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As George Washington Carver, an early 20th century scientist in America puts it, “Education is the key to unlock the Golden door of Freedom”; freedom from a hoard of socioeconomic issues, including poverty. Mumbai Smiles, through its various projects centered on Education, Health, Livelihood, Awareness and Advocacy, believes in a peaceful struggle against poverty through our work with the members of select communities in the city of Mumbai. But how to ensure that our work is yielding results; results which are satisfactory not according to us but according to the members of our community family?

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To ensure complete transparency and as a means to get honest feedback on the results from our running projects, a Beneficiary Committee is formed every year, which comprises of the project beneficiaries, both direct and indirect. The idea is for this committee to monitor the internal functioning and impact of the projects that they are part of and bring forth the negative aspects in order to help the Project Team improve and facilitate the feedback in the implementation of the projects.

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Recently, the first beneficiary committee meeting of the year was held for the Educational projects of Higher Education (HE, earlier known as Future Smiles), Girl Child Education (GCE) and Life Skills Empowerment (LSE) projects. This committee comprised of five students (direct beneficiaries and 13 parents (indirect beneficiaries) who shared their observation of the project’s impact so far (April 2016 onwards). The meeting was highly positive. Some of the responses from the parents are as follows:

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“Earlier, my daughter was very fussy about food and would not listen to me about eating well. But after attending LSE sessions, she has become more responsible towards her own food habits and hygiene. She has also mellowed down a lot now that she is able to channelize her energies into productive activities via LSE.”

“It is not a custom to openly talk about menstrual problems in my house and that is why I didn’t know how to address these issues to my daughter. But thanks to the LSE sessions, she is now much more aware of her own body and health. She even eats better now and I don’t have to worry about her daily health and nutrition much anymore.”

“My son was very shy and lonely earlier by nature. But within these few months of LSE sessions, he has opened up a lot. He is a team player even in school now and is more confident as well.”

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The parents also gave a suggestion that the LSE should include de-addiction (from nicotine and alcohol) more strongly and on a regular basis, instead of just one or two sessions. All in all, this two hour meeting was extremely productive with detailed discussions on how to tackles some of the issues together and how to improvise on those aspects as well. Such meetings ensure transparency among all the members of the Mumbai Smiles family and an efficient working atmosphere for all too!

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