Update on 3 Oct 2015: Came to know that Uplift Humanity (https://www.facebook.com/uplifthumanity) that had with great fanfare organised two summer camps at this shelter last two years, did not even bother to ensure that the scholarships checks given to students could be cashed. All they wanted was publicity and resume building exercise for kids in USA so that they can get into Ivy Leagues. They did not reimburse the facility for arrangements made for their functions either. First year, a girl had committed suicide – no communication made from their side to acknowledge it. One wonders what is the value of human bond to such organisations. First year scholarship payments were extremely late and second year has not been made even after a year. I regret working with them briefly during their first year.
The day begins with a brainstorming session between two teen girls from US, one from Singapore, one boy from Indore and me. We go through some course material on soft skills and tailor the topics that we are going to discuss with the kids at local juvenile facility in Indore. I mentor them on how to effectively get the point across and also correct their hindi once in a while.
“What’s confidence in Hindi?” asked one of them. We all sat to think until the lost hindi words come floating dreamily to me or some other member in the family. “Aatm-bal,” I respond. She practiced its pronunciation a couple of times and we moved on. Many a times, I had tough time remembering the exact hindi words – I feel ashamed the way we are forgetting our mother tongue. When Sakshi asked me to translate her english letters in hindi, I realized I still love writing hindi. As I translated and wrote 15 letters one by one, I wished we are able to preserve this beautiful language and not lose it to a race of development and westernization.
After lunch, we go to the juvenile facility where these four teen students are supposed to mentor juvenile inmates on various skills – confidence, anger management, values, ethics, attitude management etc. I help them communicate effectively and keep things running on schedule. This is what is being done by a non-profit organization called Uplift Humanity that helps schools kids from USA and other countries visit teens in India (mostly juvenile offenders and orphans) and mentor and train them. After their successful run in Baroda, they are currently running a pilot program in Indore (10th-23rd Aug) where I am helping them out these days.
First, we visit the girls facility to meet 8 girls who ran away from home due to different situations – broken home, abusive parents etc etc. 12-16 years old girls are full of enthusiasm and curiosity. One of them wants to become a doctor and one wants to join the police force. They often giggle now that they have become good friends with us. I like that they treat the facility as their home and love their warden. Are we supposed to tell these children how to handle life? Sometimes it hits me that if I had to face the situation that they have been through, I may not even have had courage to smile. I think I go more to learn from them but yes, I suppose I can teach them something in return. Often they go shy and silent. I can almost hear the waves of their past crashing against their chest but they come back and look up with a smile. And we continue. We made them play rock paper and scissors one day. The other day, they taught the kids from US how to play kho-kho which happens to be a pretty strategic game and one girl outshone. I’m sure she would win at big level tournaments if given a chance.
In late afternoon, we move to the guys building where we meet 7 guys (15-18 yrs old) who are being tried for some offenses and have not been convicted yet. From small to hefty build, the guys not only showcase a wide spectrum of physical attributes but also emotional levels. After the first couple hours, they began smiling, looking up and talking more easily. It was surprising to see them open up so much in just a week. When one of them told the story of how a bad friend took advantage of his naivete and he ended up here in the facility, it took me sometime to react and find the right response. I usually acknowledge, nod and go ‘fir aapko kaisa laga and aapne kya kiya?‘ but some stories leave me short of words. They are getting better, so am I and so are the school kids from US.
Its already been a week and all kids have truly grown fond of each other. I can see some positive changes and people are opening up. I hope we have been able to make at least an iota of difference and given them some optimism. The juveniles have given us a reality check, hope and a lesson in courage and mental strength.
This is for Roshni, Elizabeth, Jassi, Nikita, Durga, Sonu, Babita, Farheen, Sunil, Aakash, Ajay, Munna, Vikrant, Lakshman, Uday (juvenile kids), Snigdha, Anushka, Aditya and Sakshi (NRI kids)-
I don’t know whats the beginning or end, I am glad our paths crossed – who knows who taught whom but I hope we touched each others’ lives in a positive color. We viewed that one snapshot of reality together and I can only wish that it influences and guides us to do better things in life.
I am glad I participated in this program, I don’t know if I’ll work for it in l ong term but if I had to count meaningful moments in life, this would be one. I am looking forward to the second week, hope to post better updates after the program.