April 25th 2016 was a special day at Reality Gives. At 9am, six women gathered nervously in our Ashayen Community Centre and began their three week intensive English Teacher Training Program. The first of its kind, this course was the culmination of a lot of hard work and the realisation of a long held dream. This is the story of how, thanks to a lot of hard-work, dedication and enthusiasm from all corners of the world, we got to this moment in time.
Since our inception, through close consultation with the community, we have come to see education as the strongest tool to enable and empower people from underserved communities to break the cycle of poverty. This newly developed English Teacher Training Program is designed to work alongside the Reality Gives English curricula; high-quality, culturally-sensitive educational materials that are both engaging and visually-appealing for the students. The materials range from from pre-beginner level, which caters for learners with literacy needs, and go all the way to communicative materials aimed at helping learners be better-prepared for the world of work. The combination of the training course and curricula means that we are addressing the need for English language on two fronts, and will help us reach more people than ever before.
Lead by Curriculum Development Director, Jonny Clarke, creating the materials has involved people from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds coming together to create something beautiful.
One such person is French Graphic Designer, Francois Castrillo, a former volunteer here in Dharavi, who helped with some of the graphic design elements of the curricula. Francois outlines exactly why developing such materials is important, “I hope that it will help the students learn better and faster: if they can relate to what they read and see in each lesson, then they’ll be more interested and will learn a lot more… Training teachers and developing specific curricula are the two pillars of quality education.”
Ivan Camilo, a Columbian national based in Italy who helped with the design and layout of the curricula hopes his work “…gives people the opportunity to reach their goals and more… And to be sure of what they know and how much they can contribute in their community.”
Ivan, like all of the volunteers, has a strong belief in the project, saying ‘That’s why I decided to work with Reality Gives. I’m totally convinced that to generate a change in people, education plays a very important roll, so I feel really happy, satisfied and grateful…to be a part of it, to work with Reality Gives and with all the people who are going to enjoy these beautiful lessons.”
German designer, Wiebke Koch tells us she got involved because she has “…always been impressed by the approach the founders of Reality Tours and Reality Gives take. To me, they are inspiring examples of how we can combine the best of the world of entrepreneurship and business, with our responsibility to the planet we live on, and the society we are part of. Jonny Clarke in particular, has been THE spark in this. His passion for this project just makes you want to be part of it… Education is key to opportunities, and learning English is so much more than just learning a language.”
Growing up in China, fellow illustrator Dan Wu remembers children walking for miles to reach their nearest school, often a simple hut comprised of classrooms without furniture and broken roofs. Reflecting on the resolve of students to make the best of this and learn, she came to see that “Not only does education give us qualifications, but also teaches us the skills of life, the way of thinking, the method of learning, the mistakes we can avoid and unlimited possibilities.”
Dan is proud to now be involved in making quality education more widely available, “Now I have this opportunity to make a contribution, why shouldn’t I take it?” She shares “A picture is worth a thousand words; if my work might be the key to help children understand and remember what they learnt, it’s already a great achievement for me.”
Similarly, Uriel Silva says, “Having been born in Brazil I can see how the absence and the presence of opportunities can make the most contrasting social statuses. And this contrast is almost invariably determined by whether someone had access to education or not… education has made me go places I’d never be able to otherwise. It’s the very way I was able to meet Jonny in the first place. It’s opened many doors. I’m a Brazilian who, having met a Londoner, got involved with a project in India. Education got me there.”
As Jonny explains, “These people have done such a great job, and this is by no means everybody who has been involved- it would be a really long blog if we talked to them all! I hope they all feel part of it and understand how grateful we are.”
So, here we are on a hot oppressive Mumbai summer’s day; nervous smiles, excited teachers and quality curricula in hand. The end of a lot of work, and the beginning of a lot more!
* Any artists, graphic designers, teachers, or generally lovely people can get in touch with Jonny ([email protected]) to be part of the next project.