Way back in 2004, Jaume Sanllorente, a young journalist from Spain came to India for the second time, this time determined to make a change – change the social reality of extreme inequality and impoverishment which he had witnessed on his first trip a little while before on his first trip. This reality which affects hundreds of men, women and children had shaken him to the extent that he left his settled and comfortable life in Barcelona behind, sold off his house and brought it all to India to work for the poor and give his contribution towards eradicating poverty from Mumbai, the city of dreams. It took him a year to find his way to create his own NGO which he named Sonrisas de Bombay which has today become Mumbai Smiles Foundation (both mean the same in Spanish and English respectively). Today the two organizations are sister-organizations, working for the same cause.
Starting his work from ground-up, he spent years living and working with the communities in different areas of Mumbai and some of these community citizens became his constant support system even before Mumbai Smiles took up the concrete shape that it has today. Three of these very special people, who have stuck with Jaume and Mumbai Smiles since inception, are Vinayak, Samson and Prafullata. Let us introduce you to these heroes of Mumbai Smiles Foundation:
1.Vinayak Kamble: Vinayak has been with Mumbai Smiles since even before it took up the shape of an NGO. Back when we were just starting with community mobilization, need assessment and planning to start Mumbai Smiles, Vinayak became a constant support system for Jaume in reaching out to communities, helping with daily errands, ensuring administrative responsibilities were carried out and has been with us ever since as Office Assistant. This financial year, Vinayak has been promoted to the post of Field Coordinator in Education Department and is now handling the responsibilities of community mobilization, assisting in striking partnerships with schools, identification of beneficiaries, etc.)
2. Samson Coelho: Samson had also joined Jaume and Mumbai within a week of Vinayak and has been with us ever since. Knowing Mumbai city really well, he was able to help Jaume identify areas of needs better and also help him around the city for other administrative, logistical, legal and official purposes. HE loves to share stories from back in the days when being the one-man army, Jaume used to run about from pillar to post, from communities to embassies (being a foreign national, he also had to constantly check on his visa and other formalities to be able to start his own NGO) to companies and individuals for raising funds and many other chores! This year, Samson too has been promoted to the post of Field Coordinator, and is now handling office administrative, documentation, logistical and procurement responsibilities to maintain transparency in the organization.
3. Prafullata Vengurlekar: Prafullata came in contact with Mumbai Smiles during early 2008 when we were starting our first preschool education centre. Coming from the Marol community, she knew the area and people well and with her goodwill in the neighbouring communities as well, we could open our first centre and kickstart the Preschool Education Project with her voluntary support. A few years down the line, in 2012, when her daughter was enrolled into our Higher Education project. Even as the parent of our beneficiary, she was always extremely active and participated in all events of the project and supported us with community mobilization. And so when our Life Skills Empowerment project began in the year 2014 and she applied for the post of Animator to become the coach for the teachers, she was first given training (which she picked up amazingly fast and proved her mettle once again) and she was immediately hired as our LSE Animator. This year, after her constant service to the communities of Andheri east and Mumbai Smiles Foundation, she has joined us as Field Coordinator under Education Department and will continue working, with more responsibilities, with the LSE project.
We celebrated this lovely occasion with all the team members in our office! This organization has grown and has been able to reach out the citizens of Mumbai slums, in howmanyever number, because of our support system, like Vinayak, Samson and Prafullata. We are able to walk towards achieving our dream to see a poverty-free Mumbai soon!