Thursday, 28 June 2012

Reality Gives volunteers...Laura's perspective

After one month research in Dharavi for the Mobile English Language Learning programme Laura will leave tomorrow, the 29th June 2012. We were happy to have her and to get to know more about innovative resources for effective English learning projects for underprivileged communities. Read here about her experience:

I first came to Mumbai in January 2011. I was here alone, and quickly discovered that the Reality Tours were a great way to experience the city and to meet new people. I also had a chance to learn about the work of Reality Gives.

At home in the UK, I was working with an organisation called Anspear, which creates educational resources for disadvantaged and marginalised groups via mobile phones. I had worked with a number of migrant families to help them learn English, with interactive activities to support vocabulary, pronunciation, listening, reading and grammar skills, and the results had been really encouraging. While I was in India, I wanted to see if there was potential do something similar.

I was really lucky to be offered the chance to come to work with Reality Gives, and their Youth Empowerment Programme. I’ve been working with the current batch of students, who want to improve their English to find a job, go back into education, or use their language skills to teach their children. My aim is to match the learning materials, and the technology used, to the needs of the students.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to get a better understanding of the programme and to learn from the teachers and the students about what would be most helpful. It’s been an interesting to let students trial a sample program, with photographs from the local area and quizzes and games based on their existing English curriculum.

Here are some screenshots of the program:

I’ve also been trying to understand how the students are already using mobile phones, so we know the best mobile platforms to target. Our trial phones are lower-end Android smartphones, and although a number of students already use something similar, it is clear that Java phones are still more common. There are still some important development decisions to be made!

So far the trials have been met with great enthusiasm from the students, and I’ve had lots of constructive feedback.  I’ll go away now, and design something to support the group’s new English curriculum. I hope to return in January with a resource for students to trial for a few months, and I’ll tweak it based on their feedback. Longer term, I hope it will be a resource that can stay in Dharavi and can be freely distributed to future students and the wider community.

Thank you to everyone at Reality Gives, the teachers and YEP students for making this a great experience. I’m already looking forward to coming back!

Laura Pearson, June 2012

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Reality Gives visitors...Frank Leboeuf hosts football clinic for our Girls Football Team

The former Football World Cup champion and actor Frank Leboeuf visited Dharavi today, the 25th June 2012 to host a football training for the Reality Gives’ Girls Football Program. Leboeuf is currently in India to present the  UEFA European Football Championship  2012.

Leboeuf hanging out with the Reality Gives Team in the Reception Center
The girls were already waiting for the famous player.
The French Ex-football player who is famous for his performance during the final match of the Football Worldcup 1998 when France won against Brazil 3:0, wanted to use his sports background to address the social issues he sees every day in Mumbai. Reality Gives sees his work with the girls as a huge source of encouragement for them and hopes it will inspire dedication and motivation to the sport.
Frank gives instructions and even Arnand, the head coach listens carefully

First Leboeuf came to pick up the girls from the Reality Gives Community Center to walk with them and the coaches through the narrow allies of Dharavi to the ground at Mahim Junction Station. As he reached he was negatively surprised at the bad conditions the girls were playing football in – the ground was floated, covered with big stones and packed with a lot of people. But he realized soon that playing football in Dharavi is just different from anywhere else. “These girls actually don’t mind if they play in dirt, in the rain and without shoes. They just enjoy the game and have fun – that’s inspiring!” he said after the training.  “We had a lot of fun playing with Frank.. He’s a good player,” young player Mansi (11) said, ”but after two month training we were also very good playing against him!”

We started this unique football program in Dharavi in May 2012. Twenty girls attend the training every day. We hope to reach 70 girls after the first year and 100 at the end of the second year. “Reality Gives is doing great work for the community of Dharavi, also apart from football. I wish them very good luck for the future” Leboeuf mentioned impressed.
Since the program started our coaches Arnand (22), Meena (15) and Sunita (16) as well as Ashok, our supporting coach from Oscar foundation noticed the following points of improvement and challenges: 
  • Players’ confidence higher.  Physical strength & endurance has increased, and physical courage—less fear (heading the ball, etc)
  • Enjoying themselves, smiling a lot.  Making friends, respecting each other, more peer-learning.
  • Disciplined, listening to coaches, respecting their space (now they don't litter), learning capacity increased, time management (waking up early), bringing water bottles to field (small thing, but we've noticed it's a good indication of planning, memory and discipline). 
  • Parents’ response is good. June 3 was a parents’ meeting. Now they even started to help find a better ground and save for kit. 
  • What we have to do to improve the program: Girls should have shoes (ground condition is rough). They have to save about a third of the price of balls and shoes through team-run savings cooperatives, which builds dedication to the program. Coaches started to encourage them and their parents.
  • BIG CHALLENGE: with school starting risk of drop-outs increase.  So coaches need to be fully aware now of how to manage that.  Training starts now instead of morning 6.30am at 6.30pm after school.
  • Ashok talked to the girls of the program and they said the following: "When we’re small, our mothers control us. When we get older, our brothers control us.  Then we get married, our husbands control us.  Then when we’re older, our children control us."  Ashok encouraged them to think of a career where they would be in charge of their own futures (e.g., air hostess, police officer, football coach).  Girls liked that.  

