Monday, December 18, 2006


So I have formulated this idea for an NGO. I thought about it awhile ago and today I was inspired to write the more practical side of things. I have yet to take any courses on NGOs and non-profits, but I hope to in the future. The following is the rough outline of what I hope would all one day be part of the NGO, as well as the physical space it would entail and the aprox. number of employees for each sector. I have a feeling it would start small, maybe just as the access advocacy, and then over time we would be able to expand into the whole thing. I would love feedback, comments, ideas, concerns, things I have assumed, left out, etc. I am hoping to work on this project with some people with various skill backgrounds in the future.

This the first draft, so please don't mind any typos at this time...


The ACCESS Organization is a non-governmental organization that will address the problem of poverty, unemployment, lack of education, and homelessness for families in the urban environment.

Its’ approach is holistic, tackling the issue from all sides, including acting as advocates for the families in finding resources, helping families in dire need with the safety of a home and basic needs while helping them create a better future, providing educational opportunities including a crèche/preschool, a place for school aged children that have not yet been to school to prepare and gain skills, and a library, open to the public that promotes literacy and access to books, computers, and homework help.

The goal of the program is to holistically address these issues, help the families utilize what is available to them, and create a safe and steady present and a more promising future for the families we work this.


1. Access Advocacy

ACCESS would be the biggest part of our organization, and would be open to the public- with a focus on aiding those who have trouble navigating the system and finding help. We would act as a point of access, enabling families to find resources to reach their goals.


1. To connect families to various services. This will involve meeting with the family, discussing options, and connecting the organizations that meet their needs. Organizations could include: schools, educational scholarships, skill building programs, adult literacy programs, housing programs, employment opportunities (see 4), utilizing government programs available, and so forth.

2. To organize and monitor organizations (NGOs, nonprofits, Governmental Programs, etc) which offer various services. Programs will be examined, and files created and kept detailing their work. Files will also be kept on how families referred from us felt about the organization, if it was helpful, etc.

3. To aid families in filling our forms and collecting various pieces of information that may be needed to meet their needs. This could include filling out government forms, scholarships, job applications, etc. Additionally, a place for each family to safely store important documents will be made available

4. (Possible addition) Records kept of relevant job opportunities. Our organization would review each workplace offered to us, making sure those offering jobs are honest, and do not maltreat their workers. We would follow up with those hired, making sure they were being treated well, given the wage promised, etc.


The ACCESS unit would need rooms for meeting with families, a file system (computer and paper (if needed) to record and maintain information. It would also need safe dry waterproof containers for families to safely deposit important records they need to maintain.


We would need employees with a vast knowledge base of the programs to meet with families, discuss options and find organizations, which will help them. Additionally, they would need to help families to fill out forms, applications, and so forth. Employees would also be needed to go to various organizations, find out their willingness to be added to the ACCESS network, maintain contact with them, and help review their services. The number of employees would vary once need is determined. (3+)

2. Crisis Center

The family crisis center would consist of four small family homes on the premises with simple but safe facilities. Each family would receive individualized care and services with the goal of helping them gain steady employment, education, and a safe place to live. This program is designed to aid individual families, slowly, with the ultimate goal of the family creating a foothold and moving out of the center when they are ready.


1. To find families living on the street, and bring them to our temporary shelter.

2. Help family meet basics (housing, food, health care, clothing) and feel secure. Find out family’s story and their goals.

3. Find appropriate ways of aiding family in improving situation. This may include: helping find employment, improving skill base, literacy training, securing housing,

4. As needed, allow family members to take advantage of our other services while living in the center and after leaving. Programs include crèche/pre-school, ‘catch-up’ school, adult literacy program, ACCESS Program, and so forth.


The family crisis center would consist of 4 small family home units consisting of kitchen, bathroom, sleeping room(s) and verandah. Each unit would have running water, a water filter, fans, coolers, electricity, and basic furniture. (More personalized items would be provided to each family as needed). The homes would open into a large courtyard with grass, trees, and a vegetable garden. The homes would be located on the same land as the other programs, allowing families staying in the homes to utilize them as needed.


