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Born again

DNMUM313354 | 8/15/2014 | Author : Meera Warrier | WC :434

Apne Aap—a home away from home for young girls in a forbidden town
dna downtown edition
Although it occupies just a few lanes in the humongous city of Mumbai, the mere mention of Kamathipura evokes varied feelings in people. And yet, for some it is just home. Apne Aap Women's Collective, an NGO, has been working with the community of women in prostitution to make living a bit easier for their daughters who play in the by-lanes of Kamathipura, susceptible to the same dangers that their mothers are subjected to.
Apne Aap operates from two locations—Kamathipura, where they have a school and a night shelter, and Falkland Road where they have a school only. As you walk up to the Pochamma Devi Temple in Kamathipura, you may still wonder about the location of the Apne Aap office. However, the bright pink entrance right opposite the temple and the excited squeals of the children within are landmarks enough.
For the girls who attend this school during the day and then return to spend the night at the shelter, the centre is literally a home away from home. Sheltered from the cruel life for at least a few hours of the day, the centre hopes to give these girls a solid education that will transport them to a life far away from the lanes of Kamathipura.
A few minutes spent in their classroom will have you forget yourself and the gruesome reality that these young ones leave behind when they step into the centre. Their excitement on receiving guests, singing rhymes and watching television is similar to what the rest of us experience. And it is this innocence that Apne Aap is hoping to retain and to build dreams on.
With a partner organisation operating under the same name in the United States, the team always requests patrons to support projects rather than donate a lump sum amount. This only makes it easier for the donors to monitor projects and evaluate results themselves via www.aawc.in.
The solid efforts of the team have seen a 100 per cent success rate in Apne Aap beneficiaries escaping the clutches of their past and stepping into a bright future. A chef in a five-star hotel, an engineer and several computer programmers—the girls have found their own space in the world outside Kamathipura.
Ashika Pohoomul Mehta, President, Apne Aap Women's Collective, says, "AAWC continues to inspire and humble me. Despite the horrific circumstances our beneficiaries are exposed to, they are optimistic and are able to actualise their dreams of becoming professionals who are financially stable enough to rescue their families from the vicious cycle of trafficking. AAWC gives them the opportunity and they seize it."

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