Thursday, October 21, 2010

Parikrma: Breaking the cycle of poverty...

I haven't written a post in a long while...not because nothing was happening but because too many things were happening. Moreover, my topic of passion, Collaborative Learning in the Workplace, has plenty of thought-leaders writing about it, and I haven't felt that I had anything new to add. I have been reading, synthesizing, creating my own little PKM and left it at that...



However, something happened today that propelled me to write again. We from ThoughtWorks paid a visit to Parikrama. Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen my tweet. Parikrma is described on the site thus:
Parikrma Humanity Foundation is a non-profit organization that is transforming education for under-served children in urban India, so that they can have equal access to the best opportunities. Parikrma manages the entire education cycle from kindergarten to college for each child.

We know that there are many such organizations enabling children to access education, infusing some hope into their otherwise bleak lives. My intent in this post is not to hold up Parikrama as an organization with a difference but just to share my experience. Try to describe the few hours we spent there...

About 10 of us arrived at Parikrama around 8:15 a.m. The children were just entering school. Ranging from 5 to 15 years in age, they all arrived fresh-faced, enthusiastic, bubbling with life. You can see some of the pictures below bearing testimony to their joy.
 





The children begin their day with breakfast. Most of them come from homes where dinner is a dream, often unavailable. Parikrma believes in first feeding the hungry children before imparting any gyaan. Breakfast was a simple fare of chapatis and sabji. This is carefully distributed to avoid any wastage. And the children, even the youngest ones, know that food is precious, not to be wasted.

Today, we were given the chance to help the Parikrma team serve breakfast. That was perhaps the most moving experience for me. I am not certain I have words to express what I felt. On the surface, it was just serving food. But once you know the background of the children, the impoverished conditions they come from, the dirth of love and security in their lives, this simple act takes on a poignancy that is hard to define. I will stop trying to describe it because I can't.


The assembly was another memorable moment with the children reciting Rabindranath Tagore's Where the Mind is Without Fear... What could have been more apt! The little ones singing Mother of mine was heart-stopping. It took me back to my school days when I had first heard the song...They sang the song with an earnestness that brought tears to my eyes.

Let me clarify this though...if at any point I have given the impression that the children were sad, pitied themselves and their fate, then I am wrong. A brighter, bubblier bunch would be hard to find.

I had decided to sit with the youngest ones during assembly. I love being with children--their unadulterated simplicity and directness, total lack of hypocrisy rejuvenates me. These were no different. Seeing the camera around my neck, they were eager to have their pictures taken...some of them were keen to click some photos too. While the assembly was going on, I had a tough time trying to maintain order in my little corner. Here are some of the pictures taken at that point:





The art and craft work on display were amazing too. The classrooms are named after each planet. And you can see Jupiter below...




The youngest ones are in a class called the Sun. An apt name for the sunny smiling faces.








They have dreams in their eyes...and their minds are as yet without fear.Parikrma is trying its best to nurture those dreams. They need help. They need us. If you live in Bangalore, you can perhaps go and pay them a visit. Can we help make a difference? I think we can if we put our mind, heart and soul into it...

If you want to see the pictures, you can go here. To know more about Parikrma, watch the TEDtalk by Shukla Bose called Teaching one child at a time.
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