What I learnt when I started to teach…

Contributed by: Pooja Singh
Dated: 23rd March, 2014

Context - Pooja Singh has been a ProjectKHEL beneficiary since December 2012. One of the 16 inmates of Lucknow Children’s Home, Pooja joined our team as a Community Coordinator in December 2013. Pooja regularly conducts KHEL sessions at a larger government girls shelter home as well as at a slum. Her experience as a beneficiary and now as a coordinator gives her a unique perspective and ability to connect with the children, especially the girls. She has started writing about her experiences as a coordinator. We hope this is just the first of a series of posts by her.

Translation – translated from Hindi to English  by Elin Nelson – A ProjectKHEL volunteer from the United States who was in Lucknow studying Hindi and Urdu :-)

Click on the photo to enlarge and read in Hindi.

Ever since I joined KHEL, I have learnt a lot and seen many changes in myself. At first I discriminated a lot against uncleanliness, for example, if where I am was dirty or someone else was dirty, I would become disgusted. (RBG and Ehsaas have a mixed group of children, some who know to keep clean and some who don’t. The cleaner ones do not always wish to involve the dirtier ones in the game.) But if I tell the children not to discriminate like this, first I myself will have to try not to do that. This time when I went from my college to the slums, I had no problem adjusting there, even though there was a lot of filth there. If I want to teach someone else something, I must first practice that myself.

Whenever I have too many problems or tension, I think about why my life is like this. I feel really bad, and think “why did this happen to me?” but when I met these children, I realized that there are a lot of people who have many more problems in their lives than I do. If these children are able to be happy in their own lives, why can’t I be happy in mine? I get inspiration from all of them. (Pooja is a resident at a shelter home for girls from broken families, abandoned, orphaned or families which cannot support the upbringing of a child)

I interacted with some girls (At RBG, where there are a lot of girls abandoned by their boyfriends after eloping from home. Some of them were very young but already pregnant. Some had run away from home due to disagreement with family.) who had run away from home and come here, but when they got here, they didn’t like it. Anyway, I had never thought about running away nor will I ever think about it. I had always heard over and over that we shouldn’t have run away but when I saw the shelter home they were living in, I quickly understood that running away from somewhere would be very bad because now they don’t have a home to go back to.

Why my job is bigger than my Pay Cheque

Contributed by: Angana Prasad
Dated: 3rd May, 2014

Lately, I have felt some “you can do better than this” pressure from loved ones. It doesn’t feel great to keep explaining my choices all the time but this time I am in no mood to give in to the pressures. They say ‘ find a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life’ … I think I am lucky enough to have found it in my very first job, so there is no way I am giving it up for these ‘societal’ pressures.

I have been working for the last year and a half and I know that every day I feel the same kind of motivation as I did on my first day. This might partly be true because I am a passionate person but more so because I am made to feel each day that my work loves me just as much I love it back. There is a lot of respect and credit that we give to each other’s opinions and experiences within the team, which is truly amazing, considering that our team comprises a bunch of freshers. I have heard how my friends say “office mein der tak rukna padta hai” or “yeh karna parta hai” or “woh karna parta hai” and luckily enough I never had the “karna parta hai” feeling with my job. We choose our own work time, choose tasks based on interests and set personal deadlines for internal tasks. If a task is not done, we happily work till late to get done with it. No one needs to impose anything on anyone. There is a lot of freedom to expression. Healthy discussions remain healthy and honest till the end, even if the team is in disagreement with the boss.

Talking about the awesome work culture, it goes without saying that the boss has to be equally awesome. I am sure getting us to understand and internalise such a unique culture based on trust, freedom and responsibility was a big chore. I remember how stupid Son (colleague) and I were at things, but he kept his patience and now we’re both totally awesome too. The outcome of this is there is a sense of ownership today which has been encouraged right from the beginning, even when we didn’t understand what he was talking about. Today ProjectKHEL is as much mine as it is of the founders who started it. I think of it as MY organization and every decision or innovation I make in the regular processes or new initiatives is based out of honest intentions. We all have the space to come up with ideas, try out new things and propose alternatives to existing practices. If it works, good and if it doesn’t, we move on. No blaming, no crying, no consequences. I have friends who are working in liberal work cultures and get their own share of creative space, but I do not know of ANYONE else who gets as much space as we do.

Right since school I wanted to do something about menstrual hygiene, thanks to this culture, I am able to do it now. I loved theatre, I got to introduce Life Skills Education through theatre. I was interested in doing Child Sexual Abuse related sessions with kids, I get to do it through ProjectKHEL. Anything and everything we have done and are continuing to do is a brain child of a colleague which the rest of team works together to execute. That’s the awesomeness of our team.

All the efforts that we put in office work has impacts and we see them every day. Every process that we have adapted and every aspect of our approach has an impact. When a rag picking kid from Shram Vihar washes his face before coming to the session, because didi-bhaiya had asked them to do so, it is impact. When an older kid walks up to teach a Volleyball move to a new one, without us having to ask for it, that is impact. When one girl squats on the floor with no clue of her under wear showing and the other one corrects her without laughing because we have taught her to sit properly and keep an eye on how others are sitting, we know we have made an impact.

The other day a child abused another one, realised that didi-bhaiya are around and said sorry immediately, that is the change we have made, because he was the same child who until yesterday wouldn’t think twice before hurling abuses before an elder and now he knows that he should not. We experience little moments of such happiness everyday and we know it for a fact that it is because of US. These are things we observe that has happened because of what we are giving and when we start receiving our individual returns, there is no feeling that can match up to it.

Earlier this week, a kid approached me with some personal questions about myself and it turned out that she was to write some lines about the person who she admires the most and she had chosen…. me!! I have no exact word for the emotion I felt at that time but I could only smile back sheepishly. I was happy and maybe a little more than just happy. I was a picky kid and for all inspiring and admiring person essays, I would end up writing about my mother because I barely thought anyone else was good enough. Today, a child has written about me!!

Some time back, I missed a session with one of our beneficiary groups and when I went there next, a little girl came up saying she missed me and doesn’t like it when I am not around. I was touched. There are so many of us coordinators, who visit sessions, all of who are equally good and likeable and yet a day that I don’t turn up, it matters to a kid and she expresses it… and not just me, the other coordinators also get to experience the same kind of love from our children. In fact, at a few of our partner location, the children still ask about Son and Arnab who have now left the team; at one place they refuse to play until Abhinandan bhaiya comes; when Pooja comes to any of our locations after a gap there is a mini-celebration of sorts!!

Writing this post and sharing just a few of the numerous moments that have meant so much to me makes me even more aware of what my job has given me and why no pay cheque can ever match up to these ‘perks’ ! Thank you ProjectKHEL!!