Asha and Arun participated for a year in a fellowship program which was organised by Ashoka and The Rainbow Foundation. Now they are invited to give an introduction to the next batch of fellows.

Here is what they’ve had to say:

Asha

Asha during a session with the Janwaar kids at the skatepark

My name is Asha Gond, I am 22 years old. I live in small village called Janwaar (MP).
Since 2.5 years with some interruptions, I am a homeschooler. Last year I passed 10th grade and now I am going for 12th grade. I couldn’t complete my school earlier because I faced family problems. I stopped after 9th.
I feel education or learning are important. It really helps to move forward better in life!
Today I am learning with my village kids! We do all kind of learning activities which are fun. Activities the kids love. Very different from school. Besides this, in my role as the director of the Barefoot Skateboarders Organisation, I take care of our community center our Villa Janwaar, I help the kids to take their online sessions, find and create work for the villagers and I do parts of the accounting for the organisation.

I am also a skateboarder. I traveled to China to participate in he World Championships in skateboarding, I’ve won many medals in the Indian Skateboarding Championships and I lead our girls skateboarders in Janwaar.

I wanted to participate in the program because I heard that I’ll benefit from it and it would improve my way of teaching.

When we went to Mumbai for the Ashoka Fellowship/Rainbow Foundation Program I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, what would happen – I’ve never been at a workshop like this before and I was never part of a fellowship program. So this was all new to me – and I feel it is normal that you are nervous 🙂

I knew that I would get help to progress our ways of teaching, but still I was nervous.

Once the program had started in Mumbai I felt more secure. 
On our first day we met all the other changemakers and introduced ourselves.
We shared stories about our work in our village and our plans how to move forward. 

We worked in small groups together with the other changemakers.  
The group activities helped all of us to achieve better solutions! 
I learned and understood that working in a team is often better than working alone. 
You listen to what others have to say and you learn from your peers.
This way you broaden your thinking and can find better solutions!  

At the end of the workshop all the changemakers returned to their villages with clearly defined goals what we would do in our village and with some new ideas how to achieve this goal.

Our goal!
Our goal was to bring at least 50 kids to our community center to lear. 
The older kids should be able to read and write Hindi, and the younger kids should be able to read and write basic things in Hindi and English such as the alphabets, small numbers etc. 

And in addition we wanted to start a program for the really little kids to “prepare“ them for school – those under the age of 5 years. We wanted to teach them basic knowledge an enable them to participate in all the activities which will happen in their school later. They should become confident to go to school! 

Our way forward
We started working with kids. To prepare our sessions we made weekly plans what we would do with the kids – we did this in advance so we exactly knew BEFORE each session what we would do with the kids. 

And we always tried to do all our activities in a fun way. Because reading out of a book or writing on the black board and then reading it, it’s always happening at school and it is boring!  
We wanted to spark their interest in learning – so doing it in a fun way was crucial! We wanted to raise their interests and understand what and why they are learning! This was important for us! 

As we moved forward we shared our problems/progress with all the other changemakers.

We had a Whatsapp group where we shared all our remarks. 
The other changemakers would give us their advice on how to solve our problems.
We listened and tried to implement their thoughts. 
These interactions helped us al lot to progress with our work.

The problems we faced
Our main problem was to get enough kids to our sessions at the Villa. 
The children did not come because they didn’t know about our activities. 
Some parents felt that their children’s time was being wasted. 
Other parents thought that we wanted to make money out of our activities. 
Which we did not! 

But all this couldn’t stop us. We increased our efforts!
We went to the children’s houses and tried to convince their parents to let them go.
We explained that the children weren’t wasting their time – in contrary we are trying to make them strong for the time to come. So that their children can make their future in a good way!  
We invited the parents to come and see how we are working with the kids and we asked them to help us to do better.
We adopted different methods to explain our work to the children and their parents.

The outcome
It took us a long time and a lot of hard work to improve these things.
But we succeeded. 
We didn’t reach our goal when you look at the numbers. We didn’t reach out to 50 kids, but we succeeded in having 20-25 kids who regularly attend our sessions. With joy and fun! And this we have until today – one and a half year after the fellowship program ended. 

The parents started to send their kids to learn with us, when we invited them to Villa Janwaar. We created a story, actually it was a small theatre play, about COVID which was all about our daily lives: How can we take care of ourselves and others who are living around us in this difficult situation.The kids performed the play in front of their parents. They explained why we need to drink clean water, clean our clothes and ourselves. Why we need to wash your hands, use sanitizer and keep distance! 
After seeing their kids explaining all these things the parents felt very happy, some even changed their behaviour and became much more confident! 

