Monthly Archives: February 2014

“You believe in me and I will be the best thing”

On 6th February, 2014, 31 new students became the 25th and 26th groups to participate in the Youth Empowerment Program held at the Reality Gives Community Centre in Dharavi. This program spans 15 weeks, with students studying English, Computers and Soft Skills.

One week into the program, some of the students sat down with us to share what had motivated them to join the course and where they hope it can lead them in the future. As many of their stories are deeply personal, some of the YEP students interviewed have had their names changed to protect their identity.

Attending the morning class are Afia and Kiran. Kiran is an aspiring DJ and Afia, a housewife. “My mother died in my birth and father re-married. My stepmother doesn’t care for me so I have to work in the morning to earn money and work in the evening too” explains Kiran. “I have all to do the household work also. She does not take care myself”. When asked why he was so motivated to attend this program when he was already so busy he replied “I look up to my uncle. He struggled. He has inspired me. I want a family and I want a better life for them than myself. I will struggle to do better and this will help me achieve something. I want to become a good person who can speak with any person. To be confident to speak with him or her”.

Afia, 23 is also from a complex family background, having had a ‘love’ marriage into a family that does not like her, something she says has been exacerbated by her not having had a child within the first four years of marriage. “I want to improve how they see me and impress, earn their respect. I think this (Youth Empowerment Program) will help me get some work and be important to the family. I too want to improve my English so I can teach my son and daughter”. Afia is currently living with her mother and will join her husband’s family in a few months. “My husband would not allow me to come here – but I am not telling him” Afia confides “After 3 months I will show him how I can speak English. I want him to be proud of me”.

Nusrah and Isa attend the afternoon class. Through the translation of Jyoti, the Community Centre Manager, Nusrah (22) shared how she has battled to recover from cancer in recent years and revealed that as she does not have a brother she wants to make her parents happy; to be independent and to “stand on her feet like a man”. “My parents didn’t want me to come here for my health. I wanted. I feel like I have an opportunity. After a long time I am studying again. This is the best decision for myself” an emotional Nusrah said, “I want to impress my father after finishing this course and talk to him in English. I want to work in a hospital – for four or five years I was always going there. I understand the feelings of the people and want to do something for them. I want to encourage them. I have come out of cancer. I want to give them hope”.

Isa (23) has a good level of English but feels that it is not good enough to compete with well educated, privately schooled students, “Being in the slum area, I don’t get good companies and good chances”. Isa shared that she really had to fight to attend the classes, “being a muslim girl nobody allows you to study further but my mum has been supportive. Inside I have a lot of pain. My mum is uneducated and has suffered at her in-laws house. She wants me to stand independently. I have two brothers but she treats me as an equal. She trusts me a lot but I want to show her that I can meet her expectations. I want to show her – you believe in me and I will be the best thing” her hope is “My mother will be proud. We should not think like we are poor we cannot do anything. Go and try your luck. I am searching for a good job. Good English will help me get a good job in customs and HR”

As well as learning the syllabus, the students are also already beginning to form an important support network with one another. One student explained “Everyone has a different problem. No one is here from a good background. We are low level and struggling and it encourages us to study and learn and we will do anything. Now I feel like we all have different problem and we have to tackle jointly. Different stories from different people. Everyone has a problem but it helps us be happy to share them. We can support”.

The Reality Gives blog will revisit Isa, Nusrah, Afia, Kiran and some of the other YEP students as they progress through the program to see how they are developing and what their prospects are for the future.

American School Of Bombay Come To Dharavi!

On the last Sunday of January in the late afternoon, students from Reality Gives programs sit hushed in a room watching intently as their peers strut their stuff upon the stage that is the Reality Tours and Travel Reception Centre, their expressive faces lit by a sole beam of light. The room is packed with onlookers; the students themselves, teems of children drawn in from the street eager to witness this spectacle and Reality Tours and Travel guides, there to see more of the social work that the tours
they run help to fund.

