Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Painting walls and learning

Originally uploaded by dalbhat
This wall and a few of the others in this flat were part of an experiment to see if one possibility for our students might be painting murals as part of the Learn and Earn project!

The principal at the school found that her walls were getting dull and gray and she came up with the idea that the kids could go wild with their artwork like we did at school. Needless to say, it can take a bit of courage to let a group of 20 kids come into your flat with paint dripping from their brushes dying to get a panel!!

Of course, the children enjoyed themselves to no end and really brought the project together once they figured out the purpose of the mural and the technique that worked best. The designs were in their minds and came out with earnestness.

As adults, though, I think we learned the greater lesson in this process: the importance of letting go of our preconceived notions and limits and allowing the children (finally) to express themselves in a totally organic way. There were a few panic points -- but it all turned out so bright and meaningul. You know that when the teachers are also being challenged and learning...that real education is taking place!

NOW we are looking for a real wall outside to cover with our designs!! Spruce up a neighborhood and create some brightness on the streets of Kolkata!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Students Reach Out at the NGO Fair

Originally uploaded by dalbhat
You see the two dancers on the poster hung on the back wall there? That's how I feel right now. I feel like doing a few leaps and spins.

Yesterday at the Calcutta International School, Class XI students welcomed as many as 12 non-government organizations (NGOs) to the music room, which we had always thought to be a very spacious room until now. Before people could even get their products on the table, the sales began -- with parents, teachers and students buying handicrafts from around 11:30 NON-STOP til about 4:00 pm when it finally slowed down.

This is what I call fair trade! I wanted to bring the idea of BUY HANDMADE to a population that is increasingly buying from big shopping malls, and bring the concept of FAIR TRADE to youngsters who may now understand that choosing to buy something (put their money into one pocket or the other) from an NGO actually means a contribution to a more just, more peaceful world.

People who work for NGOs are often working on very low budgets and long hours, although many understand how important it is to communicate with like-minded people and those groups working toward the same goals, it just doesn't happen because there is not a drop of spare time or resources. I was so happy to see the NGOs themselves doing a lot of networking and interacting and learning from each other. My students from Shikshamitra ran their own table selling handmade cards, bookmarks, gift tags, eco-tote bags, hand-stitched coasters and sweet basil plants. What can I say? They had a BLAST!

My heart goes out to everyone who participated in this event, and made it the success that it was: a cumulative total of Rs. 45,000 in just about 6 hours. One group, Ankur Kala, reported to me this morning that they had record sales, more than they'd ever sold at one fair! All the money ends up going toward dedicated efforts to support disadvantaged individuals who strive daily to learn skills and earn financial stability.

Everyone went home smiling and I am more than sure that several tiny mustard seeds got planted at this event -- let's see how they bloom???!!!