nieck’s Research

Nieck has been our first-ever intern with Reality Tours & Travel. Despite some serious health issues he managed to interview 74 Dharavi residents about their perception of slum tours in their communities. His thesis will still take some more months so we will need to wait for an overview of his results. But he has been so kind to write about his personal experience for our blog:

Back in the Netherlands as I transcribe interviews and read through all of the information I have gathered, it makes me think a lot about what I have experienced. With help of three fantastic guides, I was able to have a very personal conversation with the people of Dharavi. Their stories have touched me, surprised me and have also caused me to reflect upon our own safe, comfortable and judgmental Western lives.

My research had to do with how the Dharavi community members feel about the tourists that Reality Tours Travel brings into their community. After carring out in-depth interviews with 74 Dharavi community members, I can confidently say that many are happy to see tourists. A lot of interviewees have summed this up in saying, “They have come from so far to see how we work and live. I’m happy for that”. On the other hand, the reality is that these people are too busy with their work and daily routine to be too concerned about our intentions. I’ve come to realise that as long as Reality operates its business with good intentions and the tourists respect their culture and the living condition of the people, it seems, according to those I interviewed, to be perfectly acceptable for the community.

Quite a few interviewees mentioned that “I think the company should help the community more”. After telling them about the company’s relationship with Reality Gives, literally all interviewees showed nothing but respect and gratefulness for the organisation’s intentions and efforts. I would recommend the Reality Group to distinguish themselves more by promoting their efforts more within the community, as many respondents were unaware of the organisation’s initiatives.

I firmly believe in the positive effects Reality Tours Travel and Reality Gives can have on this community and so I wish them all the best with their future efforts. They are the perfect example that tourism can also leave a positive footprint and I was happy to be a part of that during my five months in Mumbai.

Thank you Nieck for your hard work and great input. We will miss you here in Mumbai!

Hearing Aid Distribution At CORP

As we entered into the main room of the Reality Gives supported Community Outreach Program (CORP) Shalom Centre, a daycare centre for disabled children, we were greeted with smiling, eager faces. Five days a week, from 4:00 to 6:30, a regular crowd of around 15 children spend the afternoon at CORP Shalom Centre. On Saturdays, these children spend the entire day at the centre, benefiting from special activities such as music and art classes. Using donations, Reality Gives already provided eight hearing aids and two calipers for physically handicapped children from Dharavi.

The lives of the few children who already received hearing aids from various funding sources changed drastically with the new devices. Before, they wore a cumbersome voice box over their chest with headphones in their ears. In order to properly utilise these old aids, speakers must lean in and talk directly into the box. The children’s disability was not only disabling but also outwardly visible. Their difficulties extended into their daily routines as well. A task as simple as walking on the road proved difficult because the hearing impaired children had trouble hearing oncoming traffic. In the evenings, they had trouble enjoying a TV show with their families because they could not comprehend the full story.

Since receiving new hearing aids, their challenges have lessened immensely, and the aids have even enabled the children to carry out a normal life. These children can hear their teachers, and several of them affirmed that they are now able to learn more. All commented that new hearing aids have facilitated confidence. Indeed it has because four recipients of the hearing aids have since passed their Higher Secondary Education (HSC), two years beyond the required education. After their schooling, the children aspire to become everything from a cricketer to a teacher to a shop owner to a guitarist.

Knowing this, we were happy to hand out two more hearing aids that were entirely funded by the donations we received from the Reality Tours Travel’s customers after the Dharavi Slum Tour in our Reception Centre. This time Sameer (12) and Shabanna (13) were the lucky ones.

Sameer is a very cheerful young boy who enjoys using the computer and who wants to become a tailor, just like his father. He is very keen on passing the 10th standard and to go to college afterwards but he is also aware that he will need to work at the same time to contribute to his family’s income.

Shabanna is very shy but the teachers say she is very smart and hard-working at school. At the same age she is already three grades ahead of Sameer and also very keen to pass the 10th standard to join the college afterwards although she doesn’t know yet what she wants to do afterwards. She has three brothers of which one is also hearing disabled. She shunne the attention she got on the day of the hearing aid distribution but now she is looking forward to using the new device to learn even more at school.

The experience observing these kids using their new devices for the first time was incredible. Other children with the same devices helped them to install and adjust them and then the moment came when they could suddenly hear their friends and teachers properly for the first time. A big smile arose on their faces and we left with a warm and truly meant “Thank you”.

Chris Way, Founder of Reality Gives, who was at the centre for the distribution centre, said, “I’ve been in Mumbai for over 8  years now but seeing the kids put on the new devices and seeing their reaction, as well as of those of their family, was one of my most humbling experiences since I have been here.”

The kids find the outside world is different than the comfortable, welcoming rooms of the centre. At CORP’s Shalom Centre, the children acknowledge that they are understood. With the help of Reality Gives, however, the new hearing aids have made the outside world a bit less frightening.

If you want to help too donate today on www.realitygives.org. Thank you for your support!

Thanks to our volunteer Aliza for her help contributing to this story during her visit to Mumbai.

Meet Jonny

Today we would like to introduce you to Jonny who just spent three months working with the Reality Gives Community Centre team on project management and curriculum development. He isn’t actually new at Reality Gives. In 2010 he was part of the team that created the Youth Empowerment Program and since then he has been involved with Reality Gives in a variety of ways, his main passion being the curriculum development projects.So Jonny, you’ve been in Mumbai quite a few times now. What do you actually do? Good question! My main remit is to develop the education programs. This involves a bit of trouble-shooting, some training and a lot of resource development. Thanks to my degree in Business and my friendship with Chris (Chris Way, Founder), I also help with a lot of the strategic thinking and looking at the ‘bigger picture’.

“Sounds good, what do you enjoy most? I enjoy it all really. I know the value of having a good ‘sounding-board’ and a second opinion so I’m happy to be able to play that role. I also love teaching teachers and training staff so that they can go forward and do their jobs even better than they already are. My main passion, however, is the curriculum development project. Since I first came here that has been what I have wanted to crack; a set of culturally appropriate, easy to follow materials all taught by confident, well-trained teachers that empower young people to go forward and achieve their goals. What changes have you seen since you started working with Reality Gives in 2010? Loads! I was heavily involved with planning the expansion of Reality Gives, when we started to address more than just ‘classroom’ education, so seeing it in practice now is very exciting. If I think back to when I first arrived and we were just starting to design the Youth Empowerment Program we’ve come such a long way! Seeing all of the different programs in action now is simply excellent and the future potential is incredible. Finally, what’s next for you? I feel that the work I’ve done over the last few months here in Mumbai with Chris, Jyoti (our new Community Centre Manager) and the rest of the Reality Gives team has helped to consolidate our position and has got us ready to move forward. I’ll be heading back to London soon where my plan will be to lock myself away and work at improving the three different components of the Youth Empowerment Program; Computers, Soft Skills and English. I’ll be liaising online a lot with the teachers to get their input and feedback and I’m sure Chris and I will have a few Skype meetings too!