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Mobile Outreach Program
…with spaces inbetween
May 18, 2013

For some time now we’ve been struggling with Cacra as a MOP site. Initially it started with the numbers of our older children dropping rapidly. In time, the number of regulars began falling.

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Ever hopeful, we ploughed on.

Numbers will improve.

Numbers have still not improved.

We’re still doing MOP. Not for 20 odd kids, more like for 6 kids.

Still not ready to give up, we took a walk through the village. “Burghesheekpakkityeakiena?”  Milan and Betty asked the older residents of the village. The commonest of responses was that the children were uninterested and or more keen on watching T.V.

This was a grossly insufficient answer. We carried on walking through the village. We were happy to have met a lot of the kids who used to be regulars on Tuesdays. And we asked them why they had stopped coming to sessions and they almost nonchalantly told us that their parents weren’t willing to send them to the beach; where the sessions used to happen.

The beach. A glorious, almost private slice of the coastline, covered in white sand, shells and sea glass. Boats left docked, a wide spread Banyan tree….Cacra in a nutshell. Add a group of people who work with literacy and who come on Tuesdays to “tell stories and do art and craft and fun things”. Why would kids not want to come? Why would parents not want to send their kids?

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Initially, my involvement at Cacra was minimal. I was literally just the driver. And really, Milan and Betty had it under control. I used to pass around pencils and occasionally wander a bit away from the session. This just meant that I had the luxury of taking in sights that were separate from the session, but still happening very much in the same space.

Food for thought. Here’s this little beach that borders the lives of the people in this fishing community. For them, the beach is there; literally just there, a place to park their boats at the end of the work day. They scarcely go down to the beach. I think maybe, it doesn’t even catch their eye at times.  Ofcourse, to the rest of the world, it’s a gorgeous little beach that affords for privacy, a space to use (the plastic and bottles scattered around lead me to say abuse as well.)

So, we went with the flow. We changed sites to a different side of the village. Still a wonderful site. Just as picture perfect. Under a mango tree, waves crashing against the shore and so much silence.  A perfect place to live, a perfect place for a MOP session, a perfect place for people to hang out.

I sense that this is where the problem begins. I tried to imagine the residents of that area having to cope with people a constant barrage of people who come to ‘use the space’. The constant consideration of having to protect their children from premature and unnecessary exposures; must be a Herculean task.

So this is where we’re stuck. Kids who love stories, parents who would like their kids to learn and a team who is all set to work. All that remains, is the space in between.


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