As part of Steve’s work, he was asked to represent the school at a meeting in Mumbai and to meet up with an American team who were doing a project in India. Since his costs were covered and we have not yet been to India, it seemed like a good opportunity for me to tag along. We arrived in the brand new, majestic airport shortly after midnight and fortunately were greeted by hotel staff who escorted us into the night. As seedy and frightening as the area looked in the dark, it was even worse in daylight. The scene outside our window was reminiscent of our memories of Bangladesh nearly thirty years ago. In spite of the area, the hotel was actually quite pleasant and the customer service was excellent.
We met up with a group of students and staff from Andover and Exeter academies in the afternoon to visit quite an amazing and unique project called Mumbai Mobile Creche which serves more than 4500 children in Mumbai. The construction industry is the single largest employer of migrant workers in India with an estimated 30 million men and women moving to cities with their children and living on construction sites. While parents are working their children are often left to fend for themselves and are at risk for malnutrition, injury and illness. MMC exists to support the health, education and safety needs of these children and their families.
The site we visited was a massive project building a Marriott hotel near the international airport, employing over 500 labourers and families. There are about 40 preschoolers there who receive food, early childhood education and medical surveillance through MMC. As well they provide basic hygiene, health and parenting education to mothers, and support to ensure that school aged kids are enrolled and have the supplies needed to attend local schools. MMC also provides a yearlong training program for local women who wish to become teachers either for MMC or in government schools.
After a brief stop at the hotel to freshen up, since the temperature was in the high 30s, we went to the India National Sport Center for dinner and an evening get together hosted by the India co-ordinator of the international school project we were observing. It was a great evening with three speakers who each lead a major initiative and gave their perspective on leadership. We enjoyed some excellent food and a rousing lesson in Bollywood and regional cultural dances.Our Indian hostess Avanti, (on the left wearing green) lead the event with great confidence and poise, spoke knowledgeably and pasionately about her leadership and experience in the program and the goals and rationale for what she hoped to accomplish through her work. We just kept shaking our heads at the realization that this young lady is just sixteen years old and has already accomplished more than many people do in a lifetime.