NalandaWay was started with a staunch belief in art as a healing and learning medium. Through dance, music, visual arts, theater and films we work with children to find their voice, express through art and think for themselves. Our interventions have helped the kids to develop self confidence to be masters of their lives. Follow our chronicles and be a part of this amazing journey.
At the outset, I would like to thank you for supporting us in our journey towards helping thousands of disadvantaged children achieve through arts. Having co-facilitated our 'Kanavu Pattarai' initiative- which helps heal adolescent children from exploitative backgrounds through art, I would like to share Altaf's story with you.
Altaf is a shy 14-year old studying at the Corporation School in Chindadripet, Chennai. An introvert by nature, he is the typical quiet child who maintains a low profile and prefers to be invisible in front of his teachers. Altaf’s shyness largely stems from his lack of confidence and inability to express/communicate clearly. Any one of these two problems on its own is quite enough to pull someone down harshly, but for Altaf it was a deadly duo! His fledgling wings were already becoming numb to ambitions.
When Altaf came to our ‘Kanavu Pattarai’ (KP) camp, he continued to retain his shy demeanour and quiet ways. His participation in camp activites was moderate and he wasn’t quite able to overcome his fears. The biggest challenge came when he, along with a couple of his classmates, had to give a presentation on ‘Ideal India’. The presentation would basically have to entail the students’ perspective on how they wanted their country to be. In the previous activities, Altaf would normally let his teammates do the talking, but this time my co-facilitator- Bhagya insisted that each person face the audience and speak. It was not insistence by authority but insistence by concern. Unfortunately insistence alone was not sufficient to make Altaf talk before an audience. He stammered, forgot, trembled, gave up and broke down. The facilitator switched from insistence to persistence. She simply would not let Altaf give up.
She took Altaf outside the hall and asked the others to continue their presentations. A few minutes later, the door opened and Altaf entered the scene. Bhagya had shown Altaf a new way to combat his nemesis. He stood up to the audience, established assertive eye contact and fluidly used orchestrating gestures of hands to aid his presentation. Such was his transformation that on the fourth day of the camp, when he and his classmates were asked to put up an exhibition of their artworks at DakshinaChitra, Altaf took the lead and passionately spoke about his group’s vision for ‘Ideal India’. He explained in detail to visitors about his artwork, the activities that were conducted during camp- and this was even to European travellers despite a language barrier!
So the question is, What did ‘Kanavu Pattarai’ do to him and many others like him? Meaning a ‘workshop of dreams’ in Tamil, KP essentially uses arts as a medium to boost self-esteem, confidence, clarity of thought, curiosity and social skills among young children. Most kids who participate in the camp go home as transformed individuals and hopefully carry on the good vibes with them even later on.
Your support to the project could go a long way in bringing more children like Altaf to the KP camps. Why don’t you make a contribution today? No amount is small
These were a continuous volley of questions that came in from one of our participants- Geetha, at our Teachers’ Training Program. She was very smartly dressed and intelligent, but the defiance in her body language was loud and clear.
The queries came in on the first day of the training and my colleague and I were both amused and flustered at this questioning- because the other participants were keenly observing this exchange and gauging our response. We let Geetha rant, gave her a patient hearing and promised her that the 5 days spent with us would help her and her peers open new avenues both in terms of relationships and learning. She was not convinced but continued to be a reluctant participant, often disrupting our schedule and looking at us with a bored expression.
Geetha was one of the 25 teachers who participated in our Achieve through Arts program. The program focuses on improving the 5 Cs among teachers - communication, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and class management. As part of the program, teachers get an opportunity to interact with art experts and are also trained in stage mechanics, role plays and pure art works. It helped teachers like Geetha create a fun learning environment for their students. Children now find the learning process more engaging as core subjects are integrated with art. This motivates them to attend school regularly and has led to reduced dropouts and absenteeism among them. Besides that it also helps teachers in their personal development and shedding their inhibitions in expressing themselves.
As the days progressed in the teachers training program, the ice thawed and Geetha surprised herself, her peers and even us through her unique art works, quick wit and ability to understand the process and help her peers. Her histrionics were the highlight of the workshop. The program gradually influenced her to become uninhibited – sometimes stretching on the floor during the art sessions, establishing eye contact with us, incessant exploration and losing track of time by saying” Oh! I didn’t realize it was time for a coffee break!”
Underlining all this was the gentle nudge, encouragement and appreciation which brought on a small shy smile to her face and a murmur questioning, “Is my work really good?”
It was now our turn to smile as we were convinced that our program design works!!!
Where is Geetha today? She is the most popular teacher who brings out the best in her children! Her class is the most motivated with constant encouragement and incentives. They flock to her as she has a story to tell them everyday, helps them explore and learn the concepts through the creative activities she designs for them – truly helping them ‘Achieve through Arts’