Monday, 26 February 2018

It Takes a Village

- Nomita & Somya
Last year Adity (our writer- volunteer) had written about Vijay. Vijay came to us in January 2016 Hindi literate, highly motivated and almost twelve years. When we would be doing our work at the
Friendships & Learning
bridge center he would nudge us to engage with him. We would give him some Math problems to solve- the mechanical kinds – and that he knew. When we would write the same as a story problem in Hindi he would be stumped. We gradually started filling his foundational numeracy gaps while we explored alternate learning spaces for him. Options, like Ananya, did not work out for him since he was just above their age cut-off. We started exploring the NIOS route for him but one step at a time. We started English for him from Kindergarten level; Math from grades 2 and 3.
We also started exploring the volunteer route for his education. Our early stage volunteers with Vijay were Seema and Shilpa. The beginning work that they did with him kick started his education journey. Now he is navigating his way around Grade 6 NCERT curriculum in English and much of it as self-study. Since August 2017, he has been guided, supported and mentored by a wonderful set of volunteers who are constantly keeping an eye on his progress.  He is tackling Geography and History with Beena, Geometry with Sindhu, Science with Kaushik, Data Entry Operation with Arpita, English Literature with Reema, Coding with Vedant and Hindi with Garima. We are all collectively working towards him completing his Grade 10th by 2021.
In the meanwhile, another program, Gubbi Udaan, has kick-started with Lluvia Bakery. Our older children (11+ years) get exposure to occupational opportunities as a means to look at entrepreneurship up close, while picking of skills and connecting their learnings to developing literacy and numeracy. At Lluvia Bakery, Vijay has learnt to knead dough while his peers roll and cut and bake. Under the gentle, yet firm guidance of Durga (entrepreneur of Lluvia Bakery) they demonstrate amazing teamwork – building camaraderie within the cohort. Last weekend they successfully sold all the cookies at a bake-sale! Learning the commerce of selling - marketing to customers, billing, keeping accounts was part of this experience. This aspect of learning wouldn’t have been possible without Durga, very generously, not only throwing open her professional space, but investing her time to guide them through the stages.
It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child…we are living it through our wonderful volunteer-community! A heartfelt THANK YOU, to each of you!

Friday, 23 February 2018

Suresh: A Story of Perseverance

- Nomita (Curriculum Support and Facilitator)

When we approach a child, who is as skittish as a young doe, unable to stay long enough to listen, afraid to make eye contact, and avoids all communication; we know we have work to do. Suresh (name changed) is a Nepali child who did not know Kannada, or even enough Hindi to communicate with anyone. He was trying in his own child-like ways to manage the system; determined that he come out a winner.

The spirit in him is what we found endearing. With patience and love he gained trust - fearful as he was of the unknown.  We saw him engage with other children often frustrated in his inability to communicate. Gradually they began to understand each other. His keen mathematical mind and ability to keep stock of play equipment, using symbols, made him the go-to person before playtime. He was clearly the leader for his playmates in this space. 
"I am a winner!"
In Kannada and English classes, he consumed pictures, cards, and stories, keen to connect to something - in fact, anything. His eyes would brighten up and he would shout out names of anything that came from ‘his world’. We prompted him, gave him the vocabulary in Hindi, Kannada or English; or asked him to draw or explain what he could. He built his connections slowly and surely and with blinkers on he galloped forward. Within one year he was mainstreamed to Grade 3 in our host government school. Such was his energy and confidence that the school teachers soon found him reading age-appropriate level Grade 4 texts (in Kannada) and engaging in the class confidently; they made a case for his attendance in grade 4. 
While at Gubbachi, our savings initiative for children saw him save successfully towards buying himself a second hand bicycle. Where he would have indulged in chips and biscuits he bought himself a means to ride to school. 
Today Suresh is in Grade 4, in our host school; while his younger brother, 4-year-old Sejan (name changed) attends the ECCE Center at Gubbachi. Both children have been mainstreamed successfully and the parents support their education completely. Suresh has now saved money to buy himself a Snakes and Ladders and Ludo set – games he loves playing. Financial literacy too has sowed its roots in this young mind.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Art Therapy and Volunteering

- Somya (Curriculum Support and Operations)
Group Work
As we had written sometime back, none of the deep work that we do can be done without our volunteers. Vasundhara is one such volunteer. She joined our journey even before we started. She trusted us with her time even when we were not sure what the possible paths could be (not to talk of the correct path). Vasundhara is our Art Therapist. (She wrote this small piece for us two years back)
Leaves and Art
Our very first engagement with Vasundhara, way back in September 2015, was to paint the circle on which we have always conducted our circle time. A small tool that helps children anchor themselves to the routine of schooling. This circle around which children sit and choose to talk about the mundane, their deep dark fears, their relationships, their emerging understanding of the world - this is the circle which gives us an idea of how our day might pan out with a child!
For almost two and a half years now Vasundhara has worked with 150+ different children at our centers. She follows some very basic principles of engaging with them. These principles are very powerful. Mentioning some of them here in her own words (with the hope more art engagements will move from pure skill building to touching the child meaningfully) -
  • “using symbols they will be able to relate to anywhere they go eg: sun, moon, trees, birds, water, buildings, people. This is keeping in mind that these children will move from villages and towns and from one city to another and should find something familiar that they can connect with wherever they go.
  • using minimal material which is easily available to them. Activities are done with sand, thread, clay, fabric scraps, cardboard, pamphlets, charcoal, candles, stones, newspaper, etc. The idea is to give them an idea that art can be created with simple, everyday objects. Also, I sometimes use wool, inkpads, stamps, blocks to introduce them to new material that they may not have used/seen before.
  • creating a space where they can express their feelings. Planning activities that require them to think, introspect or dip into their memory and imagination. Doing this settles them and once they are engrossed in the activity there is silence. The aim is to help them prolong the duration of this silence gradually.
  • planning activities to bring in collaboration and cooperation. There may be 2 or 3 steps in the activity so they have to wait their turn, or wait for others to finish. Working in groups helps them share material. Limited resources like scissors, glue helps them learn to wait and not grab. It also helps them observe and assist others in the group if required.
  • using activities that are open ended and with minimal instructions. A few triggers are given and they can come up with their own creativity. The art work is not marked or judged. They are encouraged to talk about their art work only if they choose to. 
  • bringing in the basic art elements in subtle ways for them to observe and make connections eg: colour mixing, shading techniques, usage of space on the page, and such.”

The simplicity of her engagement is extremely beautiful and transformative.

Thank you Vasundhara for being an integral part of our journey!