Volunteer speaks – First Day at UPAY

I was very excited when I got the opportunity to join as a volunteer at UPAY, all thanks to Harsha and Rashmi Didi who considered me as a volunteer at electronic city Shikaripalya village, it is  such a good chance to share your knowledge with the children of your own locality, where there is so much need to educate the younger ones. It feels great.

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I am a second year student, studying diploma in electronics and communication engineering.

My first day was very good since I had no experience in teaching, I learnt how to handle the  younger kids, their ideas and behaviour.
We began the first class with prayer followed by  some simple physical exercises then we began with academics.  First task was to write their names, then teaching them basic letters, and numbers. We even had few games which were very interesting for the kids as it helped them to enhance their listening skills, concentration power and also a physical activity.

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There can be nothing better in this world more than sharing our knowledge.  Because when we spread knowledge it increases our own knowledge as well. My experience was great and I hope in the coming days we progress to a very high level.

– By Shaziya Banu

Success Story of a Super-girl from Mouda

I am born – the child says.

It is a joyous moment, the parents say.

Are you happy – the child asks

The parents reply – you are our star.

The child asks again – are you poor?

The parents look at each other and feel the fear.

They are disheartened and feeling the pain but decided not to give up and work for the gain.

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Taniya – The Star Child

This is the story of a family living in Wadoda village, Mouda district, Maharashtra.

Amongst all the difficulties, Mr Sandip Gupta is working single handedly to make both ends meet. He runs a kirana shop earning barely Rs 8000/month. He says that he is always motivated due to the consistent support provided by her wife Mrs Sarita Gupta. Despite all the odds, they pledged to educate all their 3 daughters. They did not succumb to the hardships and toiled hard to get the best for their family. They believe that education is the best investment that can be made and would definitely reap results.

This year when the SSC Maharashtra results were declared, their daughter Taniya Gupta passed with flying colours securing 94.6%. This was a moment of immense proud and joy for her parents.

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Taniya’s SSC Score Card

Taniya says that she has special love for mathematics and is very keen with solving algebraic problems. When asked about her success, she dedicates the entire success to her hard earning parents and to the UPAY mentors at Wadoda centre. Taniya is associated with UPAY since 7th class. She says that she was always motivated by her mentors at UPAY who were always ready to guide and help her with all the possible resources. She conveys her special regards to the teachers who have whole heartedly worked up for her and her fellow classmates and helped them achieve the dreams they thought of never being a reality as she scored a perfect 99 in Mathematics. With this support, she now aims to dream bigger and has started preparing to get into IIT. She is fully confident that the consistent guidance will help her achieve her goal and will prepare her for greater challenges of life.

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Taniya (Second from right) with her Teacher and classmatesMith

Rightly said by someone – “Educate a women socially, you educate an entire generation”. UPAY team would specially thank her mother Mrs Sarita Gupta, who against all the societal pressure, did not give up on her daughter’s education and made her reach the top of the ladder.

In today’s scenario when there are all the talks about “Missing Women” and “Unwanted girl child” as highlighted in the economic survey, examples like above prove to be a motivation which says it all that “where there is a will, there is a way”.

Truly said and felt “Give them roots to grow and wings to fly”. Taniya’s family provided her the firm roots to grow and the UPAY mentors provided her the wings to fly and here is where she stands today- CONFIDENT AND PROUD

– By Mithila Malhotra

Anju Mam’s journey at Artemis center – struggle & success of Footpathshala

I joined UPAY last year with a goal to utilize my leisure time in a more productive  manner. I am thrilled to share that today three children were enrolled at a nearby government primary school ,one girl in middle school and hopefully two will start going to the school again after a gap of one year. All thanks to the “Upayians” for encouragement and support. I couldn’t stop myself writing down my journey today, as enrolling these children to the school was the ultimate goal !
What you focus on in your mind will always set the course for your life, whether it is positive or negative, success or failure, victory or defeat. I strongly believe this!!
So, my first day.. wasn’t really as I had pictured for, maybe an enclosed area with broken furnitures and all that. I landed up at a slum, so this is “Artemis Upay Center” and the motto was “Footpathshala”. Came to know through other volunteers that many families have moved away from there, this being a very normal feature. We planned to visit the centre after a week.
Expecting to find some kids in the slum, I visited exactly after ten days. That was the day when actually my journey at Upay started. Had to go to their tents to call them, reminding to wash their hands and feet before coming to the class and all.This going and calling and sometimes convincing parents lasted for a couple of days.Then I think I was a regular feature in their lives! Still remember I managed to gather 10 children on the first day and taught them some alphabet and numbers’ recognition, then ended up playing ringa ringa roses.
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We preferred a nearby plot as the number of children increased. By this time the kids also started looking forward for the classes as we were sharing quality time through cultural and sports activities, story time, exchanging our learning with other reputed school going children,(Shalom Hills International School) practical knowledge of how to save our planet, taking care of oneself and also others, sharing stationeries etc.
In conclusion, this was a new learning experience for me, sometimes tough and the other time exciting as well as challenging..in short this is contentment!!
Now a new chapter begins..as I am joining sec57 Center!”
– Anju Pandey ( Centre Head, UPAY)

My first day at UPAY – Lavitra Garg

My First Day at UPAY Sikendarpur Center, Gurugram

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It was my first day of visit to the Sikendarpur Center, a day just after I had landed back from Europe.

