In the months of September and October, children and volunteers of Make A Difference, across India, participated in the global phenomenon that is Design For Change. DFC is a platform which encourages children to identify, find solutions and implement solutions to fix their own environments, thereby changing their own worlds.
Ever thought that a child cannot do something this momentous? Well, then you’re about to be proved wrong! Thousands upon thousands of children across the world (33 countries, this year) have participated in Design for Change, and by being the extraordinary talents they are, they’ve changed the world we live in, some way or the other!
At MAD, we were excited by the possibilities. So were our volunteers, and so were our children. A bevy of projects were implemented up and down the country. We were awed, inspired, shocked at times by how aware our kids were about the issues surrounding them!
The children took to it so fast that some of us had trouble keeping up. (One particular group came up with 80 ideas for DFC!) In fact, there were so many that we decided to organise a small internal competition to celebrate the best of the best of the best!
Over the course of this week and the next, we’ll be bringing to you the stories of those who stood out from amongst the rest. These are MAD’s superheroes. The volunteers and children who inspire us day in, day out!
We started off our campaign for DFC this year with 29 topics to choose from. The kids were aware of so many problems we would never think of . They were talking about the water problem, garbage probles, Corruption , Suicides and I was shocked to see the kids touching upon untouchability and racism.
Our initial get-together was a brainstorming session; we had no idea where to start our campaign. The kids suggested that we could go and talk to different families, and show them how they (the kids) are treated at the center they live at and what impact education makes in their lives.
Then we thought “What an idea Sirji”.
Implementation Week: Day 1:
We had to come up with an area where we could go to for the implementation part. We had options like Secunderabad, Bowenpally and Mettuguda. But after brainstorming with the kids, we decided to go to Sitafalmandi(I am not sure whether I spelled it right though :P).
This place was chosen mainly because it is nearer to the Meedibavi Centre and so it’d be comfortable for the girls to join there!
We then took an auto to the Sitafalmandi railway station. There we found a few kids running about – some of them were girls. We went to them and started talking and asked whether they wanted to study – we got mixed responses. So, Anand and Sushil talked to them about the benefits of education.
Meanwhile, a couple of parents gathered around and wanted to know more about how their kids can get access to education. After telling them about how life is at centers like Thara, Meedibavi, Lalapet and the others, a couple of parents were really enthusiastic about enrolling their kids there.
Now, these people are HOMELESS, living under the flyovers without a roof above their head. A lady in particular got really emotional about not wanting her two girls to lead such a life. She wanted a safe environment for her kids to learn. The other parents were not so easily convinced, not willing to part with their children, no matter what.
After Anand and Sushil clarified a lot of doubts, they were ready to enroll FOUR girls aged 8 – 12, in the Meedibavi Centre right then! We all got super excited, but sadly, we got to know that the incharge at Meedibavi had left for the day. So we had to wait till the next day to put these kids in the center.
Well, apart from the four girls, parents of about FIVE boys also wanted to put their kids in our centers. But our luck started to run out towards the end, when a drunk father on knowing that his wife is going to put their child in a school, got really agitated and started abusing us and wanted us to go away. We had to leave, but thankfully, we managed to sneak back in there and give the addresses of the centers and contact numbers to the others!
We took Anand, Anil Chary and Arvind to visit Lalapet area. We walked about for a while and found ourselves at the doorsteps of a couple of huts. We went in we found 3 small children and a mother feeding them. We told her about the campaign and what a girl child by being educated can do to this society.
We talked to her for about 15 minutes and gave her the contact number and left. We hoped that she’d think about it, and give her children a chance to excel.
And on we marched until we reached a hamlet. There we did not say anything; we just started taking photos, and approx. ten people surrounded us. They were afraid that we were from the government, press or police. We told them we are from MAD and told them about the initiative we have taken.
They were really excited about the possibility of their children studying in English medium. There were about 4 girls, out of which one had stopped studying after 5th.
We told them the benefits of a girl studying by telling them examples of many Indian women such as Kalpana Chawla. After 20 minutes it was something like a speech going on and it was getting dark but still people were listening to us. We gave them our contact number and left.
The action continued; search was “on” for girls in slums and at traffic signals. The red, amber and green light which would hold the crowd from charging down the roads also held at bay the education of many children (girls as well as boys). *Honk*Honk* After crossing several signals, we found a few girls who weren’t enrolled in any school.
We were near Secunderabad Railway Station, at a slum in Bowenpally. Our pro-active center kids were more than excited to help. They spoke to the girls and their parents regarding girl education. The conversation went on for a long time and the kids (with the help of the volunteer) tried hard to convince them. The people agreed to educate their children, but were hesitant to send them away.
It was a little disappointing but we left them the number of the center authority of Meedibavi so that in case they changed their mind they could enroll the children.
It became dark and cloudy but we went on. And then it suddenly started to rain. At this clueless moment, when I told the kids that we should go back to the center since they may fall sick, the response I received from them was overwhelming. The kids said, “we have come this far and there is no point going back and coming since we may miss someone today”.
And on we went. Yet. Day 4 ended on a barren note. But the search itself, and the enthusiasm on offer was reward enough!
So after a week we were actually touched when we found out that 13 girl students were newly enrolled in our center. The parents were really happy to hear that their kids would be taught free of cost.
The awesome thing about DFC is that it brings the best out of the kids. A child who talks very seldom in our class was one of THE MOST active through the campaign.
DESIGN FOR CHANGE was quite the inspirational movement. We, the Lalapet Center volunteers learned a lot from the kids about how much they cared. They showed us that they are more than capable of changing the world these last few days!.