On Sunday, the 1st July 2012 Reality Gives will host a charity event for the Girls Football Program at Cool Chef Café in Worli. To fundraise for the project there will be a foosball competition, a barbecue as well as a screening of the final EURO match 2012. Entry is Rs300 and the foosball competition participation fees Rs700. A share of the profits will support the Dharavi Girls Football Program.  

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Reality Gives Events...The Mumbai Marathon 2013!

Registration in July for the Mumbai Marathon 2013 is fast approaching! It will be a challenge but we know that we have great friends supporting us

Information about the Mumbai Marathon:
  • The Mumbai Marathon will happen on Sunday, the 20th January 2013
  • There are three races: the Full Marathon (42km), the Half Marathon (21km) and the Dream Run (7km)
  • Last year 223 charities raised Rs 16,07,45,965 for their activities - this is US$ 2.8 million!
  • The registration for the Full and Half Marathon takes place in July, for the Dream Run in September!
Reality Gives would like to use the Mumbai Marathon 2013 to raise funds for its programs. And we need YOU to run for us! You can either run the Full or Half Marathon or the Dream Run for Rs 6,000. We will go through the registration process for you, we will get you the bibs and provide you with Reality Gives Merchandise for the Marathon. Also we will organise events for our runners - stay tuned to hear more about that!

If you want to get your friends to sponsor your run to raise more funds for us, that would be great! We will provide a pledge kit and help you throughout the whole process. We recommend the site which makes it easy for you to set up an online-raising-profile. 

Please register here and we will get back to you as soon as possible to coordinate your registration. 

But that's not all. We want also out international supporters to run for us. That's why we offer you the ultimate:

Mumbai Marathon Tour Package from Reality Tours and Travel

We organize 7 days in Mumbai and around that you won't forget in a hurry. Stay in a comfortable 4-Star-Hotel, let us show you around in the city and experience the Mumbai Marathon without exerting any effort - except for the running!

After the Marathon you will come with us on a 2-Day village tour to the rural area of Maharashtra. Indian village life is unique to what you will ever experienced and provides a fascinating contrast to life in Mumbai. Find out more about it here.

For only Rs1,23,000 ($2,210) for one person and Rs 1,30,000 ($2,340) for two people (flights not included) you will experience a great week around the Marathon and in the same time support a good cause. We will give 100% of the profits of this trip to Reality Gives!

Are you interested? Send an email to and we will organize an unbelievable trip for you!

But that's still not all. We will also start another initiative for the Marathon soon. We are currently looking for runners from Dharavi who will run for Reality Gives. So in case you can't run you can still support our runners by donating to them. Stay tuned to our blog and facebook to find out more. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Reality Tours and Travel News...Students welcome!

Reality Tours and Travel has launched a new initiative to raise social awareness in students from Mumbai and Internationally. In the last couple of weeks we have hosted two student groups on our tours with the hope that they will walk away with a better understanding of the city and the complex social issues that it faces.

The students group of Ecole mondiale
As part of our World Environment Day initiative on the 5th of June, Reality Tours and Travel welcomed a group of 30 students from École Mondiale to our Dharavi tour, we were blogging about this last week. Students visited the recycling area where they saw plastic recycling and aluminium recycling and discussed the major role Dharavi plays in recycling mumbai's waste, but also the issues related to working conditions and pollution. They also visited the residential areas where they talked about the strong sense of community that exists in Dharavi as well as the social factors facing residents in the slum area including sanitation, health, and education issues.

Two days later, Reality Tours and Travel hosted a group of 13 students from the Singapore International Foundation who came to Mumbai to learn about social entrepreneurship. RTT guided them through trains, buses and taxis to provide a street-level view of the cultural and social landscape of the city. On the tour we discussed issues related to transportation and urbanisation in Mumbai, visited 3 of Mumbai's most prominent bazaars, and learned about two businesses that are the life blood of Mumbai: the Dabbawallahs and the Dhobi Ghat.

These visits are the extension of an idea that emerged when students from the Martin Luther Christian University in Shillong, North East India, came on the tour as part of their studies on urbanisation and development in India. After returning home, the students wrote articles about their impressions and learnings about Dharavi. Their visit was sponsored by a couple who had gone on our tour the previous year, Simon and Karlien, a wonderful example of our Ambassador's program at work.

Students from Shillong came to investigate for their studies
"We really believe in the importance of exposing India's future leaders to the realities of the industry and community found in urban slums.  We want to welcome more students from India to come on the tour and so are working with schools to develop programs that go hand and hand with what they are learning in the classroom." said Krishna Pujari, Co-founder of Reality Gives and head of school programs. "In addition, we have seen the impact that our tours have had in raising social awareness for international students as well and look forward to working more with these schools as well."

