WHO WE ARE
Navjeevan (ISO 9001- 2008 Certified) is a registered Non-Governmental Organization primarily engaged in rehabilitation of the Commercially Sexually Exploited Women (CSEW) in the red light areas and their children in Mumbai. It was founded in 1994 as a part of the effort of the Mar Thoma Church and has been working in the area for the last 15 years. The aim of our organisation is to make a positive difference in the lives of Commercially Sexually Exploited Women and their children. We believe that one of the main avenues through which children can participate in life is through education. Education will help these children avail of diverse opportunities that are imperative for them to lead a life of dignity.
We have our Day and Night Care Shelters for the children, which is in the vicinity of the brothels where the CSEWS (commercially sexually exploited women) work. After completion of one year, post the consent of the mother, the children are transferred to our Residential School at Murbad where they continue their formal education till the 10th Std. However post this, we have many children who express their need to study further during which they are placed at our extension homes in Kalyan, Goregaon and Vashi and try to support them within our capacity.
It started with a Christmas visit by a group of youngsters to the Kamatipura red light area. The sex workers talked to these youngsters about the impossibility of a secure future for their children. That question snowballed into a commitment to start a movement that would result in the welfare of sex workers and their children.
Navjeevan Center was initiated with the aim of reaching out to Commercially Sexually Exploited women, to motivate and support them to give up their demeaning occupation and work towards integrating them in society. In the course of work, the sex workers themselves expressed the need to first move their children away from the exploitative environment, so that they too do not get pushed into the same occupation. Thus the Center began its work in earnest to provide for the sex workers and their children the opportunities needed to free themselves from the dehumanising life situation and to integrate them in society as a family.
A venture of the Mar Thoma Church, the Navjeevan centre was founded in 1994 by a few committed volunteers. Navjeevan Centre refers to the welfare organization geared to the rehabilitation of the children of commercial sex workers and of the sex workers themselves.
“Many little people in many little places take many little steps to change the face of the world.” African Proverb.
The source of a mighty river majestically gliding through and nourishing vast tracts of plains can usually be traced to a small spring of water high up in the mountain, trickling downward through forests and unfamiliar rocky terrain. As it flows down, tributaries, some small, some big, nourish it, and finally it becomes a mighty river. The expanse and beauty of the river can often eclipse its obscure source; but its importance can never be underestimated for it is the foundation of the rest. In the same way, as we stand poised to celebrate the 11th anniversary of Navjeevan Centre, we wish to acknowledge its origins. We also wish to honour all the scores of people, whose vision, commitment, hard work and compassion made this ambitious project of rehabilitating the exploited mothers and their children in the red light area of Kamathipura a reality. In the process of revisiting the past, we may omit essential facts or fail to acknowledge, vital supporters, yet efforts have been to make this narration as close to reality as possible.
We live in a world where the divide between the haves and have-nots have widened alarmingly. While governmental and non-governmental organisations have contributed sincerely to the uplift of the downtrodden, the most significant contribution to their welfare has come from religious organisations. The work carried out by the Missionary of Charity in the lanes of Calcutta and other parts of India is a stellar example.
The Mar Thoma Church has always been at the forefront of compassionate activism in support of the most vulnerable sections of the society. Among its unique projects would number the Home for the homeless project, Home for the mentally differently-abled at Thelliyoor, Girl’s home at Perumbavoor, Asha Bhavan – Home for the physically differently-abled, Haven for blind and deaf at Kasorgod and its recent initiative, the Navjeevan Centre, project for the women and children of the red-light area in Mumbai.
No project can begin without a dream and a dreamer. The Navjeevan initiative was fuelled by the many dreamers and crusaders, determined to reach out to the most exploited section of the Indian society and give them a second chance. Prominent among the pioneers were :-
The Late Rev. T. P. Koshy, the then Vicar of Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Kalyan West, a pioneer in starting schools for the mentally differently-abled children on behalf of the Church. The Rev. Oommen George, Vicar, Mar Thoma Church Goregaon, a staunch advocate of social justice, and one who believed in extending the radius of the Church to the marketplace. Rev. Kurian George, Vicar of Mar Thoma Church Vashi, whose heart bled for the atrocities meted on the downtrodden. Mr. Anson Thomas, the then member St. Paul’s Mar Thoma Church Vashi, a social worker energetically committed to eradicating evil in the society. Advocate P. A. Cyrus, a staunch believer in God, who gave up the practice of law to work among the voiceless farmers of Khariar.
After the annual convention of the Mar Thoma Church, Goregaon, Rev. Oommen George, Mr K. A. Chacko, Mr A. Vincent, and other like-minded seniors sat together
to work out the modalities of the project. They agreed to start the work by the Parish initially and later to hand it over to the Western Zone of the Mumbai – Delhi Diocese.
