Penned By Board Member Alo Pal

Angalan wants to be an archaeologist, Keerthana, a teacher, Jayasri a Police officer, and Jegadeshwari an entrepreneur. Angalan is pursuing his masters in Tamil, Keerthana, her M.Com Jayasri and Jegadeshwari, their B.Com. Under the collective sponsorship program, Jayasri has been with us as a toddler in our creche while Angalan since the 5th Standard. No matter at what age they entered the organization, they are now well on their way to transforming their lives equipped with an education and the confidence to pursue the life goals I’ve just mentioned. This in itself, in a nutshell, is what Sharana aspires to do. We know for sure that these four have made a definitive crossover from the unskilled labour force to the skilled, from the illiterate to the educated from thwarted aspirations to dreams within reach.

These four children however have left us a legacy. A handbook of games innovated from native versions to be played by the children during breaks in the Seeds of Change (SOC) program. SOC are games too but with the technique of Playdagogie wherein a social theme, such as waste management, personal hygiene, or menstrual health, is picked and awareness and best practices are taught systematically via games with symbolisms and group discussions. The games these four came up with however do not have the added symbolisms and messages.

The four were hired part-time by Sharana Monday through Saturday as animators who assisted our social workers on the playground during SOC sessions. They imbibed the philosophy of the activity through observation, they learnt to bond with the children in order to break barriers to bond as well as create a certain commanding relationship of an instructor.

Harshitha, who headed the SOC program encouraged this young bunch to think and innovate creatively keeping in mind the low material input requirement and space restrictions of the various playgrounds. As the weeks progressed Harshitha came up with the idea to document these new games. The result was a well-produced book with basic illustrations and methodically scripted sets of instructions for each game. The games were categorized according to their target age groups and complexity varied accordingly.

Each recounted to me their journey through the process and their sense of achievement was evident. Though pursuing their higher studies, it is indeed a point to note that one girl was initially not allowed to come to the playground and animate by her father. Sharana had to speak to her parents and convince them. While games are a great leveler and a relatively easy tool to break various divisions in society such as economic and educational backgrounds, cultural conditioning concerning gender does persist, and as I spoke to the four animators in front of me, three of whom were young adult women each pointed out that one thing they looked out specifically for was equal and fair participation of girls and boys.

The added income of 4000 rupees a month had its own role in empowering the four. Two of them saved up a bit, one depositing in the bank and the other in her little hundi. While one was happy to meet her personal expenses another used the money to part pay for her education. Two who could not save were happy and felt a great sense of fulfilment to contribute to the family income.

What was heartening most of all was that these hard-working students doing a part-time job six days a week were conscious of the significance of games and physical activity in the lives of these little children. Education is definitely empowering, but recreation builds character and is fodder for a happy child. If a “sound mind in a sound body” is indeed a deep truth, then our children who play after school thanks to the SOC program and our bright animators who conduct these games and play along are living it to the full.