The onlookers are watching these young adults seize this opportunity to express themselves, to make their peers laugh and to explore worlds of their own imagining. To understand how they got to this moment you need to go back to that very same morning as two teachers and three students from the American School of Bombay arrive in Dharavi carrying a large, somewhat out of place stage light through the streets. Here’s their run down of how the day unfolded.

On Sunday 2nd February we (Fenella, Neil, Ben, Parth and Madhav) conducted drama workshops and devised original theatre with a group of 38 young people in Dharavi, in collaboration with Reality Gives. From the outset there was a buzz of excitement in the air and everyone was willing to mix, take risks, try out new ideas and listen attentively to all the instructors. During the skills based workshops (that included posture, projection, tableaux, expression, sequencing and blocking) the students were focused and asked relevant questions. Being flexible and open to new experiences they were eager to present their work and give helpful feedback to others. By the time we broke for lunch everyone was comfortable working with all the leaders and with each other.

The afternoon sessions were even more rewarding. The morning sessions had been in English but during the devising process, creating their own theatre, participants spoke in Hindi. This allowed for a more creative buzz, and more freedom of expression in their work. Given the stimuli of pictures of life in India, including rituals, people at work, traffic accidents, domestic life and scenes from childhood, small groups of 5-6 students set about using these images to create their own short plays, while applying the skills they had learnt from the morning. The two workshop leaders commented to me on how quickly the groups worked together, and how creative they were with their ideas. The community spirit and sense of support enabled each group to produce a piece that was meaningful for them and relevant to the lives of the audience.

In performance each group was motivated, focused and disciplined, with the audience being excited, attentive and supportive. The final presentations covered such themes as disloyalty in relationships, equality for women, corruption in politics, arranged marriages, harassment in the work place, and other issues that were clearly close to the participants’ hearts. Although the short plays nearly all addressed topics that were serious and relevant, the atmosphere was not weighed down by the intensity of the issues, as there was a good balance of drama, comedy and discussion. One group asked questions directly to the audience about justice, and this sparked a lively discussion, again reflecting every participants’ willingness to be involved.

We ended the day by handing out participation certificates and congratulated everyone on their hard work. Everyone left on a high, and I am sure many of the participants would like to repeat the experience, as do we also hope to one day. Matt and Joe were wonderfully supportive throughout, and we are so glad that we got to meet them and to know them during this eventful and rewarding day.

Matt And Joe Get Some Drama In!

This week we would like to introduce you to our current volunteers Matt and Joe who joined our team in January for five months to work on some activities for our communities. But we thought they can explain what they do and how they enjoy working for Reality Gives much better:

We’re Joe Callanan and Matt Aldridge, we’ve just recently moved to Mumbai and joined the Reality Gives team as volunteers. We’re mainly focussed on teaching English and Drama but since arriving we’ve enjoyed getting involved with other projects such as girls’ and boys’ football and chess. We’re both ‘gap year’ students from Newcastle, UK.


Being my first visit, India was an initial shock, but I was soon overcome by the community spirit of India and its people. Being involved with the local Bombay Gymkhana football team really helps you to feel local; after teaching a small drama workshop at school in Newcastle I really look forward to trying to inspire the next Bollywood actor and hope they have some fun along the way! After my ‘gap year’ I am going to study a Business degree at York st John University and I hope to return to India soon afterwards.


I’m very much enjoying living in Mumbai and sampling all of the local food, my favourite of which is ‘pani puri’. In my spare time I play rugby for Bombay Gymkhana and research the other places I’m traveling to before starting a Biochem degree at University College London. I’ve always loved acting and, although I’d taught some short English projects in Dharavi whilst at school, I’m really looking forward to working with our drama students over a longer period.

We’ve both found the Reality Gives team a very friendly and positive environment and are really enjoying working here. We are both passionate about the potential for acting and theatre to be a really positive impact on people’s lives, and an important educational tool. The students we’ve been teaching so far are really keen to learn and full of energy and the next four months is sure to be a fantastic experience.