Rev. Oommen George, Late Rev. T. P. Koshy, Rev. Kurian George and others approach The then Diocesan Bishop, The Rt. Rev Dr Issac Mar Philloxenos, to start the work on a larger scale by the Zone. The Church emphasised the need for the work to be mission-oriented.
Youths from Mar Thoma Church, Goregaon, Vashi, Dadar, Chembur and other Parishes along with the Revd, Kurian George, Late T. P. Koshy, Oommen George, John John (then Zonal Secretary), availed of Mr. Anson Thomas’s help to arrange a sports meet and Christmas Day, 1994 in Kamathipura, a red street area. On that occasion, many mothers pleaded to have their children removed from this area and given proper care.
The Western Zonal Council of the Mumbai – Delhi Diocese, after careful deliberations unanimously resolved to start the rehabilitation process for sex workers and their children.
Two groups were formulated, one with Rev. Kurian George, Mr. Mathew Thomas (Mar Thoma Church, Borivili) and Mr. Anson Thomas who were appointed by the Western Zonal Council to identify and prepare the children for a new beginning. The other group comprising of Rev. Oommen George, Rev. John John, the then Zonal Secretary, Late Rev. T. P. Koshy, Rev. C. V. Simon, Mr. K. A, Chacko and Mr. A. Vincent were appointed to identify a suitable piece of land away from Mumbai for a residential facility for the children.
From December1994 to June 1995, the group made numerous visits to the red light area. It is through these visits and the continuous efforts of Rev. Kurian George and Mr. Anson Thomas that we were able to get a foothold there.
The trauma of visiting that area can never be adequately described. The tremendous presence of evil, the terrible oppression of the women and murder oft heir children’s innocence, made a powerful impression on everyone. It reinforce our conviction that the innocent victims had a right to ‘life’ and in our small way we should extend all available assistance. Thus was born, “NAVJEEVAN” – “God’s love in action”
In 1994, the group after seeing smaller plots in Badlapur and Murbad, settled with the present 100-acre plot at Khapri for the project.
The idea of the project was shared with the Parent Church, which was gracious enough to own it. However, the responsibility for running the project was given to the Mumbai – Delhi Diocese. The first adhoc committee was formed involving all the parishes within Mumbai with Rev. Oommen George as President, Late Rev. T. P. Koshy as Vice President., Mr. A. Vincent as Secretary, and others from various parishes as members.
Rev. Kurian George, Mr. Mathew Thomas, Mr. Anson Thomas prepared the children for rehabilitation to Mission Hospital, Vapi, where a ward was modified for their use. To begin with, the rehabilitation to boys from 3 to 18 years. On June 10, 1995, the Diocesan Bishop blessed 11 children at St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church Santacruz, as a preliminary to their new life.
Rev. S. George and Rev. Vinoy Daniel were the superintendents of the Sarvajanik Mission Hospital Vapi, during 1995-2000
The initial tickle soon became a flow, which also included girl children. Today, we have 73 girls and 87 boys thus making a total of 160 in the Navjeevan Village.
The first group to Vapi comprised of : Vicky, Sajan, Vijay, Altaf, Govinda Ramesh, Bada Anil, Suresh, Bada Raju, Chota Raju and Bich Raju.
The second group : Shyam, Vasantraj, Deepak and Shankar.
The third group : Rocky, Jocky, Kishore, Dinesh.
The fourth group : Chota Anil, Chota Sunil, Bada Sunil.
The fifth group : Manjunath, Rakesh, Akaash, Aameen.
The sixth group : Ashwin
The seventh group : Akbar, Akthar, Mahesh, Bharat and Krishna.
The eighth group : Swapna, Kiran, Pooja, Pinky, Anu, Nirmala and Noorjahan.
The ninth group : Apsara, Rukhsana, Dicky, Abdul Karim, Rahim.
The tenth group : Suraj, Kishen, Ramesh, Rohit, Nardev and Dilip.
The biological mothers of children used to visit the children once in three months, then once in two months and now once in a month.
Mr. Abraham Mathew, his wife Reena Abraham along with their daughter Cristina was the first family of foster parents in Vapi. Mr. M. Moses and Mrs. Savithri Moses, Mr. Ashok Jagtap, Mr. Milin Deshpande served for a little while. Mr. Jacob K. John (Prasad) and Sheeba Prasad joined in1996. Mr. E. V. Koshy and his wife Jolly Koshy with children Jithin and Jincy in 1998. Ms. Linu John and Ms. Suni Mathew joined later.
