To run a PLAY based programme in a society that brings its children up with “Padhoge likhoge banoge Nawab, kheloge kudoge banoge kharab” (You will be a King if you read and write, and be spoilt if you play games) is a challenge. But, to run this programme successfully for over 4.5 years with over 2700 underprivileged children in the city and have a bunch of transformational community leaders come out of is pretty amazing! This is the story of three such young leaders who have benefited from life skills through play programme.
Enrolled in Project KHEL’s “Made in Maidaan” programme since early 2013, Santosh and Neeraj from a shelter home, and Uttam from a low-income school, have carved their growth path in the organisation, starting from being beneficiaries to peer leaders to blossoming into three of Project KHEL’s most promising Community Youth Leaders.
Santosh, a lethargic and disinterested young boy, lacked the motivation to have a dream and make an effort towards achieving it. He wanted to be a cricketer but was convinced he couldn’t make it happen. Getting him to participate in sessions was a herculean task. At one point, the Project KHEL planners started sending one of their youngest Community facilitators, Vicky, for courses to his shelter home, hoping the boys find some inspiration learning from a teacher who came from a similar background and had worked his way up to now become an educator. This move worked well for Santosh and his participation in sessions improved manifold. With further discussions, it turned out that Santosh was now hoping to be a facilitator at Project KHEL. The organisation agreed to support him in this only if they saw marked improvement in his performance as an inspiring team member, and also on the condition that his grades should go up in school. It was only then that Santosh responded in keeping with his potential. Today, this young boy is balancing his board exams and facilitating sessions with other low-income school children, negotiating with his shelter home guardians and Project KHEL on how he wants to allot his time between studies and work in a responsible manner.
Neeraj, on the other, hand grew up in the same shelter home as Santosh and was completely the opposite. He was aggressive and disrespectful, and once he formed an opinion on something or someone, he wouldn’t change that opinion, no matter what. At one point, Neeraj had boycotted Project KHEL sessions for over three months only because they facilitated a game which didn’t interest him. However, he then began showing up for football sessions. On getting a hold of what brought Neeraj to sessions, Project KHEL began utilising the information so that Neeraj knew that to get to the game of football, he had to sit through half a session of another sport or activity that we had designed to be facilitated with him. This response was so consistent and positive that slowly the facilitators began tapping into his energy by having him take care of his peers in a session. For a boy who never liked listening to others and wanted his word to be the final one, Neeraj is one of the most humble Community Youth Leader at Project KHEL today. His willingness to take feedback and make necessary amends to become a more effective educator puts a smile on the faces of all the senior facilitators who had interacted with him in the beginning. At the moment, Neeraj is excelling in his studies and excelling as a facilitator, and both the shelter home guardians and the Project KHEL facilitators couldn’t be happier with the change they are seeing in him.
Living in a tiny room with a family of five, Uttam had always been an outstanding kid, to begin with and is now one of Project KHEL’s best community youth leaders. Uttam had been intelligent from the very beginning. He had a very strong sense of curiosity that armed him with much more information than any other child in his school. However, this made him look down on most other kids in his class because he felt they were not good enough.
Uttam says that he got inspired by Project KHEL’s objective of catering to the weakest of the weak children in the group. He felt that if the KHEL didis (sisters) and bhaiyas (brothers) could keep their patience with his classmates, he had all the more reasons to do the same. Eventually, with guidance and handholding, Uttam gradually made the switch to an effective peer leader in his school. After graduating from middle school, he lost touch with Project KHEL but had been as good as a peer leader that when an opportunity arose to take children an outstation camp on youth development through sports, Uttam was considered for the opportunity.
On the way back from the camp, he learnt of another session Project KHEL was conducting at an area near his house and readily took the opportunity to start attending them again. On hearing stories of how he had carried some of the values he had learnt at our session, in his everyday life, Project KHEL recruited him for their Community Youth Leadership programme as well, and there has been no looking back since then.
Today, these three boys are interacting with almost 1300 underprivileged children each week, with the rest of Project KHEL’s team, imparting Life Skills Education through play and outdoor activities and changing lives of other children their age.
About Project KHEL
Project KHEL is a non-profit that works towards empowering adolescents (9-19 years) paving the way to a more equal and inclusive society by imparting 21 st century life skills to transform adolescents to informed and gender sensitive citizens and leaders in their communities.
Harnessing the ‘power of play,’ we create safe play spaces and implement holistic, interactive and experiential learning methods through sports, story-telling, theater, crafts, dance and games and have reached out to more than 13,000 children till date.
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