My focus in June-July was:

  1. Kitchen garden
  2. Open School
  3. Passport for the ladies

Kitchen garden

We began building the kitchen garden near the skatepark in April. Pappu, our local backbone, filled the land with the soil, added compost to the soil, laid out the beds for the crops and fenced the area. The objective of the kitchen garden is partially to practice Avartansheel Kheti, an ancient farming practice developed by Prem Singh. We’ve worked before with Prem, his Kisan School is in Banda, UP. Avartansheel Kheti is an organic method of growing food which divides the land into three zones: cereal crops and vegetables, fruiting trees and animal husbandry. The harvest will be used to cook meals for the kids attending our school and Kamla Gond can take some home. 

In two Skypecalls Prem Singh explained the benefits of this method to Pappu, Kamla Gond and Jalsai Bai. He told us the best places to plant the trees will be west and south of the kitchen garden so that the crops receive the early sun. He recommended buying rather small trees because our soil is not very deep. Pappu went to the nursery and confirmed the availability of small lemon and papaya trees. He also bought spinach, okra, beans, bottle gourd, bitter melon, pumpkin, cucumber, ginger, turmeric, tomato and brinjal seeds. Everything was ready – all we were waiting for were the rains. This year they arrived very late, it only started in late July. Finally Pappu and Kamla Gond sowed the seeds. They updated Prem Singh and received his feedback. Now Kamla is taking care of the crops.. 

Kamla Gond working in the kitchen garden

Open School

One of the core principles of Barefoot Skateboarders Organisation (BSO) is learning by doing. This is what fascinated me the most in BSO. We envision the kids to run the organisation one day on their own, so they practice all kinds of necessary jobs to run an NGO. They try, they fail. They try again, they fail again until they succeed. Just like when they practice skateboarding tricks. 

The MLA and DM of Panna visited Janwaar in June. They offered help for the village and the kids after watching them on television and hearing about their achievements. The kids told them that they have an NGO. After their visit we decided that Asha and Anil will write a proposal stating the help needed. 

Ulrike and I guided them while they listed the needs of the village after talking to the villagers. Their first list was very basic and didn’t include any details. We made them understand that demands need to be specified. So the next step for Asha and Anil was to explain these needs of the village, notify the costs, and signify the role of the Barefoot Skateboarders Organisation. They struggled and it took them a couple of drafts to finally have a presentable document at hand – including photos and everything. To think in a logical way, meaning to get the sequences of the story right is something they have huge problems with. Ulrike shared that the best way to start a proposal is to begin with the investor’s advantage. This tells them upfront what they get in return and might catch their interest. So we mentioned the benefits for the constituency if Janwaar becomes a model village of the 21st century and then arranged the proposal with the list of the  village needs. The final list included repairing the skatepark, making a well, placing dustbins, solar street lights and starting the incomplete hospital in the village. Asha sent the final proposal to the MLA and DM. Now we are waiting for their reply.

Our third homeschooler, Arun, is more interested in skateboarding. He wants to be a skateboarding coach. So Ulrike suggested a course in sports for development (S4D). I explained to him the learning outcomes, the structure and the application process of the course. He agreed and we started the application. His answers weren’t sufficient and they lacked understanding and motivation. We worked on it multiple times but still his answers were not up to the mark. As the deadline reached, we completed the application even if the answers were not ready.

Not surprisingly, he was not accepted. Yet the process was good learning for him. We asked him why he is NOT motivated to go the extra mile and put real effort into something he obviously wants. He opened up about the financial issues in his home and that his parents want him to work. They wanted him to go to another place and work there and of course Arun was considering this option. Ulrike gave him a choice. She explained to him about the working opportunities he has in the village with Barefoot Skateboarders. Along with the work he can do what he loves, learn and he also gets so much exposure due to Barefoot Skateboarders. The conversation helped clear Arun’s doubts and he decided to keep working with Barefoot Skateboarders. However, he still has not started taking initiatives and working enthusiastically. We will keep working with him on this.

Passport Applications for the Ladies

The covid cases in Panna area started to decrease in June. So we resumed the passport application for the four ladies of Janwaar who will travel to Europe. When we thought we had all the required documents ready, I booked an appointment for the ladies in the passport office in Satna. Yet again we failed. This time the aadhaar cards of the ladies were not linked to any phone numbers. We weren’t aware of this requirement which is actually NOT linked to the passport application itself but to the Aadhar Card. The passport office needed an OTP from the number registered with the Aadhaar Cards to verify the aadhaar card. Funny enough no one tells you to register a phone number when you get an aadhar card …. Some kind of misinformation within the system. One day later, Sachin’s mother, one of the four ladies, migrated from Janwaar to Uttarakhand. She and her family found work there. We could not update her Aadhaar Card before departure. Now we are trying to get the update done at her working place. This is slightly difficult because of the monsoons in Uttarakhand and our inability to communicate with her because she doesn’t have her own phone. But we are working on a solution …. ! It just will take some time. 

Despite the setbacks we moved on. We updated the Aadhaar Cards of the three ladies once again and booked the next appointment at the end of July. Arun had prepared again for the journey and we hoped for the best. Finally the appointment turned out to be a success. All their documents were accepted, the police verification took place and now they are waiting for their passports. 

Siya Bai, Jalsa Bai, and Kamla Gond (left to right) after their success at the passport office

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