In the beginning of last month, Delhi witnessed a ripple of a group of 12 children, all from the most challenging and low-income communities in Delhi, fearlessly taking over the stage at an international spoken word poetry show to narrate their stories of truth and hope on equality, pollution, foeticide and their dreams for India. This was Slam Out Loud.
They said later that writing and speaking poetry helps them find their voice. Little did the cheering audience know about the story of challenges these children have lived through to claim the stage.
Jigyasa, the founder of Slam Out Loud, which later metamorphosed into Arts for Social Change in India, says that the seeds for this were sown quite early in her life. During her childhood, Jigyasa used to be an introvert. Her 4th-grade teacher Manisha transformed her life. She loved her unconditionally and encouraged her. Jigyasa’s mother once took her to ‘mushayaras’ where she read her poetry and won Rs.100. She tasted success for the first time and felt that she too had talent in her. From then she began to believe that with enough love and acceptance, each child could find his own self.
“We would have children from the nearby slums home, every other day where I and my sister would join my mother as she taught them, and for the first time; when I was about 15 years old, I experienced what it is to connect to a child who’s curious to learn but has so many barriers to access,” said Jigyasa
In 2012, when in college she taught music to a group of 30 children, from the slums in Gurgaon. She worked with them, every week, throughout her college and realised how discovering the joy that art, and in this case, music, as a medium holds, was not just a journey for these children finding themselves. In 2013, during the summer break, she found herself in an emotionally challenging space where she was working through visual arts with children suffering from terminal diseases at a hospital in Haryana, and then the next year with physically and mentally challenged children at a beautiful school, Harmony in Himachal Pradesh, through music, again.
“These children taught me more than I could ever teach them, be it either in the way they empathised with each other, accepted each other and all different perspectives or in the details that their observations captured, as they learnt through the arts.”
Slam Out Loud
In what might seem like a progression, she started teaching in a low-income classroom in the Government school Tughlakabad extension, as a part of her fellowship at Teach For India in 2014, where she met Gaurav who would later become the co-founder. The majority of the students the class are from vulnerable backgrounds.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Jigyasa said, “Teaching in the same classroom for 2 years often got us into analysing the systemic challenges very closely. We realised that the idea of education in low-income schools is limited to academic outcomes and the security of employment. In our classroom was Preeti who needed to learn to form better relationships with her family to invest them into her education, and arithmetic and literacy weren’t helping her learn that. We started with learning through the arts in the classroom, using music, visual arts, nukkad naatak, dance and poetry, and In an attempt to be a part of solution and get our students develop 21st Century life and leadership Skills skills along with the values of open-mindedness, tolerance, active listening, empathy, respect and embracing diversity- we conceptualised Slam Out Loud.”
With the vision that “ Children everywhere will find a voice”; during the course of next 2 years, they did workshops for more than 3000 children in different parts of India. The children, wrote and performed on varied issues close to their heart and with those who were enrolled in their longer programs, ultimately showed an increase in classroom achievement.
“At Slam Out Loud, we believe that art can create a space for expression and give children a platform where they receive unconditional positive regard. Through arts, they can be change makers who begin important discourses in their communities.”
The Jijivisha Fellowship
The ripple of change that Slam Out Loud began envisioning morphed to create “The Jijivisha Fellowship”, a year-long commitment-driven volunteer program where selective professional artists are mapped to classes for a year to work with children in underserved communities using arts and inquiry-based learning as a tool. Within the process, the artists also work within their small group to grow through peer and program learning. Currently, 15 Jijivisha fellows impact more than 500 children in learning spaces in low income communities through weekly workshops.
Uppa, one of the Jijivisha fellow in an all boys School in Mori Gate, narrates her journey as “I am a person who has grown and healed with poetry. For me, the opportunity to influence others positively with poetry is a blessing come true. As a teacher I genuinely believe in learning out of experience rather than theory. We started with metaphors and haikus and now we are learning gratitude and acceptance. They love to play games so we invent our own games of poetry. Rhyme games, haiku jams, on spot poetry, syllable games, name it and we play it. I cannot say we have moved mountains with them. But everyday that we meet we learn and grow together.After all poetry is not just the writing but a way of discovering and growing.”
Slam Out Loud in third year of its operation, is now a project incorporated as a project under Arts for Social Change India, a not for profit initiative that uses the arts and the power of community in order to inculcate leadership, expression and mindfulness in individuals, especially youth and children .
They have been given incubation and/or mentorship support by various organizations, and been showcased as one of the leading ideas in innovation in Education by Global Innovation Mexico, TEDx COEP and TEDx YouthChandigarh, as they try to establish their initiative as an endearing organization that brings social change through the arts and builds in individuals hope, in order to eventually discover their role in transforming the world we live in.
Jigyasa can be reached at : [email protected]
Gaurav can be reached at: [email protected]
To find more about Slam Out Loud; you can go to www.facebook.com/slamoutloud
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