Penned By Board Member Alo Pal

It is the end of the year, and while I never place myself outside of the stories I chronicle for Sharana I still do follow a template that evaluates clinically the quality and success of Sharana’s intervention in the lives of the families we work with. But today my story is not about that. It is about my personal fulfilment of the work I have the good fortune to do. I teach at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE) and I document case stories at Sharana. This past year has seen me spend and cherish moments when my former students Harshitha and Sarthak, working at Sharana, recounted to me their experience of an end-to-end Seeds of Change implementation and final assessment exercise at Angalakuppam village. It hasn’t been only about this case; it has been a year-long observation to see these children grow and glow at Sharana.

Life at the school is sheltered and fulfilling. A comprehensive program that keeps the students productively engaged in studies, sports and extra-curriculars in an extensive and innovative program. But since I work in both institutions and my subjects involve the history and the current state of affairs of India, I initiated, in consultation with my school and Ms. Rajkala Partha a visit to Sharana for some of the students as an introduction into the world where Sharana works, an aspect our city and country that is invisible to the children as they are caught into the routine of a student. Harshitha and Sarthak were both part of these visits.

The Seeds of Change program was a success. The knowledge of the students in pollution and waste management was evaluated at the start. Games were played, symbolisms were added and concepts were slowly ingrained into the children via the games and group discussions that ensued and a second evaluation after about three months of systematic implementation was conducted and the results were encouraging. There was a marked improvement in awareness and Harshitha and Sarthak had indeed reason to be excited about this report that was to reflect their work. But how do I explain to them my moment of triumph. If ever there was a role reversal that could be termed heart-warming and sweet, this was it. It was they who explained, I asked the questions, sought clarifications, and took my notes.

The year-end will see them both complete their work/internship at Sharana. Thanks to their work here both have been selected to travel to France on a program of the French Government early next year where they will gain valuable experience from an NGO based out of France and this stint will culminate with the two volunteering for the Paris 2024 summer Olympics.

This past year I’ve spent moments of serious work and moments of leisurely conversation with them, I’ve observed their maturity and understanding of the work grow, their empathy blossom, their articulation become more confident as the principles on which Sharana works were appropriated and internalized by them. I have seen their integration with the team and I have especially read from the smiles of the Sharana team how much they were loved by them.

Image above: Project Lead Harshitha

Harshitha and Sarthak are part of a steady trickle of students from my school who work or intern at Sharana and this note of mine is an appreciation to all of them. You have all not only been worthy of the education you have received at SAICE we all hold so dear, you have all distinguished yourself with your sincerity and work at Sharana, the other institution I cherish.

Image above: Intern Sarthak

This was never going to be about a case study of a Seeds of Change program. This was always going to be about “My children” from the school. Bonne route Harshitha and Sarthak, no matter where life takes you, carry in our hearts both SAICE and Sharana.