A famous Chinese philosopher Confucius said “Study the past if you would define the future”. With thoughts like these in mind, we, the Gurgaon team of UPAY , reached Nagpur on 12th August for the Annual Meet of UPAY, where our members from Nagpur, Pune and Gurgaon centers were to meet. This is where every year, the members of the whole Upay team reflect on their journey, learn from each other’s experiences and take steps to improve in the future.
The Commencement of Day 1
First there was a brief speech cum discussion with respective functional directors about the major happenings in the past year, which started with Director operations, followed by Director of Finance and then Director of Administration. Afterwards, the annual report of UPAY was presented by the Director of Admin. We reflected on our previous journey, and celebrated the achievements of the past.
We then went to Mouda, which is about 40 kms from Nagpur, which is where the centres modelled on ‘Reach and Teach’ are located and where all the events of that day were to take place. Entering that place was like entering the NGO equivalent of the world of ‘Narnia’, where lay most of the magical solutions to our problems. Since Upay Gurgaon is relatively newer, the difficulties which we are currently facing are the same which they faced in their initial phase. They had already implemented a solution for most of it, and what was left for us was to watch and learn.
The Learnings Begin…
In the words of one of children’s favourite character Winnie the Pooh, ‘Sometimes the smallest things take up most room in our heart’. The first thing we noticed, even before entering, were the neatly lined up slippers outside the centres, left by children who were studying inside. This was an indication of the discipline and values that have already been instilled in the children who are living in slums and our studying at our centres
Once inside, we saw the children were segregated according to their levels of education into different classrooms. This made it easier for the volunteers to both handle the children and to make them effectively study. They had also maintained a diary to keep a record of the volunteers and the children attending the classes, and their in and out timings. This helped in tracking the progress of the children, and to keep a record of the active volunteers.
Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first….
The whole centre worked like a perfect organisation. There was a process for every thing, and just like a person who achieves maturity and wisdom with age, and to whom everyone looked forward for guidance, this centre served exactly the same purpose for us. We also learnt about The Parents- Teachers meet which they conducted once a month. We realized that in order to achieve our aim and successfully attend our classes, we had to be involved not only with the children but also with the parents. The parents needed regular feedback on how their children were progressing, how they can contribute towards their development and also what their children can achieve if shown the right direction.
Swachh Centre Abhiyan and team spirit…
Another noteworthy thing was that after the classes, both the volunteers and children cleaned their centres. This was one of the best ways to teach children to maintain cleanliness and hygiene.
There was also one event, known as Balsabha, which they conduct every month at every centre. This is where they conduct plays, or dance competitions. The point is to instill the feeling of a ‘team’ in the children, and to teach them discipline in creative ways. When we asked the children why do you visit these centres in your free time, the reply we got was that they enjoy a lot, especially in such events, and there is nowhere they would rather be. This is a major milestone in the journey of Upay, and which we are yet to cross, but surely will.
The slumdog millionaires who were rich in hygiene and heart…
The next day we visited the Footpath-Shala centre in Santra Market, Nagpur. The area was far from clean, but entering the centre felt like a different world. The first thing we noticed about the children was the discipline. The children were all well behaved and well mannered, and got up for the greetings when we went there. They had all come there after washing their hands and faces. For us, this was a major accomplishment on their part, a major hurdle crossed, since handling children from slums at our Footpathshalas, who have never been to school, is one of our main challenges. This got us curious as to what was the magic solution for making them this well mannered
Chicken Soup for the Soul
To quote Natalie babbitt, an English author, ‘Like all magnificent things, it(the solution) is very simple’. The key was to make them interested in our classes, to ignite the flame of learning in children who have never seen or known about the insides of a school. The main points, which they had followed, and which we are about to implement are-
- For 3 months, instead of teaching theoretical part, get to know the children. Form a relationship with them, get to know about their life, so that they look forward to you visiting the centre
- In these 3 months, use meditation, and creative poems. Make them learn through gestures.
At their centre, the teacher was reciting poems, along with the gestures, and the children were all repeating it in unison, while at the same time imitating their teacher. Making all the children involved was the key. Here too, the concept and implementation of Parents Teacher meetings, and Balsabha helped a lot in carrying out the classes successfully
The End of the Beginning
At the end of both Day 1 and 2, we had a very encouraging and fruitful conversation with our founder Varun Srivastava. The main takeaway from that talk was that it was a 2 way communication that we needed to have with children. Also, we sometimes had to be a little strict with the children, for their own good, since sometimes it does get difficult to handle all the children. We also needed to appoint regular teachers at our centres, to make the children more disciplined and carry out an everlasting impact
He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying. – Friedrich Nietzsche
True to this quote,we have learnt to walk and run, and with our learnings from this wonderful 2 day meeting, we will be flying very soon. The learnings from this event will surely last a lifetime
– Tanay Sareen