Life-skills education is the need of the hour

A few months ago when I joined Enabling Leadership Foundation through SCOPE in Dharwad, I knew I am being associated with something of prime importance. Life-skills education is the need of the hour. Students in our villages needed a direction and our programs were providing them exactly that.

Over a few months, we – the coaches could see visible changes and developments in the children in the classroom and in the field. But are these changes being carried into their daily lives? Are children being more helpful at home? Are they being more sensitive towards the needs of others? Are our class students displaying their values with their families? These questions plagued me for weeks before I decided to pitch and take on the responsibility of visiting some homes of the children in our target villages.

Over the past few weeks, I have visited the homes of 41 children as a sample group. I have to be honest – there was a lot of skepticism I was carrying. Will their parents know of our program? What if the parents refuse to speak to me? Or worse still, they see no change at all in the children back home? Sitting on the shore I was getting worried about the current in the ocean. I knew I had to take a dive and face the waves head on. Yes, there was the danger of being carried away by the waves, but there was also the possibility of floating with them.

Taking the plunge, with support from the team, I initiated our home visits with the objective of getting more first-hand information on life-skills development of students and also to look into the understanding the community had for our school programs.

Our interaction with parents was surprisingly easy. What started as us asking questions in order to get to know the family better, soon transformed into a comfortable conversation with parents sharing with us the commendable changes they have observed in students. Most parents were aware of the programs their children were a part of and were curious to get to know how we were able to keep them so interested.

Through the home visits we have currently done, there are three stories that I would like to share here. I would like to point out that not all visible changes can solely be attributed to our programs but with our focus on confidence building and self-belief, we know somewhere we are also a vital factor in the change.

The first story is of a 10-year old girl, Savitri Angadi from the village of Karadigudda. She is a part of the girls’ football team. I met her mother who felt very proud of her daughter. Savitri has grown up seeing a lot of fights between her parents, often violence as well. Whenever her parents would fight she would sit in a corner covered in a bed sheet waiting for the fight to end. A few months into joining the program, Savitri’s mother noticed some noteworthy change in her. Savitri refused to sit in a corner covering herself whenever her parents fought. Gradually she mustered the courage to confront her father and asked him not to hit her mother. At first the parents were both taken aback. But perhaps it made them realise the impact they were having on the child. And ever since she stood up, Savitri’s father has not hit her mother.

The second story sf of Chaitra Hadapad who is also from Karadigudda and a part of the girls’ football team. Post joining our program, Chaitra developed an interest in learning Hindi and English. We were intrigued, and I asked her, “Why do you want to learn these languages?” She smiled, “Sir, we will need to go out of our village and when we do, we will need Hindi and English to communicate with others.” It was heartening to see horizons expand and see the students work on themselves.

My final story is about Shyavamma and Sangeeta from Timmapur, who are currently attending our Music Program. When I met their families, I was told that both these girls were very shy – they would hardly interact or speak with others, even their own peer group. But today, thanks to the music program, these girls have developed confidence to sing and perform well in front of a large audience.

These are just a few of the many heartening stories I have come across while meeting the families of our children. It is constant hard work to be able to keep children interested and learning. But when I am told of the students getting up early in the morning on their own to be able to make it to the class on time, I know we are doing a good job.

– Mahadev Baratake, Program Officer, Dharwad

 

 

 

Leadership through sailing – a memorable workshop!

Enabling Leadership Foundation recently conducted the first of a series of workshops for the girls under the Naavika Program of The Yacht Club of Hyderabad and I traveled to the Nizam’s city for the same.

Was I excited? Yes, Of course! Was I nervous? Most definitely yes.

Conducting leadership workshops with adults is a good experience but a tad bit vanilla when com-pared to conducting workshops with children. Children, unlike adults, are unpredictable – full of questions, full of energy and ever curious. And being able to nurture this energy and create “aha” moments of learning with it all, is what makes these workshops challenging as well as satisfying.

So, armored with stories, games and my most positive self, I met young budding sailors. These are girls from not-so-privileged sections of the society and are being trained by The Yacht Club of Hyderabad to become “Champions”.  Among lots of other common things between them, one of the most pronounced is their vision for themselves – they all want to become champions. I delved deeper in what “champion” meant for them and they gave me the example of one among them – a young girl called Vaishnavi, who recently won a medal at an event of National importance.

I probed further, and they guided me to the gallery where life-size pictures of National Sailing champions adorn the makeshift warehouse. Secretly, they envision their own pictures up there for other young boys and girls to see. I asked them if they had all the skills they needed to be the champions they wanted to become. Children are honest. And practicing their value of honesty to the optimum came the reply “No – we are not good team members, we need to help each other more. And we need to learn to communicate”. And at that instant, half my work was done.

What followed were fun-filled days of games, discussions, story-writing activities where I got to know each participant better. The Yacht Club has given a sense of purpose to the lives of these young girls and it is easy to see how they almost breathe sailing. During a game of snakes and ladders as the girls were moving boxes to reach their goals, many of them had to answer a question – “What was your happiest moment?” Unaware of answers of each other, unanimously they told me “When Suheim Sir complemented me on my sailing” (Suheim sir is the man behind The Yacht Club of Hyderabad. Naavika is his brain-child).

It is rare to come across 9 to 13-year-olds with such clear goals. Suheim must be proud of this lot!