In order to register the proposed organisation with the Charity Commissioner in the name of “Navjeevan Centre”, the ad-hoc committee framed the necessary bylaws and constitution. We received the registration both as Public Trust and under Societies Act.
From the project’s inception till its registration in1998, the project was supervised directly by the Western Zone of Mumbai-Delhi Diocese
Rev. Kurian George was appointed as the First Director of Navjeevan Centre in May 1995. His commitment to giving the children a good value-based life was inspiring.
Rev. Saji Joseph took over as the Director in1997. Along with Jessy Kochamma they nurtured the children, and took care of the land matters, completion of the first phase of the buildings at Khapri and the formalities of transferring children from Vapi to Navjeevan Centre Khapri. Rev Kurian George again was appointed as Director in October 2001, and he stayed in Navjeevan Village with Jessy Kochamma. During this tenure he was responsible for the first half of the second phase of the construction of the campus, and was a mentor for the children during the formative years. Rev. Dr. Moni Mathew, the Zonal Secretary, was incorporated in 1998 as the Vice President, and later was appointed as the Director in 2003 May. Achen and Kochamma continue to serve the centre. Rev. Titus Thomas was appointed as the Coordinator for the Navjeevan Village from August 2003. His stay along with Sibi Kochamma and love for the children was heartwarming and enriched their lives. Rev. Eapen Abraham was Coordinator from May 2005. Achen and Ancy Kochamma with their vigilance and sense of responsibility helped to beautify the surrounding and influenced the life of the children. Rev K. G. Thomas and his wife Mrs. Annie Thomas joined the cadre from May 2006. His stay will surely benefit the children and the project.
Rt. Rev. Dr Issac Mar Philoxenos
There is no doubt that credit is particularly due to Rt. Rev. Issac Mar Philoxenos , then Diocesan Bishop, who was a guiding force in materialising the project. Thirumeni’s timely intervention broadened its scope and brought in the involvement of the German government. The project was, in many ways Thirumeni’s brainchild. Even today, his association as Holistic Child Development India Board member was influencing the German Government to continue funding for the second term beginning in 2007.
Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Barnabas
The Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Barnabas took over as the President of the project in 2001. Thirumeni injected a fervour into the operations. His stay in the village should be a meeting place for everyone in the Church, and a source for the missionary efforts of the youths gave a higher profile to Navjeevan among the parishioners. He insisted on youths volunteering help to the Centre. Thirumeni also emphasised the importance of religion therapy for the children’s growth. His timely interventions to solve problems also helped in the smooth progress of the project.
The Government of Germany
As a pilot project of the Germany government, The Navjeevan Center’s progress was of great interest to them. The German Government (BMZ), its sister concern Kindernothilfe (KNH) with the liasoning partner, Holistic Child Development India (HCDI) shared the main chunk of the cost of the construction and programmes of the project. We are particularly grateful to KNH Director Mr Boshwald, and Mr Stuekrath of the Asia Desk
Holistic Child Development India
Holistic Child Development India, then having an office at Nagpur and now in Pune, took the initiative to approach the German Government. Mr Thomas Rajkumar, the Director’s powerful leadership and love and concern for the project, enabled us to process funds. He, along with the then President of HCDI, the Rt. Rev. Dr Issac Mar Philoxenos initiated the project. We cannot also fail to acknowledge the wholehearted support of the HCDI staff such as Mr Jayaraman Peter (Engineering), Mr Lawrence Thomas (Program Officer), Mr Y. Thankachen (Accounts Officer) and Mr Kiran Babu (Agriculture Officer).
The initial workshops with Dr Gracy Fernandes, Research Department, Nirmala Niketan, and Dr Grace Mathew, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Science were instrumental in giving a direction to the project.
By July 6, 2000, fifty-four children had settled into their new abode in Khapri.
Navjeevan Village is a replica of an SOS village. The Late Valiya Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan laid the foundation stone of the village on Nov 8, 1996.
The project of the village was completed in two phase. The first saw the completion of a farmhouse and six children’s homes, while the second had a primary school, primary health centre, an administrative block and the remaining two children’s home. Storage room and staff quarters were a later addition.
The inauguration of the village was held on October 2, 2000. Mr P. C. Alexander, Governor of Maharashtra inaugurated the village. Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostam, Suffragan Metropolitan Rt. Rev. Dr Joseph Mar Irenaeus, Rt. Rev. Dr Issac Mar Philoxenos , German KNH Director Mr Boshwald, Mr Thomas Rajkumar, Director HCDI, were among the dignitaries. The parishes in and around Mumbai hosted the program.
Mr Mathew Thomas, previously Treasurer of the project, was appointed as the first Superintendent on July 1, 2000.