organisations and the
people who want to
help them. It
time, money and
skills of thousands of
initiatives run by
workers that seek to
transform the lives of
person is moved, to however small an extent, by the plight of the
deprived, and if shown a simple way to express it, would definitely do
so. And when many individuals do it, it works out to a lot. Enough to
make a difference in children’s lives.
C R Y
A Movement for
We are all familiar with Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s
poem: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.?For
some life is a bed of roses, for some it’s a struggle. How many people truly
and steadfastly support one another in hard times? Very few. Society
sometimes can be more cruel than life itself. According to noted essayist
William Hazlitt: “Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is
the only animal that is struck by the difference between what things are and
what they might have been.?A group of seven enthusiastic young people,
headed by Rippan Kapur, wanted to bridge that difference. All they had was a
singular thought ?"what I can do, I must do?
The seven men one day met around a dinner table, determined to make a
difference to the lives of India’s underprivileged children, to restore to
them the dignity of childhood and to give them every opportunity to grow and
develop. They made a small but significant beginning by contributing seven
rupees each to the cause. One wonders: there were so many other causes such
as the population explosion, environmental degradation, the all-pervasive
corruption that they could have taken up. What made these dynamic men focus
on this cause rather than any other?
Millions of children are denied the simple joys of childhood, love,
protection and, often, life itself. One out of two children between the ages
of six and 14 has no access to primary education. Over 3 million children
live on the streets of our towns and cities. Around 111 million are forced
by circumstances to do some form of work, often in hazardous or exploitative
conditions. Nearly 15 million of these are bonded laborers.
The fate of the girl child is even more disturbing. One out of every three
girls does not live to see her fifteenth birthday. One-third of those deaths
take place at birth. Every sixth girl child’s death is due to gender
The statistics are grim. What’s even worse is that very little is known of
what it means to be part of such horrific statistics ?the frustrations and
pain, the bewilderment and unfulfilled dreams that are the essence of their
Rippan, although coming from a privileged background, was never able to
reconcile within himself the differences that exist between privileged and
underprivileged children. He was deeply pained at seeing children deprived
of something as basic as love. But to him, feeling pain wasn’t enough. He
felt it his duty to do something about it. Besides, he was not one merely to
pay lip service. He was a doer, a go-getter. Rippan joined the school social
service club, read to the blind and visited children in hospital wards.
Later, as President of the school Interact Club, he organised literacy
classes at a Worli slum adopted by the Club. His mother, too, was a very
strong influence on him. She constantly encouraged her son’s schemes, and
was herself involved in social work for destitute girls. Rippan believed
that every person is moved, to however small an extent, by the plight of the
deprived, and if shown a simple way to express it, would definitely do so.
And when many individuals do it, it works out to a lot. Enough to make a
difference in children’s lives.
At the same time, Rippan was also aware of another fact. That faced with
those overwhelming statistics, any individual’s attempt to change things
might seem doomed before it even starts. Many people who are disturbed by
the plight of our children, who would like to help, are daunted by the
enormity of the task. Why just individuals? Even voluntary organisations
working with children face several problems, one of which is lack of
It was Rippan’s fervent belief that gave birth to CRY (Child Relief and You)
in 1979. CRY was just an idea. There was no support, no resources, nothing.
But the idea was a strong one ?of an organisation that would be an
intermediary between people who want to do something about the plight of
children and the people and organisations at the grassroots level who
actually are doing something. The aim was to get a large number of people
involved in a cause, and eventually creating a movement for children’s
The initial years were tough. With no employees and no office space, the
efforts were to build awareness. Rippan was greatly influenced by UNICEF and
he came up with the idea of greeting cards as a means of both raising funds
and awareness. Rippan’s interest in art led him to use contemporary Indian
art as themes for the cards. He managed to get K.L. Bhargava to print the
cards for him without having to pay the money up front. Innovative events
were other means used to generate awareness. Circus Magic, when three clowns
from London were brought down to India to entertain children through
workshops, M.F. Hussein painting with 10,000 children on Children’s Day, Art
for CRY, when 144 artists donated 180 pieces of work that were sold to raise
funds, and the Sadak Chhaap Mela, were all ground-breaking events. They
helped generate the much-needed awareness for acquiring the facilities to
build CRY into an organisation.
