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CRY, today, acts

link between these

organisations and the

people who want to

a   help them. It

channels the

concern, goodwill,

time, money and

skills of thousands of

individuals and


as       towards child


initiatives run by

committed social

workers that seek to

transform the lives of













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.
C  R  Y

A Movement for
Children’s Rights

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 discrimination.

Grim statistics
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 young lives.

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 resources.

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 rights.

Creating awareness
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 of children.

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 right.

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 of children.

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 and health.

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 project.

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 and accountability.

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 option.

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 you.

Rashna Ardesher