I wrote :
“Because I can. Because I want to be a child again. Because I want to learn how to work with 125 children and understand their quirks, their spectrum of emotions and their thirst for knowledge. Because I want to help them.
Because I want them to help me. Because I am an artist a sportsman or just a person who wants to impart their skills to children. Because I want to have fun! And just play with them. To understand how individuals from different backgrounds are beautiful and interesting and driven, kind and selfless yet naughty and angry and fun. To understand them and let them understand us.
Why me? Because every you can make a million me’s and all of us together want to make a difference.”
Written by Ishita Chaudhry for Music Basti, featured at musicbasti.org
Six years ago, I met a young lady over a cup of coffee. A few features of that meeting stand out in my mind. It was early evening; the lady in question was meticulous, interested, with a cool reserve and friendly interest in exploring not just what was, but the possibilities of what could be. Her notebook, stands out in my mind, for no particular reason, other than the fact that I had nothing to write in and wasn’t quite sure what my answers were going to be, to some serious questions about what The YP Foundation was and how we could work together.
But if you know Faith Gonsalves like I have, the questions are always specific. A blend of curiosity mixed with intent, pure purpose, genuine passion and the seriousness of ability in a conversation that will always challenge you to think and then think again. The stakes are always higher with some people when you work, because they raise the bar, by virtue of how they think the picture can be re-crafted to begin with. They bring a new kind of challenge to the work that you do, force you to move outside your comfort box. They help you grow, in immense outspoken, quiet ways.
Close to nine years of working with more than five hundred young people, in the staffing structure of an organization like TYPF that has worked with over five thousand young people over the past nine years, sometimes it is hard to remember each and every contribution made without needing to peer down the books of memory lane.
Yet sometimes, it isn’t hard to remember at all, for people’s presence is marked so clearly by their contributions, their inimitable footprints in the sand.
When I was 17 years old in 2002 I saw a video on television that I will never forget for as long as I live. It was an image of a group of children being burnt alive in a street in Gujarat, a state in Western India. These children were from Hindu and Muslim communities and they were being burned alive in the name of religious fundamentalism, in one of the worst incidents of state sponsored genocide in India’s history. We were having dinner at my home that day, 3 generations of family sitting together and this was the evening live news coverage.
And later on, when the media asked the Chief Minister of that state, what he thought was the reason for riots between two communities and why the government had done nothing but watch this massacre, I will never forget his response. ‘Every action,’ he said, ‘has an equal and opposite reaction’. It hit me hard, when I read those words that we live in a country with zero accountability. Where government officials can quote Newton’s Third Law of Motion as sufficient justification for communal riots. Where so many of us silently accept the violation of people’s human rights because somewhere, we’ve accepted the idea that we can do nothing.
I was a high school student that year, preparing to give my final year examinations. The images and statements from the riot kept coming back to haunt me. As a young woman, I realized that I was powerless and that I was not alone. Young people constitute 31% of India’s population. That’s 315 million young people in India, who think they have no ability to affect change. Would this be the legacy that we left for future generations to come? That my generation stands and watches silently as people lose their lives?
- Sumaya Saluja, Programme Coordinator
Blending Spectrum began in 2007, on the basis of 3 realizations:
It started out as a fairly simple process. We brought together young people from schools and colleges to work with urban street and slum children across the NCR at three locations - the New Delhi Railway Station, a home for the orphaned and the abandoned run by a partner NGO, and at the Nizamuddin Basti (an urban settlement of a community of rag pickers at large), which was inhabited by 30 families.
Over the past five years, we have progressively increased our involvement with these 250+ children, from providing material resources to help with clothing and shelter, to getting the children into school and helping them with their academics and homework, to finally implementing a Life Skills based education model. The focus is on empowering the community to realize their rights through raising awareness on health, socio cultural and civic issues; building their communication, interpersonal critical thinking skills; developing self management and coping mechanisms while assisting the children in their access to and progress in formal schooling. The approach has involved using interactive mediums such as theatre, dance and art, through a peer to peer educational approach. Three years into the programme, the Global Fund for Children came on board to support the programme as has the NGO Dream A Dream in 2010, as our Curriculum Development Partners.
We learned from the responses given and feedback received from the children and their parents and have developed a response based on what the community identified as their needs. With time and continuous interaction, our understanding of these issues have strengthened, as have our ties with the community.