But things were never easy. Office space was hard to come by. In Mumbai, the
office moved from Rippan’s home to godowns without electricity and toilets,
to garages, to tiny cubbyholes housing more than 25 people. It was only in
1990 that CRY was able to acquire permanent office space in the Mahalakshmi
area in Mumbai. And, just a year ago, the Ford Foundation agreed to fund
CRY’s salaries for three years. Gradually, an organisation took shape.
In the process CRY evolved its mission ?to enable people to take
responsibility for the condition of the deprived Indian child, and so
motivate them to confront the situation through collective action, giving
not just the child, but themselves as well, an opportunity to realise their
full potential. According to Rippan: “Whatever you do will make a difference
to a child’s life and your own.?His ideas started taking concrete shape.
CRY, today, acts as a link between these organisations and the people who
want to help them. It channels the concern, goodwill, time, money and skills
of thousands of individuals and organisations towards child development
initiatives run by committed social workers that seek to transform the lives
CRY reaches out through:
Direct Action: Working directly with children and communities through
financial and non-financial help to child development initiatives by
individuals and organisations to provide education, health care, vocational
training, awareness programmes for children as well as income generation and
community empowerment programmes.
It also includes monitoring and evaluating the effective working of projects
by qualified professionals in social development, working in the Development
Support Division of CRY. They visit projects regularly, spend time with the
project partners, understand their needs and problems and give much-needed
moral support and direction.
The late Rippan Kapur, founder of CRY.
Networking and Policy Influencing: In the area of policy advocacy, CRY
continues to strengthen and support the National Alliance for the
Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE), which was formed by CRY with eight
other NGOs. Today, NAFRE is a coalition of more than 2,000 grassroots
voluntary organisations and thousands of individuals from all sections of
society. Besides cross-fertilization of learning and building of education
models in the field, the alliance pushes for making education a fundamental
Capacity Building: Enhancing child development efforts by helping build
necessary skills, structures, attitudes and knowledge. Training of project
personnel, providing technical expertise, communication and information
support and material support.
In short, CRY ensures that people’s contribution will be used effectively to
create a positive impact on the lives of children and
the community at large.
Education First: CRY’s role is to mobilise communities towards ensuring all
Indian children have access to relevant education of adequate quality. CRY
does this by both supporting individuals and organisations at the grassroots
level, and working with state institutions to effect policy reform and
implementation. It believes that this change can happen only if each and
every person, as a community, takes on the responsibility for the well-being
Alexandre Dumas, one of the most famous French writers of the 19th century,
put a perceptive question: “How is it that little children are so
intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it.?br>
With so many ways of reaching out, the question arises ?what can each one
of us do for CRY? CRY’s funding comes mainly from direct monetary donations
and from the sale of its products, viz. greeting cards, desk calendars,
presentation folders, telephone and address books. The restless mind once
again questions ?surely, there must be more than two ways of helping CRY!
The answer is, yes. Instead of making a general donation to CRY, one can
support a child or several children or an entire community. In which case
one could participate in any of its schemes such as supporting a child,
supporting a physically or mentally challenged child, sponsoring a balwadi
(pre-primary centre), sponsoring a non-formal education centre (transit
school), sponsoring a teacher or even a health worker.
Some of the CRY-supported initiatives in Mumbai have been:
Aamare (Budgeted: Rs. 3,32,400)
It works towards the rehabilitation of street children, through a
community-based non-institutional approach focusing on education, awareness
Arambh (Budgeted: Rs. 3,11,015)
To create a community which would respect, recognise and value the child and
where all children can have hope and opportunity.
