Two years ago, even on the day of Deepavali, 10-year-old Lavanya (name changed) used to be busy helping her parents make firecrackers. Their house in Sivakasi served as a small manufacturing unit. She used to work for four hours a day and earned between Rs.18 and Rs.20. She now studies in Class IV at a school run by the National Child Labour Project in Sivakasi.
On Sunday, she was decked up in a bright yellow dress and sported a beaming smile. She was one of the 50-odd students from Sivakasi who were here on Sunday to celebrate Anandha Deepavali organised by voluntary organisation, Udhavum Ullangal.
Her teacher, Mano Daniels, said “Children like her will never get to celebrate Deepavali otherwise.”
More than 1,300 children from orphanages, homes for the differently-abled and the visually impaired participated in the event and celebrated an early Deepavali.
“Festivals are a time for joy and laughter, but hundreds of under-privileged children do not get a chance to experience the excitement,” said B.Shankar Mahadevan, founder trustee, Udhavum Ullangal.
The programme, which is now in its 13th year, also serves as a fund raising event in order to finance the education of many of the children. “Since it is a festival season, everyone is willing to give. It goes beyond celebrating a festival. The gift of education can transform their lives,” Mr.Mahadevan added.
Sudhan Kumar, a Class XI student and a resident of the Kanniga Puram slum in Vyasarpadi, was part of a cultural troupe which performed a skit on child rights and child participation. “I have never celebrated Deepavali before,” he said.
Various cultural programmes were organised through the day and sweets and new dresses were distributed to the children. A similar event will be held in Sivakasi on October 31.