The center would involve working with employees in all other programs. Additionally, there would be a counselor provided specifically for these families to speak with them regularly and help them determine and plan their goals, explain the center and so forth. This counselor would also be involved in checking the family into the center. A ‘scout’ would be needed to go to where families are living on the streets, meet with them and gain their trust, and then aid families who wish to come to the program. Eventually this person may be hired from a former family who stayed in the center. For the homes, a person to be in charge of general upkeep and repair of the homes, cleaning between families, and keeping the courtyard in proper order would be necessary. A night watch person would be needed to maintain safety of premises during night hours. A local doctor would be hired to provide families with medical care upon move in. (It would be determined whether or not a full-time doctor would be needed, or whether one with a nearby practice would have enough time to spend with the families)(4-5)

3. Educational Programs.

Education Programs for children at ACCESS would consist of a few different programs: first a crèche/pre-school for young children where they can play and gain a foundation for skills needed in school while their parents are working, a “Catch-up” school for school aged children who had not yet been to school but would like to go. This school would give consist of a high student-teacher ratio and help the children make gains in basics such as literacy, math, etc before being placed into a school program. Lastly, our program would house a small public child-friendly library where children would have access to books, computers, and a study room where tutors would be available to help with homework questions. Programs such as story time, computer classes would help children gain skills in various areas. This library will also have materials available for adults.


1. The crèche/pre-school attempts to address three problems at once: parents who must work but have no one to take care of their young children, parents who work and must keep older children out of school to care for younger ones, and exposure to school environment, literacy skills etc in preparation for school years.

2. The “Catch-up” school will give school-aged children who have not yet had a chance to attend school the opportunity to be exposed to and learn many skills to enable them to be placed in a school setting. The environment will be child-friendly, and allow the children to explore the school setting and gain the necessary skills to continue their education.

3. The library will give children access to books, programs, computers (for educational purposes), a safe and quiet place to study, and tutor help if needed, to help them make gains in their education. In these ways, the library will continue to encourage literacy and skill building outside of the classroom setting, and will allow any child to access its programs. The library can also foster community involvement by creating clubs for children to make an impact on their communities. Clubs such as one on the environment or social justice could make an impact on the community and teach the children that they can make a difference.


The crèche/pre-school would involve a baby area for young babies, including cribs for napping. The area for toddlers to preschool age would be an open room with various age-appropriate toys and activities. A small kitchen would be attached and allow for meal preparation for the children, as well as a bathroom as needed for the children. The rooms would open onto the main courtyard, where the children can play safely on age-appropriate playground equipment.

The catch-up school would involve a room with large tables where children can work on projects. The room would be child-friendly, and contain various games, books, etc for working with the children. A Chalkboard would be situated at one end of the room.

A girls and boys bathroom would be available for the children. A separate bathroom would be available for employees.

The library would consist of a large children’s room lined with books, tables in the center for studying, a desk area for librarian and tutor, and a designated computer area. A corner would be designated for story time. An additional room would house adult books of a wide variety. A public set of bathrooms would be available.


The crèche/preschool would need appropriately trained persons/teachers to work with the infants and toddler children. Additionally, older students such as college students may be employed part-time as aides to the main teachers. (3+)

The catch-up school would require well-trained teachers to work with students in a non-formal schooling environment. The number of teachers should be high, depending on the number of students. (1+)

The library would require a librarian, a head-tutor, as well as some younger (high-school or college students) part time tutors to help during after school hours. Additionally, a person well versed in computers to teach computer literacy and keep computers updated and working properly. (4+)

Club leaders could be volunteers from the community.

Additionally, Hindi-speaking (or Hindi-learning) volunteers from outside that are trained/training in education or have experience working with children may come for periods of time to work with any of these three programs. (?)

