“Christmas is the time to love, share”
‘A good conscience is a continual Christmas’. On 18th December 2016, Sunday at 11am, 87 children from the Palam flyover slum area added more meaning to this year’s Christmas. The slum constitutes around 49 families living in a small piece of land which belongs to the government. These slum dwellers are from Uttar Pradesh and most of them are from Kanpur district, Navrang , Lucknow and Unnave. The duration of their stay lasts from one year in some cases and the longest being almost 50 years. The significant core issues are lack of awareness due to uneducation, illiteracy of parents and youth very particularly the children below 18 years old. They do not have basic amenities such as toilets, electricity. Drinking water is availed from an illegal pipe line source which goes to Dwarka residential area or neighborhood and to fetch, it is a constant struggle. Very often, women and girls are victim of sexual assault. To meet their toilet needs they have no choice, open defecation is the only option left. Many times, young children from the slum are victims of hit and run cases. The outreach intervention started from 2015 when Fr Koshy noticed children from the slum begging at the signals. That red light triggered to on the green light for them. Sonia Udit who is a passionate social worker started building rapport with the community. The children really loved her. Since there was no space available during those initial stages, the children and she would sit wherever possible; sometimes underneath the flyover, sometimes in the temple courtyard. When Don Bosco Ashalayam provided the space, it solved half the problem. The children need not worry about the heat, animals and other by standers. They were in a safe space.
Catch them young was the mantra. Most of the children were below 10 years. Continuous support, care and bridge schooling resulted in admitting 69 children to the South Delhi Municipal Elementary School, Palam Gaon. These children are the first generation learners from the slum. But the work hasn’t stop and it will not stop. There is a constant follow up of the children who are now attending school.
Christmas is not Christmas if the children presence is not felt. Every year, Christmas is celebrated with the neighborhood children. This year the children from the slum and our neighborhood friends, the rag pickers were the main actors. The Christmas crib was the first surprise they were in awe with. The youth group from St. Francis De Sales, Janakpuri led the event. No doubt there presence added more cheers and joy with the fun filled games, dance steps, merry songs and of course bollywood moves got everyone on their feet. Fr Noel Madhichetty narrated the story of Christmas. He said Christmas is the time to love and share happiness. The main purpose of the season is to spread this joy to whomever possible. To add to Fr Noel’s narration, Santa Claus appearance ignited the crowd. The children asked many questions such as how old the Santa was, his mother’s name, place of residence, how did he come and why he loved the children. The lunch was scrumptious. The youth and the staffs both from DB YaR and DBYA served the children. The lunch was not the end. After the lunch, Ms Arti a social worker organized fun filled games and distributed gifts to the children. The children felt like a child for a day. The event ended with a group dance and distribution of Christmas gifts to them.