Young Mens Welfare Society

Kolkata, India
This group has been around for more than forty years. Its contribution is unique, although the name is now inappropriate (as both leaders and children are both male and female), but it has stuck, so far.

YMWS has been working to provide opportunities for evening education for street children (both boys and girls) who work during the day. They in fact have special programmes for girls, because in educational terms in India, they are even more disadvantaged than boys. They bring Hindus, Muslims and Christians together wherever possible.

YMWS uses existing school buildings (not otherwise occupied during the evening), and for more than twenty years have brought street children into the campus of St Lawrence’s in the centre of Kolkata which is the local equivalent of Eton or Harrow. For both the children and their families this is a great ‘statement’, quite apart from the value of the education provided.

The object is always to get children into mainstream and full-time education, but with most street children, there are disincentives, because they will earn less money – and their families will probably have no culture of education.

YMWS currently has some 4000 children coming for evening classes in various parts of the city and also promotes rural education to stem the flow of rural children migrating into urban centres in search of work.

YMWS has promoted the installation of tube wells in villages around Kolkata. These not only provide safe drinking water, but enable the young girls to go to school – as they would otherwise be carrying water for the family. YMWS currently works in a number of villages to encourage child-centred, comprehensive development. The scope of the programmes includes the revival of the rural economy, the evolution of appropriate educational opportunities, and the empowering both of working children, and of the women in the villages.

Their method of funding is interesting. They run good quality fee-paying schools for middle-class children, and use the profits made to fund their work for disadvantaged children in the evenings. This has the great advantage of sustainability. They are not dependent on funds from foreign donors – and the activities are largely funded by locally sourced money. Some additional help is appreciated to fund expansion.