4. Skill Building

The Skill Building program aimed at adults that will offer a variety of opportunities that can lead to gaining employment, gaining better employment, improving their situation, or navigating the urban environment. It will include a variety of programs, depending on need, and will always include basic literacy programs for adults. This program would work with the adult family members living in the crisis home as well as adults from outside interested in the programs being offered.


1.To allow adults to gain basic literacy skills so they can better navigate their environment and their workplace.

2. To give adults a chance to learn various skills to help them gain employment or improve their employment situation. This may include programs on starting a small business, learning math for work environment, handicraft skills, carpentry, sewing, and so forth. These programs would be offered to coincide with interests and concerns of adults interested.

3. Offering programs for adults that aim to improve family situations such as creating a family vegetable garden in a small space, nutrition for the family, family planning, domestic violence, health care, saving money, navigating banks, etc.


The adult programs may use other spaces such as the “catch-up” school or library for evening classes. If the program necessitates daytime classes, a single multi-purpose room may be needed. A storage area would be needed for the materials needed for specific skill building, such as sewing machines, tools, etc.


Various skilled persons may be employed for different programs and projects. One adult would be employed regularly to teach night literacy classes. Volunteers may also be a viable option for this program (1+)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

...about you

I keep looking through my blog and wondering who is reading my blog. I usually get a couple of comments, but mainly from people I FORCE to read my blogs (aka friends and family). I was just wondering.. DO other people read my blog? Does anyone read it regularly? This remains a mystery. Maybe I don't want to know the answer.

*BUT* if YOU do read my blog (which I guess if you are reading this right now, then, you must, presumably be reading my blog) I want you to send me a comment... Tell me who you are, and if you have a blog, so I can check yours out too.

So, yeah. YOU. I wanna know.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Yes, it does affect me!

I just had a interesting chat with a friend that helped me realize why I get so annoyed with things like strippers, pornography, etc. Even something as innocent as strippers at a bachelor's party still makes me sigh and wonder why guys think its cool. For a long time I really couldn't explain what about it still causes me much chagrin and irritation, but today I realized that my biggest annoyance is that as a women, any of this affects me.

How do strippers at a far away bachelor party affect me? Well. I realized that it creates a situation where men who normal feel women should be treated with respect and as an equal suddenly have an exception to the rule. Women should be treated as equals unless they fill certain categories- such as strippers, porn stars, prostitutes, etc. And while many guys who would consider seeing a stripper at a bar or a friend's bachelor party may never consider visiting a prostitute, they are still putting themselves in situations where women CAN be treated as not equals. And if women are equal and should have all the same rights as a man, should there be situations when they are actually not equals? It seems like that undermines the struggle for equality on so many levels. "women are only equals if..."

I have an excellent example of such a case as well. A couple of months ago I went to fellow graduate student's party. A few nights earlier, a large group of the guys at this party had gone to a strip club together in Syracuse. Later during the party, one guy, a law student at Syracuse University (I wish I could remember his name so I could embarrass him properly, in case some girl with a crush decided to google him) was standing with a group of his law student buddies. I walked by and the guy shouted to me "HEY! Can I lick your Pussy?" in astonishment to such a comment I just say "what?!?!?" and then his friends, laughing repeated it "He said he wants to lick your pussy." More Laughter. I am dumbstruck. Didn't know how to response. Uttered something rude and stalked off. I told the host of the party, the friend who invited me, about the incident.

He reacted. He exclaimed about the rudeness, the immaturity of the guy. I told some other friends too. I can't remember who, but someone exclaimed "what, does he think this is a strip club? Is this a frat house? Does he think he can talk to a woman like that here (at a grad school party)?" I kept thinking about how this comment disturbed me at the time... and now it is just so clear to me. The idea is not that you should NEVER yell "can I lick your pussy" to a woman, its just you can only yell it to certain KINDS of women, ones that are unequal to you, like strippers, drunk girls at frat houses, etc.