The kids love to participate in three subjects: Hindi, painting, and karate. 
For my class they are always ready to work. They feel that I’ll help them to learn things the way they are comfortable with!
I feel I have to be with them and always take care of them. 

Long term impact 
Today many children and their parents are understanding our work and are working with us.
The children still participate in our activities now, I’m still working with them.
In addition they also have online classes at our Villa Janwar. We have online mentors for Hindi, spoken English, mathematics, painting and karate!!
And new parents have started sending their children.

My Key Learning
In this whole journey I have learned a lot of things for myself.
Working with groups, working in teams!
If something is not getting done, then try another path!
Don’t give up, keep on going until it’s done!
I believe that things keep rotating in our life!
Meaning we will always face problems, and we will always move on!
This is why we should not stop. We have to keep going!

Arun

Arun (in the front) working with his brother Anil at the Villa Janwaar

My name is Arun Kumar Adiwasi and I am 18 years old. I live in Janwaar, a small village in the heart of India. I love to skateboard. I’ve been skateboarding for 6 years and in 2018 I won gold and in 2019 I won a bronze medal at the National Leven. I have also represented India in the World Skateboarding Championship in 2018 in China. I have been part of the open school project since 2019 which our Organisation runs together with Prakriti in Noida UP. I passed 10th grade last year and now I’m preparing for 12th grade. 

The Fellowship Program

In the beginning Ulrike, Asha and I talked about the Ashoka Fellowship, and she told us what would happen in this Fellowship. We had an interview with the fellowship  people after a few days we got to know that we’re selected for a Fellowship.  When I came to know that we have to go to Mumbai for the workshop, then many questions used to come in my mind, I used to think that what will I talk about, I do not know how many questions I will ask, I do not know how many people will be there and more such things come. I feel that this program is really great. It helps to provide education to the kids as well as elder women and mens in Rural India.  And it helps to tackle other problems besides education such as: issue of drinking water. 

Our goal

Before going to Mumbai, Asha and I set a goal of what we will do in Janwaar. 

SO Asha and I thought that it would be great if we help the kids who go to school but don’t know basic things like Hindi, English, reading, alphabet and basic maths.  

The introduction workshop in Mumbai

On 15 February 2020  We went to Mumbai for three days and we had a meeting with Fellowship people.  We meet new changemakers and give our introduction. There were changemakers from all across India like, Varanasi,  Jharkhand, Mumbai,  Haryana etc. Some of them had the same education but some were studying in college.  They all tackled different problems like – Educating elder women and men, drinking water issues and building libraries for the kids. 

Back in our village

As soon as we returned from Mumbai, we informed the children in the village about our ideas and started giving classes.

In the beginning not many children came, but gradually more children started to come.  We gave the classes in our community centre which is called Villa Janwaar. In the beginning, children used to feel a bit bored, so we changed our way of teaching. When the children used to look bored while studying, then we told them let’s play some games like, Kabaddi, Pikku, chicken dance and touch me etc. Along with teaching, we played  with the children to encourage them more. 

During lockdown we started taking classes in our homes. After 3-4 months, Asha and I went to different parts of the village and gave classes there. We wanted to include as many kids as possible from all parts of the village. We were teaching the children basic things like, Hindi reading, alphabet, English alphabet and simple  maths like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division etc.  Sometimes the kids worked on different things like painting,  coloring leaves and stones. We  used to take a test once a week to verify if the kids are learning or not. 

Communicating with the other change makers (fellows)

For all the changemakers and the heads of the fellowship program we had a WhatsApp group. There we had to send weekly reports including what we were doing and what we had achieved. We also included our doubts and problems and discussed them with the other changemakers. 

Sometimes we also had zoom calls for exchanging our statuses. 

Outcome

In Maths the kids are able to solve problems of addition,  subtraction, multiplication and division.  Elder kids are able to read Hindi well and improve their English.

The impact we see after 1.5 years after the fellowship program stopped

We have been giving sessions at our community centre called Villa Janwaar. 

Now the kids have online classes with mentors all across India. 

All the kids now learn with the computers and we, our team, also give sessions on the computer and we also activate where the kids give ideas to create something out of waste materials. So their learning never stopped and we are and always try to pass our learnings to them in the best way that we can.  When the Fellowship Program got over, I stopped teaching to the kids because I didn’t feel good in teaching and I didn’t get time skateboarding.  

My Key Learning

I got to learn from this fellowship how to behave and how to handle them.  There was a slight improvement in communication skills.  Learned to help people.  Learned the most how to teach children the most, because initially there was a problem teaching small children but I learned to teach and work with small kids.  

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