We held our first workshop with the children on Wednesday – a simple exercise to help us get to know their names, and to create an identity for the school community. Each child was given a sheet with a photograph of them printed on it, and a space to draw a picture as well as write their name, age and class. For the older children, the drawing was supposed to be a picture of what they would like to be when the grow up … it turns out the policing and dancing are the two most popular professions! For many of the children this was the first time that they had seen a printed image of themselves, and they were incredibly excited when all the completed drawings were pinned up on a board outside. Those children who had been absent on the first day were very keen to add their picture to the board when they arrived; we’re hoping to encourage better attendance by making the pupils feel like they belong to here, and that it’s a fulfilling place to be.
We also started meeting the parents this week, and the images were very helpful in breaking the ice and easily identifying whose parents they were. Rather than holding a big event, we decided to meet them one by one over a number of days in order to ask them a series of questions about income and profession etc so that we could get to know them better, explain the project, and find out how they might help. A number of them, including Vishal’s parents Rita and Kitaram, already work as day laborers and would benefit from having a more stable job working on the project. Many of the other fathers work as fruit and vegetable sellers, but said they would like to learn a skill or craft and could help on Sundays. Most of the mothers didn’t work, but offered their skills as cooks. In general the responses so far have been really positive – a touching phrase we heard often is this is my dharma, a philosophical term which can be interpreted as the cementer and sustainer of social life. We will carry on meeting the parents over the next week or so, before holding a workshop where we can show our initial ideas for the project, and gather their feedback and input.