Growing up in a destitute environment can be hard and soul-crushing for any young boy or girl. However, this young girl has refused to let her spirits be bowed down by her background, and is dreaming big dreams for her future.
Namita wants to be a teacher when she grows up. For any 12-year-old, this is a big ambition. For Namita, it is an absolute certainty.
Having endured hardships well beyond her young age, Namita’s story is one of hope and determination.
Namita was born in Delhi. Her parents had moved to the city from Assam, compelled by hopes of rising above the abject poverty and property disputes with family back home. They didn’t quite get what they came for.
With no qualifications or urban skills to ply, they found work rag-picking and managed, barely, to make ends meet. With the birth of Namita and her siblings, moving back to Assam stopped being an option. A family of 11, Delhi was their best and possibly only chance at survival.
As far as she can remember, Namita has been surrounded by waste. Living in a resettlement colony comprised entirely of rag pickers, there was little else in sight. Vast, veritable mountains of waste that she and her friends jumped about and played in. When they weren’t sorting through them, that is.
Rag pickers start young. Namita was one among many girls in her neighbourhood who began sorting and recycling waste as soon as she could differentiate colours and materials. She worked all hours of the day to supplement her family’s meagre income.
Around the time Namita turned six, Plan India and its local partner CASP began implementing health, nutrition, education, and protection programmes in her neighbourhood. The team was well received, and in no time, had Namita, her siblings, and all her friends enrolled in school, eating healthy, and practicing good hygiene.
By the time she was seven, Namita had her first tooth brush, hair brush, notebook, and pencil, and proudly carried them wherever she went.
“We never realised we were holding our children back. Until we met the team, we thought it made sense to have our kids work with us. But now they go to school and learn everything from numbers to the science behind recycling. They’ll have far more success in life than they ever could rag-picking,” says Mala, Namita’s mother.
Namita and Mala are some of the fiercest advocates for programmes run by Plan India and CASP. When a fire broke out in their neighbourhood consuming their homes and all their life’s belongings, the team provided them with food, provisions, and shelter until they got back on their feet.
“My mother ran screaming into our hut while it was engulfed in flames because my baby sister was inside. They’re safe and healthy now because the team helped when nobody else did”, Namita recalls.
An ambitious young girl, Namita wants to help her community by working with and teaching children.
“I remember what I was like when I first joined the programme – always in tattered, mouldy clothes, with dirt under my nails. I’d eat after sorting scraps and not even wash my hands. See how much I’ve changed,” she says, twirling to demonstrate her spotless bag, uniform, and braid.
“I want to learn so I can teach the kids in my community and all other underprivileged children everything I know,” Namita proclaims confidently. She, Mala, and the rest of their family have turned their lives around. They have many plans for their future and even more determination to see them through.
Says Namita with a flourish, “I see a whole other part of the world with every visit from a different country office. Australia, Thailand, China, Japan… Someday, I’ll go in person. But first, I’m off to finish school and to be the teacher my community needs. There’s so much more to life than scraps!”
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