The approach to the Center and the place itself was nowhere near my imagination of a school. The approach road to the Center gave a rural look which was in sharp contrast with the urban set up of the adjoining sector road. The makeshift school was actually a premise of a small temple in the area.
When I first reached there I saw a bunch of children (about 40 of them) in age group 6-12 years sitting on a mat and busy with their stuff. I was slightly surprised to see the engagement of these kids, well some of them, with their work on a hot summer afternoon when the temperatures were soaring to 40 degree Celsius.

Now this was the turning point of my mindset- I thought I am here to guide and inspire the kids but here I was getting inspired by the will power of this youngsters.

As soon as I got there, I thought I will have a round of introduction before I start with my “teaching” but to my surprise I saw the kids flocking around me all wanting to have the attention and getting their works checked. They were keen to have next tasks.
With this to and fro with different kiddos I didn’t realise its already 90 mins I have been here. Its then I realised there were already two more adults (my co volunteers) in the “Class”. Reena mam , the teacher at Center, announced it is time for closure of the class. The kids were all excited with the announcement and were raring to go back home. Its then some “teacher like” commands from Reena mam came in handy. She commanded the kids to form queues for the closing prayer. It was a task to have the kids organised specially the ones like Raju who was full of energy. But it was Reena mam knowing the trick and having Raju as one of the head kids to lead the prayer ritual. I was impressed
with the maturity of few girls who exercised command on younger kids and brought a complete order in the class. The day was culminated with the National Anthem.
Here I was at the end of first day and was already looking forward to the next day to be here.

– Lavitra Garg

From Thought to Action: Launching a new center in Gurgaon

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

There can be nothing worse for UPAY than discontinuation of a functional center. As the slums of Sec-51 were cleared by urban development authorities, our beloved center ceased to exist overnight as the students had to migrate.

Setting the context. My journey with UPAY started in around early March, 2018 and I had opted to teach as a volunteer on weekends in Sec-51. In my first day at induction, I came to understand that the center had stopped existing since a couple of months and the center head also had to change cities. Our zonal team encouraged me to stay with Sec-51 center as they hoped to restart the center and directly monitor it themselves in the interim while they identified a new center head.

Survey, the first step. Our zonal director Akanksha and zonal operations secretary Akhil had identified another slum near the location of the older center. They decided to kick it off with a quick survey to get a pulse of the area. As I tagged along with them for the survey, I got a strong reality check of how tough this job might be. It takes an immense amount of courage (which I completely lacked at the onset) to step in the midst of a group who have a completely different cultural mindset and talk about your vision. I think crossing this threshold of influencing and convincing people who are already seeing you as an outsider is the most critical step of the process. Thanks to the experience of our zonal team and their backing, I got that confidence and tried to talk about it. To my utter surprise, the group seemed very keen and we were even questioned about possibilities of setting classes every day instead of just weekends to be more effective. We surveyed about 15-20 families and the survey ended up being a great success. As we walked away from the slum, I noticed a few kids watching us with hopeful eyes. I was filled with optimism and encouragement. Somehow the fear in my mind subsided to be replaced by a vision, a vision to make this center a success.

The day of survey

Learning to teach. The next day was a Sunday and we had plans to kick-start the center from the next weekend. There was another thought which kept bugging me. I was going to be the first teacher at my center and I did not know the first thing about handling kids of those age groups and from a completely different background which I had never even come close to experiencing. I thought of visiting another, more established center to see how exactly are the kids handled and taught. This experience was completely out of the world for me. As I went to a nearby center which had been running for over a year, I was taken aback when I was wished a series of ‘Good-mornings’ and an immense level of discipline among the kids, especially the slightly older ones. I always had a strong sense of pity for such kids but for the first time that day, I had a strange respect for them. I was mesmerized by the sheer degree of impact that a systematic educational process can create for anyone. Every single kid of that center seemed to be filled with a sense of empowerment and optimism. I learnt quite a lot that day.

 

Learning from Sohna Road Center

Kicking off. As we neared the first day of our center, I started developing cold feet and began to question myself if I could do it. Once again, Akanksha and Akhil helped me out there. Their confidence proved to be really motivating. As I, Akhil and another experienced volunteer, Sanjiv made our way into the slums, we split ourselves to reach different parts of the slum and call them to a nearby park that we had identified as our center’s location. Although we were only set out to teach kids over four years old, a lot of the kids had to come with their younger siblings as their parents were off to work. To be very honest, these kids were completely different from the ones I had met in the other center. Some of them kept running and playing around without paying any heed to us while some of them were half-clothed and kept shouting out abuses. Thanks to Akhil and Sanjiv’s experience, in a few minutes, we managed to get them in a straight line and tried to break ice with them with a few games. I realized immediately that mere weekend classes were not going to be enough. I needed to come a few weekdays as well in the initial few days to maintain a continuity and eventually win their trust. Over the next few day, I made them play creative and educational games to try to build a rapport with them. Every day was a new learning for me and I went home wiser.

The first class (a clumsy one!)

Getting organized…

The Next Steps. We recently installed a white-board and the UPAY banner in our center, which is nothing more than a modest space under a tree. But, when the kids come and sit there, a strange liveliness gets instilled in the place. It is almost as if a blank canvas just got painted with colors of all kind. We recently appointed a salaried teacher who, thanks to her experience, is wonderful at managing the kids. I keep visiting the center from time to time now. The journey with UPAY till now has taught me a lot about life and more than anything, about myself. As we plan out of our future path to open more centers while sustaining the existing ones, we are sure to be met with different kinds of challenges at each turn but with every passing day, I am getting increasingly more confident that things will eventually work out for the best as nothing can dampen UPAY’s motivation to nurture the next bunch of kids!

-Nayrhit Bhattacharya (Center Head, Sec-57 Center)

Planning the way ahead…