September 2008, Hyderabad.
About a month back, along with a few other amateur photographers, I had visited two camps for girls in and around Hyderabad managed by the MV Foundation (read more about them here) as part of the first step in a project we intended to do with them. The foundation works with children who come from a child labor as well as other troubled backgrounds. They take care of them in these residential camps where they are made part of a bridge course and after about a year in that are then put in the normal school stream. Many such children have done incredibly well, with some now studying medicine and some others finding good jobs in the IT sector.
It was great fun to interact with and photograph the children. They were very enthusiastic about getting photographed. Even though at times their insistence to be photographed multiple times could be a little overwhelming their infectious happiness upon seeing their photos on the LCD screen of the camera made you forget all that. The children were a mix of age groups and came from diverse backgrounds. While most of them came from a child labor background some of them had gone through child marriages, suffered domestic abuse, lived all their lives until brought to the camps literally in jungles and even escaped murderous fathers. But the common thread that ran through all of them was their unwavering commitment to educating themselves. They did not want to go back to their old life and in fact some of them wanted to bring into the camps as many children as they could who were still caught in child labor. And that sincere belief they had in education I found very inspiring.