If you had seen the Swami Vivekananda Camp located opposite British School at Chanakyapuri a year back and then now, you'll be able to notice a visible difference. The space appears much cleaner and more organised, thanks to the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation (RANF) that took the responsibility of beautifying the area with street art. RANF is a not-for-profit organisation run by artist social worker Rouble Nagi.
Titled Misaal New Delhi, the project is a part of Misaal India, a social services delivery project for slums and villages to improve the living standard of slum dwellers, not just through 'painting' the area, but also by setting up teaching and skill training centres. "The project is being undertaken in over 100 slums and villages across 16 states in the country," says Nagi, adding that Misaal New Delhi is being supported by New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi.
"We started in December 2020. The process of beautifying the area is a bit slow due to Covid restrictions," she says, adding that as of now a container has been set up which acts as a Balwadi till noon, and a skill centre post that.
"The Balwadi will be ready in a month's time after which regular classes will begin," informs Nagi. Misaal New Delhi has identified 17 more slums in Delhi fo r running its programmes.
The project began in Mumbai, with the Paint Dharavi Initiative in 2018. While passing by Dharavi, Nagi used to wonder what could be done to improve it, till the day she visited a student’s home in the area. She was appalled by the condition of slums - shabby with leakage problems.
Not wasting any time, Nagi decided to beautify the area, by first having water proofed the slums. Misaal Mumbai was born. And as the work progressed, she realised that here, the kids needed to be educated, while youth and women could do with learning some skills to improve their living conditions.
The project that started with colouring huts in Bandra West soon moved towards holding workshops on hygiene and sanitation, reducing plastic use, waste management, etc., all of which helped Nagi understand the peculiar needs of the area. "We then started a Balwadi and a computer centre," she says.
As word spread, Nagi began receiving calls from other cities for similar work, and today Misaal India has presence in 16 Indian states that include Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Telangana.
"We could venture into so many states as people started connecting with us. They understood our purpose - quality education for children through Balwadi and empowering youth and women by imparting skills," she remarks.
Each Misaal project starts with beautifying the area, "as art helps break barriers" and slowly graduates towards education and vocational training. But it’s not 'one plan, fit all' project, as each area has different needs, and centres are set up to fulfil these. So, there are centres for nursing training, automobile mechanic, stitching, housekeeping, fashion designing, English training, beauty and makeup, etc.
"While we try to bring all dropouts back to schools and colleges, we impart skills to those who do not want to further their education. To those who have never gone to school and never intend to either, we teach basic reading and writing. The whole idea is to make them financially independent," says Nagi.
Significantly, the centres are managed by the locals, which not only empowers them, but also inspires other locals to work hard to rise above their situation, observes Nagi. "Slum residents are a part of our life, we must do everything we can to empower them, so that if not them, at least their children are better placed in life," she says.