By Thomas Payton-Greene
Here in Morra, we are working with Jatan, a charity whose ethos has its foundations in empowering youth. So when we found out that on the 14th of November there would be a national celebration for children, we decided we should do something big to inspire the community’s young people to be engaged and reach their full potential.
After our initial week of research into the village, we decided to do one day of celebration with the local anganwadi (nursery) and one day with the school (for ages 8-16).
Children’s Day 1 went like this: A day of fun activities in the anganwadi with an extra effort placed on getting an increased attendance. We played games and danced around, each of us wearing animal hats that were handmade for the kids by volunteer Issy. The highlight of the day was not the fun and games but the initiative we launched. Jatan had encouraged us to get milk donations from the villagers in order to make a weekly nutritious treat for the kids in the anganwadi. This would help raise awareness in the anganwadi, and give the community a sense of responsibility and in turn increase the overall engagement. We started with our host families and collected half a tin of milk. The response from the rest of the community was outstanding and as we traversed the village’s doorsteps, we were frequently told to bring a bigger tin next time. Our next step is to pass on the role of milk collection to members of our youth club, to ensure this tradition is continued and hopefully one day becomes a community habit.
Now to Children’s Day 2: A full day in the school of sports, cultural performances and a poster making competition to end with. We started the day at 7.15 am, walking around the village giving last minute reminders for the kids to come to our day of events. We wanted to cram a lot in, so the head teacher suggested we start our events at 8, an hour and a half earlier than school usually starts. We soon realised this would be problematic, as a lot of children wouldn’t receive the information and so would arrive at the usual 9:30. After spending a few weeks in the village we have become accustomed to our timings becoming flexible! So we juggled our plan around to accommodate the gradual arrival of the kids.
I personally get quite stressed if things don’t happen how I plan them, however when I could see crowds of happy faces I realised that the important thing wasn’t when things happened, but that they did happen, and were enjoyed.
First a tug of war on the school field. We started with heats of girls versus girls and boys versus boys and ended with the winners facing each other. At first the boys were full of bravado and excitement as oppose to the girls meek approach to the rope. After a heated battle, kicking up dust on the volleyball pitch, the girls ecstatically won and everybody went wild. I hoped this small victory sends a deeper message and challenges everyone’s perceptions of gender stereotypes. The boys slowly picked themselves up and we moved onto a relay race.
The mixed teams displayed some extreme effort followed by a party style celebration at the end. The electric buzz of the raceput a smile on everyone’s face.
Second, we moved to the cultural performances. Whilst the whole school sat watching, receiving their bindis, various children performed songs, poems, and dances including both traditional Rajasthani and modern music. Our team leader Arkja gave an inspiring speech on children being the present and an important part of society. The atmosphere had now changed from electric buzz to silent focus as the curious heads looked up to Arkja. The hope is that our message sinks into these children and they realise that they hold the potential to do anything they wish.
After a break for lunch, we re-gathered and began our poster making competition. The task: to make a poster of their ideal Morra, one that they may build in the future. Despite their age, the kids had very mature hopes in their consciousness. The most prominent features of the maps were more education, more medical care and more dustbins.
After experiencing the attitude displayed by the children here I can’t help but admire their lust for learning and hope for a strong future. It makes me proud to be working in youth empowerment, and motivates me to continue in this however I can as my life continues. Jatan, Pravah and ICS continue to do this work every day, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity by them to learn how I can have an impact on my world.