On the 17th of September, UPAY got creative and held our first ever drawing competition at the Sohna Road centre!
Over 50 students participated in this competition. Our volunteers divided the children into different age groups and handed out papers (and colouring books for the group of children too young to draw) and stationery, and were told that they had one hour to draw something. The only limit? Their own imagination!
The children had been buzzing about the competition since the day before, when our volunteers announced it to them. According to one of our volunteers, Ananya, they were so excited some of them immediately began shouting “Ma’am! I will draw a scenery! Ma’am! I will draw a house!”
Keeping in mind that unlike other events, this was a competition, and only the top three drawings would be awarded a prize, the children worked very hard to create their drawings, and the results did not disappoint. Volunteer Ananya shared, “Some of the works were so neat and beautiful, that we ourselves were surprised to see their talent and creativity.”
And we did!
Children’s creativity is limitless, and there is no cap on their talent either. The competition helped UPAY focus on the wholistic development of the child beyond their academics. Moreover, the children learned an important life skill as they had to work in a competitive environment. Sometimes we must strive beyond our limits in order to get something we want, and this is exactly the opportunity they received. According to our volunteers, the children had a positive spirit about tier competition. Many of the children who did not receive a prize determinedly said, “Ma’am, I will win next time!” And it is exactly this spirit that UPAY wanted to install in the children; to work hard and not be disheartened by failures, but rather learning from them and doing better next time. Given the positive response of the kids, we can expect to conduct many more such competitions in the future!
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
In a nation of 1.3 billion dreams, a large number go unrealized due to lack of opportunities. Providing one such golden chance, UPAY helped its underprivileged students to depict their sporting talent in a friendly event conducted within Gurgaon, titled Khel Yatra.
On a humid sunny morning of 28th August 2017, the kids of our NGO marched enthusiastically to ‘Bend it like Beckham’ on the football field. Conducted at the sports complex of Ansal University, the five-on-a-side soccer tournament involved the participation of 8-12 year old children with teams from 16 leading NGOs within Delhi & NCR region.
Being voluntarily approached by an organization named Jyoti Yatra for their second event (the first was held in April 2017), underlines UPAY’s acceptance as a significant contributor towards the cause of support for the underprivileged. It was our children’s first ever exposure to such an event. For them, it signified a big transition from their chaotic neighbourhoods to a well arranged sports event.
The short but sweet journey began with practice in a coarse temple courtyard (UPAY Sikanderpur Centre) that is also utilized for our weekend classes. As they say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’, our volunteers left no stone unturned to get the children to hone their skills in a setting that could even remotely resemble a sports ground. Considering Gurgaon is an urbane, concrete jungle, managing access to open spaces is itself a feat. Not only this, UPAY also faced the daunting task of convincing the parents of participating children and establishing their trust to let us handle the responsibility of their kids was an achievement in itself. Several practice sessions held at available venues were tutored by Ravi, Ayush and Ashish.
Finally, when the day arrived, our team of 9 children (Bijoy, Sikander, Neha, Vishakha, Anshika, Neha, Sikander, Farrukh and Jumer) strode in confidence to wage their battle. A notable participation from girls, who themselves volunteered, was motivating. While India’s another daughter PV Sindhu was crusading on the badminton court, our girls displayed ample talent here on the field. Our team played three enjoyable matches with more skilled teams, bringing the first to a draw, which is a victory of its own considering lack of prior experience and constrained facilities during practice for them. Their thirst for knowledge was evident in the way they sportingly absorbed the rules of the game and techniques by observing and communicating with their counterparts.
Varun Shrivastava, our Founder, who is based in Nagpur, visited the premises to support and motivate the children to give it their best shot. Successfully coordinated by Aishwarya, the event saw the presence of our energetic volunteers, Akanksha (who was also accompanied by her husband, Manoranjan), Akhil, Ayush, Mukesh, Harsha, Mithila and Lekha.
It is often said that certain things are understood better once experienced and UPAY sincerely hopes that this event gives more clarity to the vision of little dreams that may have been limited until now by the lack of an actual experience!
This Rakshabandhan, UPAY joined hands with Khushiyan – Connecting Helping Hands to hold a Rakhi making workshop at UPAY’s Sohna Road centre. The children were treated to a special class where they learned how to make rakhis. This idea was formulated by Rohit Gupta, Khushiyan President. The objective of this workshop was to engage the children in an activity that would encourage their individuality through a structured project that is fun for the children. The children had an opportunity to exercise their creativity as they made colorful and quirky rakhis, with the help and guidance of Khushiyan and UPAY volunteers.
Khushiyan brought materials and over fifty children were divided into groups. They made beautiful rakhis, and visibly enjoyed the activity. “They were happy and excited,” says Shivani, an UPAY volunteer. “Every child is gifted. Through such workshops, they receive the opportunity to showcase their talent.”
Anshul Gaur, UPAY’s Gurgaon operations Head said, “Such workshops are important for children as they provide a break in the normal, everyday studying. Extra-curriculars that promote not only the creativity of children but also such festivals greatly contribute to the child’s development. And of course, the children thoroughly enjoy it!”
Though this was Khushiyan’s first workshop with us, they have donated stationery at UPAY centres in the past. Given the fruitful experience that both the our volunteers and the children had, we hope to conduct many more such activities in the future. Apart from our Reach and Teach classes, it’s great to give the children an opportunity to learn other skills in an interactive and engaging manner! Happy Rakshabandhan!
UPAY [Under Privileged Advancement by Youth] is a NGO registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (Reg No: Maharashtra/268/2011/Bhandara).
Its aim is to educate children of under privileged section of society & make them self dependent . Every year hundreds of street children , child beggars , slum area’s children and students from rural areas are being mentored and educated at 17 centers across the country. more than 1100 underprivileged children are enrolled in UPAY. Apart from Education to the under privileged , UPAY has also started an e-commerce initiative Apnasaaman.com to provide the employment opportunity for the women folks of rural India. our other initiatives are footpath shala for baggers and street children , Granth on Rath mobile library for poor students.
To create a platform for socially inclined individuals to be a part of Nation Building. To bring school in form of FootPath Shaala in the lives of children living in slums, begging on red-lights and roaming around.
For several reasons like fear of getting kidnaped, girls-safety, lack of awareness etc. they never ever think of sending them to school.
Through FootPath Shaalas, we are solving this problem, we are giving them the first experience of education, so that they are in a position to appreciate any further opportunity better.