In March Asha, Anil and Arun – three of our Open Schoolers – went on a learning excursion to Rajasthan. Rachael Hammerlein, US citizen with a deep affection for India and a dear friend of mine, accompanied them. Their first stop was at The Barefoot College in Tilonia and from there they went up north to Sardarshahr to attend the Learning Societies Unconference Conference (LSUC).
LSUC seeks to bring together all kinds of people who are co-creating diverse learning communities, sustainable learning spaces, creative un/learning processes, decolonization tools, etc. for new models of happiness, well-being, localization and swaraj. It goes way beyond of the ideas of a “regular” school. Those who attend are walkouts, alternative educators, home schoolers, un-schoolers, world schoolers, cultural creatives, artists, designers, healers, organic farmers, eco-architects, spiritual explorers, giftivists and community-builders, grandmothers and traditional knowledge holders, social entrepreneurs, ecologists, etc.
The LSUC is a four-day gathering that happens every two years, I believe. This year it took place in Sardarshahr, Rajashan at the Gandhi Vidya Madhir. The Gandhi Vidya Mandir was established on Ghandhian ideas in 1950 and is considered as Indian’s first rural university.
A colourful and diverse group of people. I thought it would be a great opportunity for our kids to experience this kind of event. Each of our rural changemakers attended individual workshops of their interest and they worked together on group projects.
And we have to admit that getting to the location was a learning in it’s own given we had to navigate local long distance buses. We all worked together in transporting the luggage, locating the right bus and helping each other to find seats.
Day 1 MARCH 4
The whole day from 8am to 7pm were group programs. Everyone attended the “LSUC met” as a large group to sing songs and listen to talks about the spirit of LSUC. We worked in circle shares to discuss the “journeys” that have brought us all together.
FROM THIS WE LEARNED THE IMPORTANCE OF BRINGING TOGETHER A LARGE GROUP WITH A SHARED MISSION/GOAL WHILE GIVING ROOM FOR THE INDIVDUAL EXPRESSION.
Day 2 MARCH 5
Asha attended various workshops: mural making, classical India singing and making crafts with bamboo strips.
Her choice to attend the singing workshop propelled to a stage performance later. She stepped on stage and rapped her story in front of hundreds of people. The story Asha shared, expressed the difficulties she faced/is facing as a female taking steps in directions of education/skating/moving out of her village. By sharing her story with everyone she was able to connect with a large/live group about her undertaking of overcoming obstacles. This built personal relations that later served to share the work of the rural changemakers.
The process of developing voice/story is part of Asha’s work with the children of Janwaar. She is assisting the children in seeing that they have a story and she is exploring the ways how they will understand their stories, develop their voice and discover new ways to share those stories in order to change their lives.
Rachael feels the question of “how can it be applied in Janwaar” is best answered by reviewing with Asha her experience/process and how that personal experience/process can be rendered into her awareness of her current activities/new program development for the children of Janwaar.
Then Asha attended a mural making workshop. The idea of making a mural map of Janwaar can translate into many projects for the children that the children can work on right now! Having the children draw maps of the village would be a great starting point.
Rachael will look for a lesson plan and questions for thoughts and actions of exploration for this.
The bamboo-weaving lesson gave Asha the opportunity to learn the skill and to make cost effective/easy crafts that can be sold in Janwaar/Delhi to earn money for the NGO. If bamboo is available in Janwaar (yes it is!) there are certainly crafts that can be made from local material and a market developed for selling.
It took time to go through the workshops with Anil to find one that was of interest to him. He was happy to attend the guitar workshop and learned a new strumming technique. He sat with a group of 10-12 people sharing and learning.
Rachael feels that Anil’s study of an instrument is super healthy for him and gives him another tool for expression and development. Although we don’t know how this workshop can translate to a program in Janwaar we do feel it was a good experience for Anil. The re-connection with the ADDA group from Delhi was a positive one and can grow once the lockdown is lifted.
Arun took the responsibility for taking photographs. He really did hold the camera close and was willing to take responsibility to be the camera man. He showed confidence in taking photos but could use more disciple and perhaps training. This was the first time I spent with Arun and we talked about his interest in photography and I can see in many of the photos that he is taking he is keeping up the practice and is willing to learn.
Conducted a skateboarding workshop for a wide age range of participants. WE HAD THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SETTING THE TIME AND PLACE FOR THE WORKSHOP BOTH ADULTS AND CHILDREN ATTENDED THE WORKSHOP. WE MISSED THE CHANCE TO TAKE THE NAMES FOR A MAILING LIST …
We learned about the concept of sangha circle
THIS IS HELPFUL FOR WORKING WITH KIDS IN JANWAAR
Rachael thinks it would be worth posting on the LSUC site about the work the kids are doing in feeding the needy and elders in Janwaar. There was considerable interest in the work of the Rural ChangeMakers and their site has lots of potential volunteers/word of support and potential donors.
Day 3 MARCH 6
Asha was making natural Holi colors, Anil once again played guitar and Arun attended the workshop “Learning through Fun”.
We designed and organized a stall at the mela. There we informed people of the work being done in Janwaar and ways how they could become involved. Asha took hold of the stall. She answered most of the questions and interacted with the 200 plus people. There was also 400rps worth of post cards sold and many stickers given away.
GREAT PRACTICE IN COMING TOGETHER &LOOKING AT WAYS TO PRESENT THE NGO TO A PUBLIC INTERESTED IN THE WORK. THIS EVENT WE FOCUSSED ON INFORMING PEOPLE ABOUT COMING AS VOLUNTEERS / CO-LEARNERS TO JANWAAR AND THE AVAILABILITY OF SKATEBOARDING WORKSHOPS IN DELHI. WE ALSO MADE HANDMADE BUSINESS CARDS.
Day 4 MARCH 7
Anil and Asha met with Mukesh about the work at Barefoot College to learn in more details about their goals and work with the Solar Momas.
Asha and Arun gave interviews with Hrishi to LSCU about their learning experience.
Arun and Anil attended roller skating workshop !
We met with an experienced open school woman to talk about how and why to prepare for open school exam.
We made and sent videos to Ulrike about our learnings at LSCU. And we have to admit that we could have been much more organized with this and we need to further discuss how we can do better.
And last but not least the kids gave a live demo on the main stage of their skateboarding skills and showed various tricks.
Day 5 MARCH 8
We collected receipt, packed our bags, said our goodbyes and prepared for our several bus rides that would take us through the day and night to reach back to Delhi!
We had a closing interaction with Manish Jain to thank him and give him a Rural Changemaker book for his library in Udaipur and he thanked us for coming and would like to connect again with Ulrike to talk about building a skatepark in Delhi.