You can’t go to Mumbai without thinking of Slumdog Millionaire and its famous slums visible from the airport.
Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world with nearly 1 million inhabitants is also the denser place in the world!
Dharavi has an active informal economy in which lots of household enterprises employ many of the slum residents. It exports goods around the world.
The total annual turnover has been estimated at over US$500 million
Leather, textiles and pottery products are among the goods made inside Dharavi by the slum residents.
That is why we asked ourselves to go for a ride.
Slum tourism is quite controversial. Some claim that it is exploitation of poors, while others claim that it is a form of awareness.
We then asked our friends of Unltd India
if there was an organization that improve the living conditions of the slum and they immediately told us about their partner “Reality Tour”. The purpose of Reality Tour is to show a different face of the slum and especially reinvest visits to the actual improvement of the living conditions of the slums ‘occupants.
Our visit has taken its meaning.
Reality tours wants to stop negative stereotypes about slums and show the positive sides. They have built an ethically run tour company which employs locals and raises money for the community.
80% of tour profits, after salaries and taxes are invested in Dharavi
It means 40 percent of the company’s annual turnover being given back.
After discussing the community’s needs with some residents, Reality Tours established a Community Center in Dharavi to provide English and computer classes, using tour revenues. They finally wanted to expand their social work and they created Reality Gives a sister organization of Reality tours.
The mission of Reality Gives is to provide quality education to children from deprived backgrounds.
Projects they run:
- Ashayen Community Center: collection point for opportunities and resources for the Dharavi community including computer courses, dance, drama classes, health clinics…
- The Youth Empowerment Program is one of Reality Gives’ projects, aimed at young adults. It’s a fifteen week course where young people from Dharavi can learn computer basics, English and life skills, increasing their overall employability.
- Muskaan School: a progressive kindergarten that employs the locally developed, child-centered Muktangan education methodology and teaches 3-5 year old children in Dharavi through experiential methods
- Curriculum development: working with international curriculum development experts, they create programs for the unique requirements of the communities
- Girls’ football for development: girls who often got neglected get empowered through sports and gain self-confidence.
- Front foot cricket academy: youth gain confidence and learn about teamwork, respect, discipline from skilled coaches.
Livelihood: Educated 400 students between 16 and 30 by providing training in English, computer and soft skills.
Education: Trained 15 local women who teach almost 400 students in English using child-centered and interactive teaching methods.
Health & Wellbeing: Engaged with 130 children through a variety of sports programs
400 étudiants bénéficient de formations et cours spécifiques
130 enfants bénéficient des programmes sportifs et d’éducation.
15 femmes venant du bidonville sont désormais professeurs d’anglais
Reality Tours was awarded the highest honor at the World Responsible Tourism awards in 2012. They finally replicate and expand their unique social business model (where 80% of the profits from our tours are used to fund the activities of Reality Gives) outside of Mumbai: multiday tours in Delhi, Rajasthan and Kerala. Their goal is to run and support local social development projects in these areas to address local issues and needs and to give back to the communities that help them set up these new tours.
“In the meantime we also hope to expand our impact in Dharavi. We constantly work to improve the quality of our existing projects – the ones we run and the ones we support. Furthermore, we are connecting with more NGOs and individuals to create more change in education, livelihood as well as health and environment for our communities.”
AT the end of the tour, we could assist to a wedding dance in the streets :)