Alleyn’s Slum Experience
The young children sat upon the piles of broken rubbish carelessly strewn on the ground. The bustling sounds of Mumbai’s city buzzed noisily overhead and the need to search high and low amongst the rubble to find anything of use that could be sold occupied their troubled minds.
However, as the hours passed and the children grew weary in their hunt to find and sell goods, they were soon jolted back to the reality of their comfortable classroom and their smart uniforms as the class teacher clapped her hands together and told the children it was time to clean up the rubbish and get ready to go home.
Because actually these children were not living amongst the rubbish tips, malnourished and on less than £1 a day like 400,000,000 people in India. They were from Alleyn’s Junior school in Dulwich and they were carrying out our Slum Experience session, a physical simulation of the environment and challenges faced by rag picker children in Mumbai’s most impoverished communities.
We asked the children to each bring in a bag of rubbish (clean!) and throw it on the floor of their classroom. We then showed real life footage of children who actually live in this environment.
After spending the afternoon hearing the plea’s of their counterparts in Mumbai to ‘clean up the rubbish and build us a playground’ and ‘educate boys and girls,’ all whilst learning to adopt the same resilience and resourcefulness in order to survive, the children of Alleyn’s junior school began asking profound questions;
‘Why do they have to live like that and we have so much? It isn’t fair!’ While
one student (no doubt a future in politics ahead) cried out that ‘the government should do something!’
The children had been taught about urban poverty by experiencing it. We took them on a journey to that rubbish tip in Mumbai so that they were able to understand what it would be like to eat and sleep there as well as demonstrating resourcefulness in using the rubbish to be entrepreneurial and make something to sell.
This sparked a desire in the children to fundraise and give back to their peers. Through educating the children first-hand on third world poverty we were mobilising them to understand and exercise social responsibility and philanthropy from a young age.
After just one afternoon of visiting Mumbai’s street and slum communities, Alleyn's went on to raise a whopping £7,000 for the children that they had learnt about there - thank you Alleyn's!