Avehi Public Charitable [Educational] Trust (Budgeted: Rs. 5,49,000)
Avehi develops prototype-modules for learning for children between 8-12
years, studying in non-formal education centres and municipal schools.
Jaag (Budgeted: Rs. 4,51,300)
This initiative works to restore the basic rights of marginalised urban
tribals in Mumbai, with a focus on land issues.
Several such initiatives are undertaken by CRY on an all-India basis.
The great American teacher Anne Sullivan once said, “Children need guidance
and sympathy far more than instruction.?So why should CRY restrict itself
to seeking support from individuals alone? Corporations, too, can pitch in.
Here are some of the ways:
Donating proceeds from the sale of a product or service: CRY helps organisations (and individuals) work out special promotions, from which a
percentage of the profits is donated to CRY. For example, Pfizer’s protein
supplement, Protinex, addresses the health needs of children and pregnant
women. The Company decided to use this product to help underprivileged
children as well, by donating a small part of the revenue it earned to the
health component of CRY-supported projects. This amounted to Rs. 30,00,000
in the first year itself!
Pfizer’s case brings to mind the words of Gabriela Mistral, the Chilean poet
and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945, who wrote: “Many things
can wait; the child cannot. Now is the time his bones are being formed, his
mind is being developed. To him, we cannot say tomorrow; his name is today.?br>
Providing a platform for CRY: A corporation’s customers, clients, suppliers
and associates can provide a forum for CRY’s efforts. Oberoi Hotels, for
instance, ran a special programme wherein their guests could contribute to
CRY. Envelopes designed and printed by them were placed in all Oberoi
properties. This promotion was a huge success collecting more than Rs.
6,50,000 in 18 months.
Adopt a project: A corporation may prefer to identify and support a
particular CRY project. American Express Bank, Delhi, has adopted a
CRY-supported project called Swathi. Swathi works at Tigri, a slum on the
southern fringes of Delhi, focusing on education and functional literacy for
children and adults. Besides making a monetary contribution, the Bank also
has a comprehensive in-house citizenship programme which encourages its
employees to contribute, both monetarily and by getting involved with the
Payroll giving scheme ?the Free-a-Child Movement: This scheme encourages
employees to donate money for children by sanctioning an automatic deduction
from their monthly salaries. Its success, of course, requires the consent
and participation of both management and employees. The regular income helps
CRY plan its activities, secure in the knowledge of a definite amount coming
in every month.
Material donations: A corporation, instead of, or along with money, could
donate material to the CRY Materials Bank. This bank disburses materials
such as notebooks, stationery and other office equipment, wool, old toys and
clothes, at a nominal cost to development initiatives working with
underprivileged children and communities. Nokia, for example, donated a
cellular phone to CRY. Cebon Apparels, a garment exporter, has consistently
donated clothing to CRY.
CRY ensures the quality of every developmental intervention through a
meticulous process of selection, project visits, reporting system and
account-keeping support coupled with values of trust, transparency, equality
The word “cry?is synonymous with “shedding tears? According to Irish poet
Thomas Moore, “It is only to the happy that tears are a luxury.?To the
French writer Voltaire, “Tears are the silent language of grief.?But what
of the tears of an innocent underprivileged child, who has neither seen
happiness nor harmed a soul, pearls dropping out of an ocean of misery?
These pearls have to be preserved at all cost. In all the initial difficult
years, what kept CRY going were Rippan’s sheer will and his ability to push
himself, his friends and co-workers to the limit. To him, there was never a
question of “will it work??There could be no dead ends for him because he
couldn’t conceive of a situation where CRY would not succeed in its mission.
A solution had to be found for every problem because there was no other
CRY stands not just for Child Relief and You. In spirit, it stands for much
more. It stands for hope, for a need to change what must be changed, for
collective action by individuals, for the rights of those Indian children
who are born with no one but us to give them life. Rippan passed away in
1994. But his conviction, his vision and his relentless and positive energy
that drove CRY through its initial tough years are alive even today. He has
successfully and lastingly provided the link between the child in need and