Category Archives: Workshops & Activities

[Interview] “I Learn A Lot From The Kids – Probably More Than I Teach Them!”

After studying at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai, Shraddha became a teacher and has been
inspiring apprentice yogis for over 2 years now. She recently decided to share her wisdom with young beneficiaries from Dharavi through weekly yoga classes in one of our community centres. After one of those classes, we sat down to discuss her job, her new students and what yoga can bring to your life. Continue reading [Interview] “I Learn A Lot From The Kids – Probably More Than I Teach Them!”

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.

Dental Health Camp by Berkeley

Last Saturday nine dental healthcare students from the Berkeley University in California, USA, conducted the third dental health camp at our Ashayen Community Centre in Dharavi. Together with our community health workers and many other volunteers, they invited the mothers of our communities to bring their kids for dental check-ups, toothbrushing training, fluoride vanish, nutrition counselling and to distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste.

The response was great: 50 mothers came with 73 children. The entire group was busy from noon until 6pm. Many mothers came for the second or third time but also a lot of new families wanted to participate as they heard about the great success of the previous camps.

Before the kids went from station to station the mothers were asked to answer a few questions about the dental health of their kids, their behaviour and their knowledge. The results were very interesting:

Many local dentists give misinformation or don’t pay much attention. It is very difficult to get an appointment and the usual waiting period is one to two months. Also the dental health care is expensive. Therefore the volunteers suggested that local dentists could be involved in this project and that they should follow up more often with the participants.

Junk food is still a problem. In fact even more mothers said that their kids consume too much junk food. Even if the mothers are aware of the issue, the fathers or grandparents would give less nutritious food to the kids. Therefore we hope to conduct a workshop with this target group, separate from the camp, next time.

Too many mothers bottle-feed their kids too early. Kids don’t drink enough milk or eat products which are bad for their teeth. This is a subject the volunteers want to address more at the nutrition counselling station next time.

During the interview with their mothers the health workers kept the kids busy by telling them a child story about the consequences of eating junk food. The kids quickly understood the reason behind the advice and reasons for eating healthy food.

This time the volunteers also added a new station where the hemoglobin levels were tested with a small device. We realised that 52% of the kids had hemoglobin levels which were too low, which can result in constant tiredness, weakness and sickness this is caused by malnutrition.

All together the camp was again a great success and gave us all great insights. The community health workers and local volunteers worked closely with the volunteers from the UC Berkeley to run a smooth camp and reach out to as many kids as possible. We appreciate the support of the students a lot and look forward to the next one in the summer.

Dance Classes In The Community

It is a such a treat to witness the Reality Gives dance class on a Sunday morning. The Ashayen Community Centre is packed with more than forty enthusiastic dancers. Ranging in age from 3 -15, they have memorised lyrics and moves to the Steps song ‘5-6-7-8′ with impressive commitment and enthusiasm. Leading the way are Deshna and Sasi, volunteer dance teachers who trained at the Danceworx Mumbai. They are bursting with energy and full of creative ideas to put Dharavi’s young dancers through their paces.

Originally led by Maria, a professional dance instructor, the Reality Gives dance program has been running for about one year. Maria has returned to the US to continue her studies, but Deshna and Sasi, who were already supporting Maria’s classes, have now stepped into the breach.

“The students are really enthusiastic and they pick things up very quickly,” Deshna says. “We didn’t think they’d remember the dance from last week. We expected to reteach everything, but we’d put the lyrics on the board in the community centre, and when we arrived this morning it was clear the students had been learning and practising the song. They are really committed.” And the popularity of the dance program is growing so much that it’s now necessary to split the dancers into two groups. From this week, there will be a beginner group, in which the emphasis will be on consistency, discipline and basic positions, and an advanced class for the more experienced dancers.

Deshna and Sasi want to work on the dancers’ posture, discipline and calm. They are trying to teach students to be more conscious of the rhythm of the music. “It is a new challenge for us” Sasi says. The two young instructors are used to teaching in English and so the mix of English, Hindi and Marathi they use in Dharavi is helping them learn new expressions and trial new teaching techniques.

The group is already very familiar with Bollywood music, so Deshna and Sasi hope to expose the growing number of young dancers to a range of dance styles. Deshna is a jazz dance specialist and Sasi’s background is in ballet, and at the end of each session they show students a YouTube video of a different type of dancing to raise the students’

Further down the line, Deshna and Sasi would like to arrange a chance for the students to perform to their families and the wider community. “We just need to build their confidence a little more,” says Deshna.

There is also an exciting opportunity to offer talented young dancers a scholarship with the Danceworx in Bandra. Deshna and Sasi agree that dancing is a wonderful opportunity to get young people together – irrespective of their background – to learn and grow

Article researched and written by Laura Hakimi, volunteer of Reality Gives on and off since 2012.

Wall Painting Project

Ten students from Reality Gives’ programs in Dharavi joined together with 8 street children and their parents to complete two wall segments. The first mural shows the trees and waters that are found in Mumbai highlighting the message “keep us clean” with the dream of seeing a cleaner Mumbai. The second shows a colorful and happy home…which some of the children who were painting for the project do not have.
Continue reading Wall Painting Project