SOHSS hosts Pascal Fautrat, Executive Director, Tara Homes

SOHSS plans Talk by Social Enterpreneur Pascal Fautrat
October 13, 2014
A Report on Talk by Pascal Fautrat
October 20, 2014

SOHSS hosts Pascal Fautrat, Executive Director, Tara Homes

School of Humanities & Social Science is focussed towards creating diverse experiences for its students, that help them make informed choices and also to explore unchartered territories. Today when most youngsters dream of a well-paid, Corporate job or going abroad to greener pastures, as the most promising career option, there are others who have interest in giving back to the society and doing something meaningful in India. Social Entrepreneurship is a field meant for those who are passionate about bringing a change and working towards the upliftment of weaker sections of society.

There couldn’t have been a better guest speaker than Mr. Pascal Fautraut to inspire a whole new generation about this field. Pascal is a Psychologist and a Social worker by profession and qualification. He has worked in France for the Ministry of Justice (1993/2001), posted in Parisian suburbs taking care of children in need of shelter, care and protection. Has also worked with juveniles in conflict with the Law. He settled down in India in 2006, and started the Tara Homes for Children that are an exemplary institution in terms of providing an atmosphere of caring and learning to underprivileged children.

In his engaging talk on 16th Oct 2014 organised by SOHSS, Pascal spoke at length about how his interest in psychology led him to delve deeper into delinquency. His first experience with juveniles in Paris, bordering on violent behaviour gave him the drive to work towards finding ways to use psychology to comfort traumatised persons especially children. He highlighted that psychology comes into play in myriad fields, right from ergonomics to designing of a website.

Pascal also spoke about what it takes to set up an NGO, giving it a foreigner’s perspective. Peppered with humorous anecdotes about the pronunciation of his name to attuning himself to the local culture, language, food and habits, Pascal managed to also evoke the latent empathy in the audience, making them look inwards and question themselves as to what have we done for the underprivileged.

“Almost 1-4 lakh children live on the streets of Delhi. They are vulnerable to abuse of all kind, often facing violence even inside institutions. They are exploited by everybody,” was his plaintive argument. How can we turn a blind eye to this reality? Pascal was honest and straight forward about the fact that the state of most Govt institutions of this kind is far from satisfactory.

That is the reason they do not have more than 20 children in a Tara Home as the idea is to provide a home environment. He also mocked what he called the ‘Kurkure Attitude’, wherein hoity toity people who want to feel good about themselves, like to come with a few packets of Kurkure for children and feel they have done something for them.

“In a Tara Home, you will never see a child making tea and serving to the guests. Surprisingly that is what they are made to do in many such homes,” he said emphatically.

“ We let them be children and enjoy activities that educate them. Tara is a social elevator. We believe not in Institutional care but individual attention to each child.”

He ended his talk with a few tips on what a foreigner can expect while setting up an NGO in India:

  • Get ready to un-learn everything.
  • Get ready for criticism: He mentioned he is criticised for many things such as ‘Teaching English to children will alienate them from their roots’ Or ‘So you want to make all poor kids rich?’ But one has to go on relentlessly!
  • Expect an extreme fascination-repulsion response from people. He joked about feeling like a ‘Gora in a ghetto’ at times, awestruck adulation followed by unwarranted prejudice from people. But he takes both with a pinch of salt.
  • Most people look at NGOs with suspicion: One has to be very committed to overcome these hurdles.
  • Get ready for harassment in terms of paper work, bureaucracy.
  • ‘You Owe me’ syndrome: Donors expect favours in return.
  • Get ready to be shocked: He said even though he has been in the field for long but the level of vulnerability of underprivileged children in India is mind boggling. The crimes against them are staggering and very severe!
  • The Bribe Culture: That is why Tara Home has a policy of ‘No bribe at all’. On a lighter note, he mentions if he even finds the slightest hint of anyone soliciting bribe, he calls the press.
  • Get ready to be told by everybody what to do!
  • Get ready for marriage proposals! Here again he used humour to comment on the very Indian trait of fixing or proposing marriage for anyone we find eligible!
  • Get ready to be considered a priest: While many people misunderstand his work as that of a religious missionary (which he clearly is not), others think that he should be living a life of extreme austerity with no socialising, both of which are wrong. “It is a regular job I do, at the end of the day!”
  • Get ready for magic: In spite of all the difficulties, he finds his work very satisfying as the children are simply magical. They have so much potential for learning and are so keen to learn and grow. That makes everything worthwhile. Pascal concluded on a positive note that the love of street children in India has made this incredible journey special. “I feel on top of the world working with these children and I have decided to stay in India for the rest of my life,” he said.

Blog Writer: Prof. Shivani Mohan. SOHSS

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