Khelghar

Khelghar! It’s a dream! Of the curious eyes searching for long-lasting moments of joy! Of the
minds in quest of knowledge! In short, Of the little ones seeking love and care! Who are these
children? How did they find this play home? Who took them under the wings and cared for
them? Who showed them the joy of learning?
“Education for the deprived” is a motto of the “Khelghar” project; currently, around 80
children participate in the activities of Khelghar. All of these children live in a slum area
named Lakshminagar at Kothrud, Pune.

History of Khelghar

Khelghar – Beginning and Growth

‘‘Palakneeti Pariwar’ was formally registered as an organization in 1996 by Sanjeevani
Kulkarni with other six likeminded friends. Shubhada Joshi, an architect by profession,
is one of the trustees of the organization. She got involved in Palakneeti work in 1994
and thereafter decided to devote fully to it, giving her professional career a back seat. The
observing the work helped her in many ways, more importantly made her sensitive to the
realities of poor people around. The exposure to children’s harsh realities proved a starting
point and Khelghar’s activities started in Laxminagar slum, albeit on a small scale to begin
with.

The issues with slum children

The slum comprising colony of construction workers is located near Shubhada’s house. As
it is situated on hill slope, it is not likely to get government recognition and consequently the
basic amenities like electricity and water. In most of the houses both parents have to work
leaving children to take care of themselves. Older children take responsibility of younger
ones in the absence of their parents and therefore miss out on schooling. In their struggle
for survival, parents hardly find any time to take their children to school or to provide basic
essentials, even if they attend schools. Invariably schools lack childfriendly environment and
fail to maintain children’s interest in education. All this combined leads to deprivation of
education for these children. Their surrounding locality has innumerable social problems like
alcoholism, drug addiction, disputes & fights on a regular basis. Exposure to and growing
up in such dispiriting environment is certainly unhealthy for children. It is not correct to
blame the destiny and sit tight or lack of efforts by the major reason is today’s corrupt system
where money attracts more money. We have not made this system but it’s contradictions &
disparities make us restless.

We are from privileged sections and enjoy all benefits integral to it. Palakneeti was a good
forum in providing thought clarity research avenues and discussions around the subject. We

felt a need to reach out to underprivileged sections, as a gesture of our concern for them.

The small beginning at Shubhada’s house

Instead of thinking on case to case basis Shubhada started Khelghar for children in
Laxminagar in her own house in 1996. Interacting and playing with children helped her to
understand their realities and problems. What should be done and what should not be done
to help in these situations was learnt slowly. Then it was possible to engage children in
meaningful education and learning.

Start of Anand Sankul in 1998 in slum

Eventually many children and even their parents got associated with Khelghar work. With
their support, Khelghar broadened scope of its work in 1998 by starting ‘Anand Sankul’ in a
tiny tin shade in the slum itself. A situated in center slum gives easy access to many children,
especially younger ones who could not earlier come all the way to Khelghar situated one
and a half kilometer from the slum. Many activities were also streamlined at this juncture;
agewise play groups, study groups, discussion groups and also separate sessions for girls.

Khelghar got its own place in 2004

In 2004, Khelghar moved to even bigger and independent place to accommodate large
number of children and growing extent of activities. With this larger space we have been able
to provide proper separate place for children to study, to read and to play. All the activities
and work of Khelghar is managed and furthered by eight full time and seven part-time
volunteers.

Impact

The ten years of journey has proved to be an enriching experience. Moreover, we are far
more ascertained now on what changes we envisage through the work of Khelghar.
The effort that once was initiated by a concerned individual is now taken over by a group of
people. The team of 15 volunteers is working with devotion and commitment. Some senior
students and parents also participate in this work.

Children are away from fights, alcoholism, drugs
Confidence level is high
Can express well and articulate their thoughts
Good team work
Awareness of social responsibility
Urge for post SSC study
The children who have enrolled at young age are progressing academically quite well.
Dropout rate of girls from schools is reduced. Many girls now continue education till SSC.

Future Plans

We plan to carry out present activities with the same spirit and zeal in future. We also hope to
reach out to more children in Laxminagar.
• We will soon be starting some activities for dropout children. Our aim will be to either get
these children again in main stream education or help them to build some vocational skills of
their own aptitude.
• We are planning to share our skills and experience to other people who wish to initiate
similar efforts.

Addressing Social Issues

Children face numerous social problems in slum area. Poverty, illiteracy, discrimination,
inferiority complex, alcoholism and other addictions are some of the major problems these
children have to live with. They are routinely exposed to physical fights and verbal abuse
that goes on around them. Though the main thrust of Khelghar is children’s education, we
believe that enabling children to find solutions to problems confronting them is also an
integral component of education. Therefore we extend support whenever such issues arise
and also prepare children and parents to find ways out. This work is certainly challenging and
demanding and we are trying to cope with it with whatever resources and strength that we
have.

Medical Aid

Sometimes children suffer from minor health problems, such as weak eyesight, deafness,
anemia or persistent illness and therefore lag behind in their studies. Such children can have
free medical aid through Khelghar from expert doctors.

Our Learning

Though Khelghar is a place for children’s development, adult members associated with
it also learn and develop a lot in the process. Some the areas of constant exploration and
learning include the process of child’s learning, building enabling environment for child’s
development and do’s and don’ts in this regard. We also try to equip ourselves better by
taking inputs on specific areas, such as conceptual understanding, team work and counseling.
The willingness of volunteers to learn and keep afresh motivates children to take required
efforts for their own development and learning.