Sharana started the Seeds of Change program in January 2014 that has been since its inception raising awareness on social causes such as waste management, hygiene and equality through sports and games.

It has been conducted in the village of Angalakuppam among other schools and villages in varying intensities depending on the school schedule of the children. This year in Angalakuppam the team has taken up the topic of basic hygiene- washing hands- this taught them to always wash their hands before touching or eating any food. This awareness likewise was introduced through games and debates.

Last week 40 children from Angalakuppam participated in the game No Food Without Washing. This particular game comprises attackers, defenders and cones. The attackers and the cones are separated by the defenders. While reaching the cones if any attacker is touched by the defender they have to go back and wash their hands with soap and water. The defenders are given four bracelets each, of which, one is transferred to an attacker every time the latter is tagged by one of the former. The attacker has to then go back to the baseline, drop the bracelet at the washstand and wash his hands with soap and water and attempt to get to the cones once again. The team has to collect as many cones as it can in a given time. Once the time is up, the teams swap roles and the team that collects more cones in that given time wins. The goal is to win but they are also encouraged to cheer each other so that a sportsman’s spirit is evoked in all participants.

The game is once played as just a game and later each role is given another terminology. The attackers are called the “hungry people”, the defenders are called “the dirty actions”, their bracelets are the “germs” and the cones “food”. The social workers cheer them with slogans such as, “Go get your food you hungry people but avoid the dirty actions that’ll spread germs!” In case a “hungry person” gets touched by a “dirty action”, he’s asked to, “Go wash your hands and get rid of the germs!” Thereby through a fun and engaging means they learn about something that is so important and fundamental to their wellbeing- even without their knowledge.

At the end of the game, they sit in a circle and discuss the purpose of the game. Although exhausted, they are still able to answer the questions correctly because they have unconsciously picked up on all the ideas during the game through all the keys words and situations used. Sometimes the discussion expands into more detailed ideas such as the consequences of having germs in our bodies or the benefits of using soap. Several of topics have games of their own which help them understand the ideas more thoroughly.

Over the years the children have responded enthusiastically to this method and have proven that raising awareness on social issues through sports is far more effective than any didactic method and has actually inspired them to practice what they learn in their every day lives. This encourages the team at Sharana to continue implementing this program and reaffirming our belief in its effectiveness.

-penned by volunteer Sanchari