Through the action-packed hours we spent together, the girls got an opportunity to get to know one another on a different level. One girl got up to share how her best friend in school hurt her, several other hands went “me too”. Another spoke about lying to her parents to be able to go out with friends and others gave silent nods. One of them spoke about how she was bullied by her younger sister. I saw many smiles saying “yes”, across the room. Somewhere this sharing was generating a sense of empathy and friendship with the premise “I know how it feels”. In the process, the girls were becoming a close-knit unit. Very soon in the workshop I was seeing some crazy bonding happening.

 

I have always believed that it takes only a few minutes to identify a leader in a group. While all the girls were creative, willing to share and learn, one stood out – Mehboobie – the other girls naturally gravitated towards her for help and guidance and she graciously accepted the responsibility bestowed upon her. In her own ways, Mehboobie was the peace-maker, the group-hugger, the agony aunt and the motivator. It was a delight seeing her in action.

It is rare to come across workshops which are fun, action-paced, full of heart and yet manage to achieve the objectives set out in the beginning. This workshop was one of those successful ones. When a good workshop ends, it is a happy moment. But to be honest, a part of me did not want this workshop to end. Because that meant that I will not be seeing these girls for some time. Lost in my thoughts as I was packing my stuff, one of the quieter girls ran to me at full speed and hugged me tight. “I love you”, she said, and on cue all the other girls joined in and we had a big group hug. If only the cameras could capture the moment!

—  Reha Bublani, Head Curriculum

 

 

How do we measure success for our work?

I have been pondering over this question over the last few months. Much like the rest of the not-for-profit sector, I am still trying to find an answer which satisfies me. Numbers won’t do. Classes conducted won’t do. It is the softer aspect of impact which counts.

As an organisation, we want to see “impact” on the children. And while we create strategies and measure the “impact”, there is another crucial element worth all the focus. The trained facilitators.

Our coaches come for humble backgrounds, they have grown up in Dharwad or nearby areas and gone through the Indian education system. They are a mix of professionals, home-makers, trained football coaches, vocalists and students.

When these coaches came to us three months ago, they came with their baggage – for them an ideal classroom has been children sitting quietly with the teacher talking. For them music classes focus exclusively on music and football on the sport. And our challenge was not only to help them develop the skills of an effective facilitator but also to unlearn the concept of an ideal class. Thus began our journey.

I still remember the awe on the face of some of the facilitators when a music game connected to problem solving. Or the aha expression when football was used to speak about conflict resolution. It was like their bubble popped open leading to a broadened world. While they quickly understood the program rationale and the concept of life-skills, breaking the mold of an ideal class was more of a challenge.

I still remember the first class I observed – the children were quiet and seated. Some of the Delhi coaches of Music Basti would have killed to be in a class like this. In the process, I wondered, what can be done to add more of a zing to the class. In came more games, more exercises, more engaging activities – not for the students but for the facilitators to understand how to generate “productive noise” in a classroom.

Visiting the classrooms of facilitators who you have trained can be a “butterflies in your stomach” kind of an experience. It is like taking an examination you will never write on your own, and yet will be graded. So earlier this month, when teams from Music Basti and Just for Kicks were visiting music and football classes respectively, I was excited for sure but a little bit nervous as well.

It was heartening to know that the coaches are doing a great job. They have picked up facilitation skills and taken the right tools into their classrooms. The students are engaged, talking, asking questions and actively participating through the class. They are listening and responding to the coaches.

The coaches are being facilitators for majority of the class time. However, one crucial feedback which struck a cord with me was the confidence level of the coaches themselves. In the last three months, we have seen all of them break out of a shell and find a strong foothold for themselves as creators and facilitators in the classroom.

Yes there are challenges – some of the classes still lack energy; we need more positive re-enforcement in the classroom; we need to focus more on the “fun” elements of the class, but the feedback from the dynamic training team of Music Basti and Just for Kicks has been a great propeller.

Defining success may take some time for a new organisation like ours, but currently I see success in the form of impact we have had on the coaches. And that is the best festive season gift for us as social sector professionals

-Reha Bublani, Head Curriculum

 

 

 

 

Thank you, our wonderful donors!

It has just been two months since the start of our Leadership through Lego program in Dharwad. But as the word got around, we received quite a few sets of this wonderful game as gifts for the children.

Building blocks can help children learn a lot of  important life skills like creativity and teamwork. And our program aims to use this medium to help children develop strong leadership skills and a responsible and caring attitude for their communities.

Last week we received a new set of Lego games from Arpan Mahajan of Lucknow, India through an Amazon wishlist.  In addition to this, we also received donations from people in Atlanta and New Orleans, United States.

A big thanks to all the wonderful donors who have sent us these lovely gifts – they go a long way into turning our dream to reality!

Just for Kicks turns six!

This year our partner Just for Kicks have achieved a new milestone – completing six years of their unique football leadership programs in India.

 

Six years ago, the founders of Just for Kicks – Neha Sahu and Vikas Plakkot – had envisioned “a world where all children played freely and enjoyed themselves,  while also developing life skills, including basic values, character, leadership skills and an understanding of themselves and their surroundings”.

 

Click here to read about Just For Kicks’ incredible journey and how it all began, or watch the video below.

 

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FOR A YEAR

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