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Building self-sustaining communities since 1973


“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

APNALAYA THROUGH THE YEARS: Celebrating 40 Years of Community Work

JUNE & TOM H OLLAN Foun D ders

1973 was the year when Tom Holland, then Australian Consul General in Bombay, founded the Holland Welfare Centre.

Later renamed Apnalaya (Our Place), the Holland Welfare Centre was originally a day care centre for labourer's children in Nariman Point, Mumbai.

Apnalaya saw that the next step for these children was to improve their future through education. With the help of its first set of dedicated teachers, Apnalaya intensified working on the grassroots level.

Shanta Gupta was the first President during these initial days of Apnalaya's activities, wherein preparation for schooling, medical care and nutritious meals for children were the prime focus.

In 1975, Apnalaya’s work in New Jaiphalwadi, Tardeo began after its relocation from Nariman Point.

In an effort to increase the overall health and hygiene in the slum, Dr. Indra Makhijani educated the community with clinics and training sessions on sanitation and basic healthcare.

Around this time too, Arnie Antia, an educationalist, introduced a ‘Workshop’ training course for balwadi teachers, where making teaching aids out of waste materials was a key feature.

The New Jaiphalwadi Centre, where preschool children were once taught to learn and play, remains as the head office of the organization, where meetings and training activities still take place.



UDHAR Apnalay Y a Youth Gatekee Centre per

In 1975, Apnalaya acquired a new home as well in Lotus Colony in the slums of Shivaji Nagar.

Situated on the northeast boundary of M-East ward in Mumbai, and a resettlement colony of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in the late 1960s, this slum area bordering the dumping ground remains at the heart of Apnalaya’s work.

In 1976, Apnalaya opened a centre in Datta Mandir, a community located on a hill neighbouring New Jaiphalwadi.

In this locale, Apnalaya’s healthcare initiatives formally shaped up. The first group of health workers was an all-woman cast comprising of Sarita, Shakuntala, Pramila and Sunanda. They adopted a preventive approach rather than curative treatment to illnesses and injuries.

Datta Mandir acknowledged Apnalaya as a helping hand in their community, and accepted that social workers such as Nagma, Vanita, Shashi, Lata, Nalini, Suchita and Draupadi would bring about behavioural changes to improve their lifestyle.

Through Apnalaya, this community first saw a glimpse of community participation in solving their problems. A balwadi was set up, health workers trained, and community volunteers helped to establish a municipal water tap.

When Nasreen Rustomfram joined Apnalaya's cohort of social workers in 1977, she became the key person in conducting the first community health workers training in Mumbai.

Apnalaya opened its centre in Wadaripada, Malad, in 1977 with the aim of making schooling and healthcare accessible to this poor community. By 2007, after marked improvements in the people's living conditions, Apnalaya had almost completely withdrawn its activities in Malad.

Apnalaya’s work in Chikuwadi, behind the BARC Complex in Deonar, began in 1981. This was where the citizenship programme was born, one of Apnalaya's current flagship projects, favouring rights-based solutions to issues faced by inhabitants from the outlying borders of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Balaiya was one of the local youth leaders trained by Apnalaya to work on community issues in Chikuwadi. Apnalaya played a key role in its resettlement in newly-built tenements in Mankhurd in 1994.

This strengthened the dynamics within the community which has now taken on the responsibility of running programmes, enabling Apnalaya to withdraw.

There is still much more to be done to enable these Mumbai citizens to lead healthy, happy and harmonious lives.

The most challenging aspect of working in the slums of Shivaji Nagar is the sheer magnitude of poverty.

Apnalaya committee members grapple with the problems and seek solutions in making people aware of the government schemes accessible to them.

In 1999, Kachra Kamgar Sanghatana (KKS) was founded. This is an association of rag pickers who live in Shivaji Nagar and to whom Apnalaya provides training, support and guidance.

In 2008, Apnalaya opened the Day Care Centre to reach out to the special needs of children with disabilities.

Over the years, Apnalaya has been privileged to carry on meaningful work in the social space with generous support from donors and well-wishers. Apnalaya’s women’s empowerment programme is broadly created around the philosophy of presenting women and adolescent girls with equal opportunities as stakeholders in community-building.

Amidst rapid urbanization in the city, Annabel Mehta, Apnalaya’s steadfast pioneer and long-serving Honorary Treasurer for 40 years, and Dnyaneshwar Tarwade, who joined Apnalaya as a social worker in 1988, stride side by side to bring about long-term benefits to the community.

Leena Joshi, Director for 19 years, steered Apnalaya to achieve its development objectives in four communities while extending its reach into the marginalized communities in Shivaji Nagar. Always willing to take on new challenges, she led Apnalaya to take an innovative approach to problems, such as in training para-professional community level workers, and setting up Rationing Kruti Samitee to work on food security issues.


DAVAR Chief Ex ecutive Officer

With a team of almost 80, the majority of whom are community-based workers, Apnalaya today works out of small rented sheds in the slums to run intervention programmes on health, education, disability, citizenship and women's empowerment, under the supervision of its first CEO, Dhun Davar.

After 40 years, Apnalaya's role has continued....

In partnership with the people it serves, Apnalaya has helped drive human progress by building self-sustaining communities since 1973. empower the lives of ordinary men, women and the youth to believe in themselves and in their abilities to change for the better.

Apnalaya Through The Years  

A photo book celebrating Apnalaya's 40 years of community work.