If you are interested in having your student group experience a different side of Mumbai and learn more about the social issues that face our city, please contact Krishna at

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Reality Gives ambassadors...A kicking garage sale in Canada and a crazy Iron lady in UK

All the parents brought items to sell together and
 form the sale they raised $450.
Every year in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada), in a neighbourhood known as The Glebe, there is a huge garage sale that is attended by people from across the city. It’s known locally as the Great Glebe Garage Sale. Nik Nanos, the head coach of a small soccer team, the Ottawa Royals Hellenic Boys U10 team, lives in the Glebe and suggested his team to organize a team fundraising event and party around the sale. At the beginning, it was thought to use the funds for things the team needed, like jerseys and backpacks. But the team was fortunate enough to have these items sponsored by a few parents of the team. Since they didn’t need much else, they decided to donate most of the money raised to a charity project. But which?

Ciaran Ryan, an Ottawa Royals Hellenics player, 
helps set up the sale in the morning.
Patti Ryan is the mother of one of the players. Together with her husband, her son and daughter she went on a Dharavi Tour with Reality Tours and Travel in 2010. This spring she received our first Newsletter  and read about the Girls Football Program and she suggested this project to the team to raise funds for. "Since both of our kids have seen Dharavi and both play competitive soccer, it seemed like a great fit." Patti mailed us after the event.

Three Royals players in their jackets 

Group photo at the sale, under one of the posters
(Bottom row left to right: Ciaran Ryan, Paul Nanos, 
Patrick McNeill-McKinnell, Grady Squres; top row, 
left to right: Christos Tsimiklis, 
Mark Nanos, Grant Stoppa)
There are 13 players in the Ottawa Royals Hellenic Boys U10 team, and they had asked all of their families to donate whatever items they could to the sale. They also sold drinks and treats for a small additional profit. Furthermore they made two large posters to publicize the cause – one poster contained the team name and logos, and the other explained the Yuwa Girls Football Program and featured some of the postcard photos of Dharavi that they purchased two years ago. At the end of the day they raised $450 for our cause - THANK YOU A LOT OTTAWA ROYAL HELLENIC BOYS!

The whole Ottawa Royals Hellenic Boys U10 Team.
The soccer players of Canada are not our only ambassadors for the Girls Football Team. Emily from Uk decided to compete in the Half Ironman triathlon on Exmoor, which has a reputation as the ‘toughest Half Ironman in the world’ on the 17th June 2012- a challenge which we totally admire at Reality Gives. She decided to raise funds in advance of the triathlon for the Football program as well. "When I was in India a couple of years ago, I spent some time with them experiencing life in Dharavi and was very impressed by the work they are doing." Emily mentions on her online fundraising profile on She already raised £315 and aims to achieve £600 until she begins to run. Crazy? Indeed. But we appreciate her engagement a lot. 

Emily in preparation for her challenge in June

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Reality Gives events...World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day. For those of you who have visited Mumbai and Dharavi in particular, you will know that sadly people in our communities do not think much about their impact on the earth on a daily basis. So for this special day we think that it is important to take time out to raise awareness about environmental issues. 

Our friends at RUR, an organisation dedicated to creating eco-conscious citizens, invited us to participate in two earth-friendly activities this year. On Sunday the 3rd of June, we cycled for recycling in a 8 km course showing the public how they can reduce their load on landfill. 110 participants - the youngest was 6, the oldest 75 years - joined the rally to spread the word for a greener environment. Reality Tours and Travel supported the event by organizing 100 bicycles for the participants. Furthermore our guides ensured that the participants stay safe and ride the right way. 

All the participants block a street at a traffic light. 
The Reality Tours and Travel Team -
(from the left) Mayur, Nilesh, Dinesh, Chris and Adina
Today, we took our-eco-friendly efforts on foot and led a group of 30 École Mondiale students on a tour of Dharavi to talk with them about the impact of this community on the environment. Because it is a complex topic, RUR led a talk after the tour to discuss both the positive role Dharavi plays in recycling and the challenges that remain in the garbage and pollution that is generated here. She asked the kids to come in the front to tell what they liked on the tour and what they want to do to safe the environment in future. Arjun (12) from the 6th grade of a High School in Bandra said: "I expected Dharavi to be a smelly and disgusting place like I heard it very often before. But the tour showed my that people here work hard to recycle any kind of material we are using every day and that really impressed me. I will try to reuse more things at home and also talk to my parents about it. I will also tell my friends at school about this tour."

The kids listen interested to Monisha from RUR while
she explains what
we all can do to  safe the environment -
Recycle, reduce and reuse!

Monisha explains Daivaya's smart cap which has a
solar powered ventilator. A small thing to make
our life more convenient without polluting the environment.
Diaivaya said he liked the tour and he will definitely
talk to his mum about recycling more at home.

The whole Ecole mondiale school group
in our Community Center  after discussing what they have
seen and what they will do to save the environment.
We hope you will take some time out of your week to spread awareness about environmental issues. To learn more about our regular cycling tours of Mumbai and the Dharavi slum tour, visit our brand new website with the 100% recycled look