Dharavi Shelter (Mumbai)

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The Dharavi Shelter is a space dedicated to children and elderly residents living in New Transit Camp Nagar in Dharavi, Mumbai, India.

Dharavi Shelter
Dharavi Shelter
Dharavi Shelter
Drawing workshop at the Dharavi Shelter. Click here for more photos.
Dharavi’s New Transit Camp is a lively neighbourhood with a diverse population. See more photos.

URBZ Office in Dharavi NewTransit Camp.
URBZ members Dipti (architect) and Himanshu S (artist) with Paul Raphael in the back of the Dharavi Shelter, taking about future plans for a bookstore/library with a tea room on top.
Plan for a simple brick structure next to the Shelter which could host a library/bookstore and a small team room on top.
Plan for a simple brick structure next to the Shelter which could host a library/bookstore and a small team room on top.

We are giving art classes to about 50 children every Sunday and would like to expand our activities. In addition to the drawing workshops, we want to screen movies and offer lunch to the children attending the shelter. Subsequently, we would like to offer photography and computer classes. We are looking for support to purchase art material, buy chairs, tables and shelves, offer lunch to 50 to 60 street children every day, hire a part-time animator and build a bookstore/library and a tearoom for all the residents. Even very small amounts can help the shelter a lot. For instance for $2 we can buy a nice crayon box, for $20 we can offer a simple lunch for 60 kids, with $200 we can purchase plastic tables and chairs for the shelter and with $2,000 we can build a new brick structure to host the library!

The context:

Dharavi is one of Mumbai’s most celebrated and misunderstood neighbourhoods. The media often wrongly describes it as the largest slum in Asia. Recently, the award winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ bestowed lots of global attention on it since several of its defining moments were shot in Dharavi’s dense and labyrinthine streets. Hundreds of thousands of migrants came to Dharavi over four generations ago with little else but a fierce desire to survive and live a life of dignity. Through their enterprise they transformed a piece of marshy land into a highly productive neighbourhood – an economic powerhouse, by all accounts but also a place of cultural hybridization, social emancipation and urbanistic innovation. Unfortunately, the city of Mumbai did not always empathize with Dharavi’s potential. Dharavi still suffers from lack of infra-structural support, continued social prejudices and the exigencies of electoral politics.

URBZ members have been working in Dharavi for a few years, notably organizing participatory workshops and urban design studios, researching and writing about its organic development and its architectural organization, and advocating against the Dharavi Redevelopment Project initiated by the Government of Maharashtra. In February 2008, we launched www.dharavi.org which soon became the most comprehensive source of information on Dharavi and an active social network used by many in Dharavi and from the rest of the world. It was visited 200,000 times since its launch.

In September 2009, we opened an office in New Transit Camp, which is a very dynamic and crowded neighourhood in Dharavi. The population of New Transit Camp is extremely mixed with Christians, Muslims and Hindus, many of whom originally came from the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and live side by side. Our landlord, Paul Raphael is an active member of the Communal Harmony movement which started after the 1992-1993 Bombay riots. He is deeply involved in the social life of the neighbourhood. Just as we moved into our new office, Paul inherited a 200 m2 plot of land a few meters down the street. He asked us to help create a social club which would host activities for children and the elderly.

We would like to share this project with more people who could help us realize it. Our dream is to see this little patch evolve into a dynamic and animated space in which children, the elderly and all those concerned, use it create a public sphere within Dharavi which demonstrates the special spirit of this unique part of Mumbai’s history. We would also like this space to become a bridge between residents of Dharavi and visitors from outside. Once the basic needs are covered (material for the classes, lunch for the kids and a salary for an animator), we would like to open a team room open to all elderly, youth, locals and outsiders. It goes without saying that all the contributors to the Shelter’s project will be more than welcome to visit us in Dharavi, when they travel to India!

Paul’s motivation of creating this space is a testimony to the willingness of Dharavi residents to improve their living standards. It is very special to see how children respond with so much electric enthusiasm to the tiniest gestures we can make. It will be as special to actually start documenting the experiences of the several elderly residents who have lived in Dharavi all their lives, once the space starts getting used by them as well.

Do help us in any which way you can and come and see this little space grow through your support. Donations can be made by credit card, via our Paypal account (just click on the link below), by check  or by wire transfer via partner organizations in the US and Japan (see instructions).


Checks can be written to American India Foundation  which has US tax deductable status (501-C3).  On the left it should say that they are for Asia Initiatives URBZ project. A message should be sent to URBZ giving the amount and date the check sent. The address is given below:

Mr. Venkatesh Raghavendra

CFO, American India Foundation

216, E. 45th Street, 7th Floor,

New York, NY 10017

Alternatively, bank transfers can be made in Japan to Asia Initiatives.  A message should be sent to URBZ giving the amount and date the check sent. The bank transfer information is given below:

Bank Name:  Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation


Branch:  Roppongi Branch #619

(ロッポンギ シテン)

Account:  Saving


Account #:  7399351

Account Name:  Tokutei_hieirikatsudo_hojin Asia Initiatives

(トクテイヒエイリカツドウホウジン アジア イニシアティブズ)



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6 Responses to “Dharavi Shelter (Mumbai)”

  1. Dharavi Shelter | URBZ Says:

    [...] have created a new section on the URBZ site dedicated to the activities of the Dharavi Shelter, where we explain what we are doing in more detail and request donations from anyone willing to [...]

  2. Dharavi Shelter News | URBZ Says:

    [...] Shelter at Dharavi is gaining greater momentum with its various creative activities and more and more new children [...]

  3. request donations Says:

    [...] Museum 7000 Merrill Ave … are only able to send one request to the system . overlap each other …Dharavi Shelter (Mumbai) | URBZThe Dharavi Shelter is a space dedicated to street children and elderly residents living in New [...]

  4. Architectivists | URBZ Says:

    [...] Students showing a scheme for the incremental development of the Dharavi Shelter. [...]

  5. Dharavi Shelter on Facebook | URBZ Says:

    [...] and don’t forget to support the Shelter via the Shelter’s Paypal account and see the Shelter page on URBZ for more [...]

  6. The Illustrated Street | airoots/eirut Says:

    [...] been by children living near MG Road, New Transit Camp, Dharavi, during a workshop conducted at the Dharavi Shelter by photographer Lasse Bak Mejlvang from Denmark and Himanshu S. Jan 23, 2011. The workshop [...]

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