Many charitable institutions working with children from poor communities offer support for basic needs. Such help is critical, but most institutions are unable to offer the additional support that is necessary for normal childhood development. As a result, vulnerable children become increasingly dependent on basic, institutionally provided aid and isolated from mainstream life. Vishal Talreja, a former investment banker, is building a volunteer-run initiative that provides children from disadvantaged backgrounds with opportunities to have fun and learn concrete skills. Sports activities, art classes, field trips, and other opportunities offered by Vishal Talreja and his team yield visible results in the behavior and capabilities of participating children, many of whom would otherwise have had very limited chances to develop normally.
Talreja’s initiative, called Dream A Dream, is rooted in the creation of a broad network of citizen sector organizations, community-minded businesses, and a large cadre of well-trained volunteers. Over 200 well-trained and committed volunteers run his initiative. Strong partnerships and unique fundraising efforts attract substantial aid from individuals and businesses in the community. In one arrangement, for example, Xerox prints high-quality posters depicting real dreams of participating children. Volunteers then crush the posters, placing them in special bins in offices and shopping malls. Passers-by are encouraged to open a dream by removing a poster from the bin and covering the cost of the dream depicted on the poster. This initiative has begun to attract considerable attention from the Indian and international press.