SEATTLE — Creches, or nurseries, have been filling a vital need for migrant workers in India for decades. One of the country’s most prominent creche organizations, Mobile Creches, was co-founded in Delhi in 1969 by Meera Mahadevan and Devika Singh with a vision to create “a nurturing and happy childhood for all children.” Mahadevan was inspired to found the organization after she picked up and soothed a wailing, unattended infant she came across on a construction site. Since then the organization has greatly expanded, and back in 2006 Mobile Creches split into the separate but similar organizations Mumbai Mobile Creches and Tara Mobile Creches in Pune. The unique model of the nonprofits works with builders to identify upcoming construction sites and sets up nurseries and daycare centers to anticipate the needs of migrant workers coming to the site.
For Reshma Rothod, the crèche she takes her six-year-old daughter Dimple to every day through
Mumbai Mobile Creches at the Mumbai construction site where she works is an important safe space for her child that gives Rothod the peace of mind to go to work. With both Rothod and her husband working, they are able to save money towards building a home in their village. The structured educational programming of the creche also helps Dimple learn the skills she needs for primary school.
This type of support is crucial in breaking the cycle of poverty and alleviating the major issues regarding childhood welfare and urban poverty in India that still continue today. Currently, 20 million children under six in India live in urban poverty, and are vulnerable to socioemotional developmental gaps that often leave them without access to early development programs and at a comparative disadvantage to their peers.
While construction is India’s third fastest growing industry, employing approximately 50 million people, a significant portion of these are poor seasonal migrant laborers attracted to urban areas for better opportunities, like Rothod and her husband. But most workers lack identity papers and are subsequently locked out of local entitlements and government welfare programs, including Anganwadi and Integrated Childhood Development Services, that provide early childhood development programs and care.
Left with no other options, workers often leave their young children in extremely vulnerable positions, such as alone at home, or are exposed to various health hazards by being brought directly onto the busy worksite, like the infant Mahadevan found. These critical deficits in access to care contribute to the 1.5 million children in India each year who die before the age of six.
Mobile Creches, Mumbai Mobile Creches and Tara Mobile Creches have done significant work to combat these issues. Besides the watchful attention and educational programming that the creches offer for young children, children are also provided with meals and have access to regular medical care. The parents of these children have benefited as well. Through monthly discussions held at the creche, Rothod has become more informed about her own reproductive health and learned more about her child’s well-being, hygiene and developmental issues.
This multifaceted offering of essential services to the most dispossessed demographic of Indian society demonstrates the knowledge and care gap Mobile Creches, Mumbai Mobile Creches and Tara Mobile Creches are helping to fill. From the rudimentary site of the first creche run by a small team of adults concerned about child welfare, today 650 daycare centers are run through its programs, 6,500 women have been trained as childcare workers and 750,000 children have been assisted. Their work goes beyond basic care to provide impoverished children of India with a strong start to their education and creates an essential foundation for their lives.
– Emily Bender