“Find joy in your journey, for it can not only brighten your path but also bring rewards to others along the way.” One of the reasons I love to travel.
Moni tugged at my shoulder, her persistence unwavering, as she wanted to paint despite the calls for her to return to her classroom. The sun beamed through the tree branches, casting gentle shadows on her face, her dark unruly hair, held back by a simple pink plastic headband. In that moment, memories of my father surfaced, and how he would shake his head disapprovingly at my own childhood desire to paint. I was around the same age as Moni – nine or ten. But unlike the impatience that led my father to push me away, Moni’s persistence shone through as she clutched onto a paintbrush, defying the teacher’s orders to return to class. “Mam, please,” she begged.
I finally gave in to her demands and encouraged her to apply some paint onto our wall mural in the children’s playground during a hot afternoon at the Saksham school in Jaipur, India. Her face lit up like a sunbeam ignoring the shadows, the dust, the uneven rocky ground, and the noises from over the wall.
With little knowledge of Hindi, I held Moni’s hand as we guided her brush towards the wall. “Look,” I said, pointing to my eyes, “small strokes, small strokes.” She mimicked me, her focus intense until her eyes lit up with a smile. At that moment, Moni found the freedom to express her creativity. She had entered the zone of creativity and we had connected. It dawned on me that my purpose in painting these walls with vibrant colours was not only to beautify the space but to help young minds break free from the restrictions they faced.
Education has a critical role to play in the lives of these children, who have little exposure to a structured school environment. Here, they run wild with joy, in a frenzied but organic state. There is no forceful discipline screaming for attention, only the noise of their surroundings, beckoning them to explore and discover. They are great imitators, quick to copy everything you do. When I draw a flower, they follow suit, allowing their imaginations to take flight. In this setting, play is everything. We adorned the branches of the trees with brightly colored fabric strips and attached bells to them. The trees now make music, and the children dance freely underneath their branches.
Play is pure and organic for there are no rules found in the imagination.
Observing the kids closely, I witnessed them hold onto the trunk of a tree and run around in circles, each child following the other’s lead. It was a simple yet beautiful display of learning through example. There were few books and no toys or devices in sight, yet their play was pure and unadulterated. Smiles adorned their faces, and joy emanated from their every movement. We can learn so much from these children and their unbridled enthusiasm for play.
Yaamini Ramdev is yet another artist who has generously donated her time and talent to create a stunning mural for the children’s playground. The bright yellow-painted sun greets the children as they enter the school, serving as a symbol of hope and warmth. In this area, many kids are not sent to school, and a significant number of their parents are illiterate. The goal is to create an inspiring environment where they can learn and grow, where education is accessible and transformative. Other volunteer students from a business school turn up to lend a hand. The mural serves as a testament to the power of art in education, and to the generosity of those who seek to uplift communities through their talent and skill.
We need to do more,
As much as we aspire to inspire these children through education and creativity, we cannot forget that they are still vulnerable and in need of protection. The school is heavily reliant on funding and struggles to pay teachers on a full-time basis. In addition, there is a pressing need to educate the mothers, to equip them with the skills of reading, writing, maths, and sewing, and empower them to support their children’s education. There is a sewing room where mothers can create garments that they can sell to help fund the costs of paying teachers for their children. The presence of sewing machines is promising, but the lack of skilled workers to operate them is concerning. It is frustrating and overwhelming to witness the need and the gap in resources. Presently there are not enough funds to pay a sewing teacher.
Moreover, the play area is hazardous, with uneven ground that poses a risk of injury to the children. A simple solution is available, as flattening the ground would cost only 200 Euros, a small but crucial step towards ensuring their safety.
“Make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children: Join our small fundraising project and support education and the empowerment of women in India”
My goal now is to find small fundraising projects and to involve outside interest from people keen to make a difference in the lives of these underprivileged kids. Friends and people who follow me, I hope you can help.
Our first project is to raise 200 euros to flatten the surface so they can play safely in a learning environment. You can donate to this project here.
“Make a Difference: Travel and Volunteer with Underprivileged Children in India’s Saksham School”
Are you traveling and interested in volunteering projects? The school is looking for teachers or people who can interact with the children through art, crafts, and sport. The founders Nitin and Deepty Sharma will help you with accommodation and your stay in India. If you want to know more, please contact me or contact them direct through this link.
You can donate to this project HERE. I will confirm your donation by email and keep you informed of any progress.