Context Of IMCARES Work
Initially known as IIDA(West)- a branch of IIDA based in Tamil Nadu State (South India), was started by Peter Will from Germany in the early 1980-ies. Later in 1996, a new organization was registered in Mumbai-Maharashtra State with Pastor Sumitra Gaikwad as its founder. All the projects, staff and movable and immovable assets were transferred to IMCARES through a MoU between IIDA & IMCARES.
An astonishing metropolitan city, Mumbai, is the economic capital of India. The city attracts people from all over India, in search of a livelihood and better life. Over 60 percent of city’s population lives in slums or on streets. The 2013, IMCARES’ base-line, survey found 1,939 homeless people sleeping on Mumbai’s pavements across just a 50 km (approx.) stretch of road.
Homeless citizens live at the lowest end without any access to basic services such as basic healthcare, sanitation and water. They have no identity documents, thus barring them from access to Government welfare schemes. Living in the open deprives them of privacy or protection. There is not a single shelter or low-cost housing option available for these homeless citizens in the entire state of Maharashtra, nor a policy that can extend support to this community so that they can live with dignity.
A majority of Mumbai’s slum dwellers and homeless citizens are casual and unskilled laborers. However, this population is plagued by unfair wages and unethical work practices. Because of this they have to live in abject kind of poverty. Alcohol and substance is abuse is rampant among them.
Children begging at traffic signals for a survival or loitering on the pavements is a common sight. Vulnerable children bring in huge profits by begging for the mafia. In these innocent children hardly get a proper meal or a place to sleep for the night. At times they have to barter their bodies in exchange of a place to sleep on the streets or on railway platforms. Ruthless and violent sexual abuse is the worst enemy children have to face on the streets that often leaves them marred for life. Many of these children learn to commit petty crimes, which eventually lead to bigger ones as they grow-up on the mean streets.
In slums, children are left to themselves all day long, in unhygienic conditions in small and congested housing made of plastic, tin sheets and other recycled materials. The overall physical and intellectual growth of children living in slums is severely stunted due to lack of proper nutrition, unsafe environment, lack of opportunities and the belief in fate.
A city that is known for its wealth and bright lights is also a place of source, transit and a destination for human trafficking. Children, young girls and even young boys, men and women are trafficked from all over the country for domestic labor, industrial labor and prostitution. For the poor who are lured by a promise of a better future, life takes a drastic turn when they are exploited and abused to the core. The timeless red-light areas of around central Mumbai and its suburbs are a testimony to this exploitation that has been carrying on for generations in full public view.
Children born and living in brothels are at a very high risk of sexual exploitation. They are left to themselves while their mothers, who are often also alcoholics or drug addicts, entertain lustful customers for a meager earning. Trafficked women who end-up in prostitution, often can never get owing to a heavy debt. They are at the mercy of the madams who have paid a price for them. A girl child born to a woman in prostitution is often pushed into the trade by the madam as the mother has not been able to repay the debt and the boys could end-up as pimps and criminals. For the children living in brothels, the community itself poses a great danger. There are many families who have been forced for generation after generation to remain sex slaves.
Children from such impoverished backgrounds, who live with disabilities and/or chronic and life-threatening illnesses, are often neglected. IMCARES’ baseline survey conducted in the year 2015 in three slum pockets and 500 home samples, found 150 children who were invisible and struggling with severe forms of disabilities.
For the homeless and the helpless on the streets of Mumbai, it is the survival of the fittest. While only a few fortunate ones make it through life, many soon end-up losing all, and eventually find themselves suffering from life-threatening sicknesses, addictions and unattended wounds that stink and become infested with maggots. They are abandoned in a hopeless and a destitute condition, waiting to breathe their last.
While there are many Govt. initiatives and charities to reach out to the poor. There are always some who are left-out. IMCARES choses to facilitate immediate aid, opportunities for rehabilitation, and reinstatement into the community of the marginalized poor sufferers, thus ensuring their welfare, wellbeing and wholesomeness.
For the last 30 years IMCARES (earlier known as IIDA-W) has been involved in ministering to the poor in the city of Mumbai through its various projects designed to bring hope and healing to the sick and wounded homeless sufferers, to undernourished children who also lacked education, to women tormented by domestic violence and illiteracy, to HIV & AIDS sufferers and to children living under the curse of exploitation and abuse. Over the last three decades IMCARES has positively impacted lives of over 1,75,000 persons, which includes 1,25,000 sick persons, HIV & AIDS sufferers, and children from high-risk groups, streets and slums. Almost 2000 families living in slums have improved their socio-economic condition through children’s education and value-based programs for women.
IMCARES has also been involved in relief and rehabilitation after natural disasters. Besides reaching out to individuals, IMCARES has been able to empower and build the capacity of the city churches, and inspire individuals while sensitizing communities to reach out to the poor in their catchment areas. IMCARES has also been instrumental in sensitizing millions of people all over India and also overseas through its educational media productions such as films, music and drama and presentation of papers at national and international conferences such as Micah Network, Viva Network and International AIDS Conferences. IMCARES has been awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Awards by the All India Christian Council as well as recognized by UNAIDS as a best practice organization in the way it cares for its caregivers.
The initial years of IMCARES’ work was mostly focussed on food distribution, education and providing medicine. Through the years we have gone through many strategic developments that can help make a sustainable change in the scenario. The present strategy of IMCARES is more concentrated on a rights-based-approach and charitable material help is given only when extremely necessary. The present strategy focuses on IMCARES playing a facilitatory role, to find access for its beneficiaries from available resources through other NGOs and Govt. schemes. This makes the projects more labour intensive and at the same time a win-win situation for all its stakeholders, thus making a sustainable impact in the focus groups we work in.