Plain cold water that allows you to jump and splash, that gets you so wet that you get goose bumps, get refreshed and don’t care about language or age, you have fun.
After much deliberation at Blending Spectrum, we decided to have a day of pure fun, and introduce paints to the children we work with. It’s a big achievement for us in the project. We NEVER take paints. But the simple logic of water+ paints+ fun+ colour = us won out. We also had interns Hannah and Jess work with us from the University of Birmingham observing how we taught life skills and crafting geography lesson plans for class. Taking a break with colours seemed like a super fun and slightly ridiculous idea.
Blending Spectrum is a project that connects urban young people through a peer-to peer community interaction with street and slum children with the aim of increasing sensitivity between street and slum children and the urban youth. Blen Spec, as we affectionately call it, provides healthcare and non-formal education (including Life Skills Education), building the potential of children with limited access to opportunities.
The project works in two locations, the Nizamuddin Basti and the Umeed Home for Boys with partner Aman Biradari in South Delhi respectively. Blending Spectrum currently supports over 130 street and slum children. In the past two years, we have supported 110 children transition into mainstream education by equipping them with basic knowledge of Math and English, with a 0% drop out rate. Blending Spectrum is currently supported in part by the Global Fund for Children.
Coming back to paints. I don’t know whether I was shocked or surprised by the way children reacted to the paints. I have never seen them so engrossed in class, beautifully attempting to draw something on their white sheets. Usually it’s the battle of crayons and rolls of sheet thrown about. This was completely different. Maybe it was due to Hannah and Jess, with whom they interacted really well with, or the charm of the paints, or the artists within each of them. I have no clue. By the end of the day, we got completely wet and I discovered that it didn’t matter whether it was paint or water.
Children love you more when you are not afraid to have fun.
– Chandini Gochhayat
Language. A barrier.
“Is this your first time at Nizammudin? Will you come again?”
Their first questions and I can’t answer.
Still, taking the hand of a little girl, we’re soon singing our way to the park outside Humayun’s Tomb. Gathered on a hillock, Chandini didi rallies the troops and when their raucous squeals crescendo to an unbearable pitch, Chandini emits a scream that outdoes theirs and shocks them into obedience.
I observe the ‘energising exercise’ from behind the camera. It is peaceful here – almost safe.
But soon paint pots are distributed and painting day begins. It looks too fun to miss out on, so I relinquish my role as observer and join a circle of artists. I love getting paint on my hands. Our pallet is bright and soon I have scribbled a cluster of trees under a sunny sky. Another painter, who poses to be photographed with her artwork, soon claims my picture.
The boys are playing with a football and I fold a paper aeroplane for them. We chase the ball and the plane into the waterlogged grass. I look around. Our elation has attracted a gaggle of spectators – all smiling as though they are living the fun we are having. And soon the paints are abandoned in favour of spouting water, splashing games and children cleaning up.
Water – pure life, pure fun. Later a young man approaches the volunteers. He wants to volunteer too. He sees how rewarded we feel, realizes the importance of the child, seeks the satisfaction of investing in the young.
– Jessica Zausmer
The selfish barrier of language on our part proved to be a problem, sometimes even a little frustrating! Nevertheless I managed to be included with the painting and playful games. They were eager to copy and learn new things, getting me to write out numbers and telling them what they were. They looked for reassurance on their drawings, as if they using their own ideas could be wrong. This was the furthest possible from the truth, as I was encouraging them to draw from their own imagination.
Approaching the nearby broken sprinkler primarily to wash their hands, obviously the simple fountain soon turned into a bathing/splashing occasion for all genders and ages! The children were very patient but always wanted to be involved with the activities that were going on around them.
I found the way the Basti children were unfazed by the lingering on-looking men, surprising in contrast to how it made me feel. They showed me that the men were just as inquisitive as the children to begin with; this made me forget about the countless stares, recognising the lack of interaction people at the Basti may have had with foreigners, in particular young women like Jess and me.
Building bridges and breaking away from the norm was a positive experience and hopefully broke some barriers that may or may not have been there. We helped alongside Blending Spectrum’s tremendous work.
– Hannah Gale