A Gift of Hope That is Changing the Lives of Mumbai's Street Children


Students pose for a photo in front of
their mobile classroom.

Last year, Plan International USA offered the “School on Wheels” gift through our Holiday Gifts of Hope catalog. Your gifts were used to set up mobile classrooms in several locations across South Mumbai that provided street children with basic literacy and numeracy skills needed for mainstream education.

Vani is just one of many children who benefitted from the School on Wheels program. This is her story…

Often referred to as the ‘city of dreams’, Mumbai is currently home to over 20 million people. As the most populous city in India, millions of Indians arrive each year looking for new job opportunities that will transform their lives. Upon their arrival, many of these new residents are often met with the harsh reality that over half of Mumbai’s residents are living in poverty. Competition for jobs and language and cultural barriers do little to lessen the reality.

Vani was just 12 years old when her family made the decision to move to Mumbai. Unfamiliar with Mumbai and the Hindi language, Vani’s parents feared for their daughter’s safety and made the decision to keep her out of school.

Too young to work and unable to attend class, Vani spent her days wondering the city.

As luck would have it, one of Plan’s School on Wheels teachers came across Vani and attempted to engage her in conversation. After repeated attempts to speak with her, Vani was only able to respond with one word, “Illa”, which means “no” in the Tamil language.

The teacher recognized that Vani was at a disadvantage. Hindi, is one of the most widely spoken languages in Mumbai and Vani could only speak Tamil. The teacher was determined to change this and convinced Vani to introduce her to her mother.

After the introductions had been made, the teacher stressed the importance of sending the girl to school and insisted that Vani attend Plan’s School on Wheels classes.

Vani’s mother was reluctant and refused. It was during this time, that the teacher was able to meet with Vani’s father, explain the importance of educating their daughter, and discuss the School on Wheels program in greater detail. Vani’s father was hesitant at first, citing the same concerns that had been previously raised by her mother, but the teacher was persistent. Her efforts were soon rewarded when Vani’s father agreed to enroll their daughter in the program.

However, this was only the beginning.

Breaking Down Barriers

Once Vani began attending class, the language barrier made it difficult for her to participate in classroom activities. But, this obstacle did not prevent the teacher from keeping Vani involved. Recognizing that Vani showed enthusiasm in music, she began to teach her Hindi songs and encouraged her progress in learning Hindi words.

She provided Vani with opportunities to speak up in class and continued to motivate her to learn the Hindi language. Whenever Vani made the attempt to speak in Hindi, the teacher appreciated her efforts and encouraged her to use the language to converse with peers.

Vani is now able to speak Hindi with confidence and her reading skills have dramatically improved. Her parents are proud of her accomplishments and are grateful to Vani’s teacher and the School on Wheels program for providing their daughter with the education that she desperately needed.

A Note of Thanks

While Plan is certainly proud to share Vani’s story, we realize that we could not have accomplished this achievement without your generous support!

We thank you for your continued encouragement and hope that stories like this will act as testimonials to show that your gifts really are making an impact!