This weekend I had one of the most rich Sundays I've ever had.
A quick flashback first - Not too long ago, I made friends with a Harvard student via Facebook, Karina. She's in India for 2 months working with NGO Akanksha and helping to empower kids who come from lesser privileged societies. While I've been hearing a lot about her fantastic work here all the time, I really wanted to experience it myself and help in some way too.
So, waking up way too early for my Sundays at 8 am, I joined her and met up with her kids at the Nehru Planetarium. There were about 15 kids and they were split into groups which were given projects to work on. One group was given the topic of importance of education, the other was working on curbing bullying in their community and yet another was given the task of helping reduce garbage and promoting cleanliness.
First, the kids made posters pertaining to these topics, even as I watched with awe, how Karina was managing the kids so beautifully - adding some inputs, being stern sometimes and helping in streamlining their thoughts.
After this activity, it was 'action time'. The activity of the day was to visit the kids' community right behind the Planetarium and address the issue of garbage and promote cleanliness. To that, one team had written a letter to the BMC (the policy part of the strategy...) and all of us were then going to go from door to door to spread the message (...the social change part) and conduct a signature campaign against garbage. To set a precedent in their community, the kids were armed with gloves and trash bags and would be collecting 'token trash' from homes which we were going to visit and later dispose them in the right place - the garbage dumpster.
The biggest irony of the garbage issue in this community was that people were used to throwing garbage in the 'naala' (water canal) which ran along the area, even as there were proper garbage dumpsters provided about 50 meters away!
It was heartening to see the passion with which the kids spoke to their own community, put up the posters to promote education, cleanliness and a responsible community. At the end of a 2-3 hour exercise, we had collected 50 signatures, 6 full bags of trash and a hell lot of learning.
I also got to know how much of a difference Akanksha is making for these kids and the awesome work my friend has been doing there.
The debriefing session was pretty interesting too - Karina asked the kids a lot of questions about their experience and their answers were very mature for their ages! The bonhomie, attitude and sparkle in their eyes were all things you had to see for yourself! I was pleasantly surprised, yet happy to see that positive social change is possible.
We later treated the kids to a show at the Planetarium and later took them to the Nehru Science Center, both of which the kids loved. Some strong mentions I'd like to make here...
1. The new Planetarium show sucks. I've been a BIG fan since I was a kid, but I think this is the worst, most boring show ever. I didn't know there was a change (the earlier one had a great start with a 3D city tour, great music and content) and was a bit disappointed, but K & the kids liked it apparently.
2. Nehru Science Center on the other hand has improved SO MUCH! The staff was way too nice - they insisted on a students' discount since we were from Akanksha. The installations are brand spanking new. Gardens are well kept - parakeets, rabbits and some great flora. A fantastic 3D show (for just 20 bucks more). I couldn't get enough of it... nor could the kids!
Overall, a super Sunday it was indeed. Next Sunday I'll be joining them again for a video-edit session courtesy of my ex employers Hungama.com
Read Karina's notes on her blog | Photos from the day