So, yes, it does affect me. It affects all women. When women are equal to men, except certain ones in certain situations, it undermines that we are equal at all. And when that happens, all of a sudden "highly educated" people think its ok to yell crude things at any woman in any situation. It bleeds out. Shouldn't equality exist everywhere for every human?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Street Children

Can you imagine walking down the street everyday, seeing small children in tattered clothes curled up sleeping on the sidewalk, or keeping stride with you, tapping your arm, crying "I'm hungry I'm hungry!" In many countries, this is a regular occurrence, so much so that people tend to ignore the child completely.

When I was young, maybe around 6 or 7, my family was visiting friends in California and decided to go to Mexico for the day. I don't remember what we did in Mexico but at the way home we got stuck at the border because a US Drug officer was murdered. (Of course, no one told me why at the time) I just spent my time sitting in the back of the four-door car peering out the window as we sat in a line of traffic. The only thing I remember from that trip was looking out and seeing a little girl about my age carrying jewelry, in tattered clothes, going from car to car trying to sell pieces to tourists waiting. I remember looking at her with my six year old eyes, and thinking "She is just a kid like me. Why is she out there, and why am I in here?"

That question has always stayed with me. On my many trips to India I have taught extremely poor, low caste girls in Bihar, played and taught art to former street children living in a group home in Mumbai. Each time I was able to interact with some amazing, bright, playful, and affection children, all of whom left an important impression on me.

One day in Jaipur my friends and I were waiting at a circle for a bus to Delhi. A little girl with beautiful dark skin, white teeth and two little braids sticking up came running up to me. She was wearing a tattered green skirt, and was barefoot and without a shirt. She smiled at me, and started asking "shampoo? shampoo?" while making hair washing motions. Many other little kids came running up, and I began to ask them their names and other questions. I decided to get them some food and their was a lassi shop nearby so I bought them lassi's (yogurt drink). The first little girl that came up to me told me her name was Meera. She was very talkative and helped introduce the other kids. In the end she asked again if she could have some shampoo. I explained that I didn't have any with me.

I still think of her, and wondered what happened to her. I'm not sure, but her mom may have also been living on that street corner with her. Other times I passed through that bus stand I looked for her, but she was never there.

I wish I could have done more for her. I wish there was more help to kids and their families living on the streets. Living in such dire poverty kids have no access to soap and water, let alone an education. If they live with their parents they are barely scraping by, and many have to beg just to eat.

That's what I keep thinking about lately. In India there are so many street children, and so many families living on the street. They often are migrants from villages, unable to make it at home and hoping for a better chance in the city, they often are illiterate or have very little education, and have no access to any knowledge or connections to get ahead.

When I finish graduate school, I dream of starting an NGO specifically focused on aiding children and their families in these kinds of difficult situations. I want to work as a link in the chain, to create points of access for these families to have a chance to get ahead. For their kids to be educated, for parents and future generations to gain skills and find a job, to find safe housing and clean water. Things any family wants.

Lately I have been coming across some interesting NGOs which work with street children in this way, such as with works with kids in Jaipur. It has open air schools, a "school on wheels" a "shower bus" for kids to shower, and homes for kids with no where else to go.

Today I also looked at a photo journal on BBC ( regarding street children in Bangladesh. I found it extremely interesting how they empowered a girl who had been a street child herself to work as a counselor and advocate for other street kids, teaching them.

If anyone knows of any other organizations doing these kinds of things in India, I would love to hear about them. I have some ideas about what my NGO would involve, but also I want to see what and how other working organizations are doing as of yet. Also, suggestions and comments always appreciated.

(The picture at top is one I took in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam of a little girl of maybe three or four who followed us for blocks trying to see us Wrigley's chewing gum. The second picture is three of my students in Bihar, all from extremely poor families. At bottom are some boys at the home for street children in Mumbai, acting silly for the camera.)