It was Saturday, 10th August. The morning couldn’t have been better.Blue grey clouds in the sky. Bright green trees smiling with delight after the rains had washed them clean. This day was indeed special in many ways. It was the day we were going to educate the children of Bal Kalyan Nagari about the ill effects of tobacco chewing and smoking. This is the alma mater of Suresh Pawar, one of our most active core volunteers, and also the originator of the program.
Bal Kalyan Nagari provides shelter to orphans as well as children of single mothers who did not have the means to support and educate their children. Groups of six to eight children are housed in dormitories under a house mother who looks after them and they all go to a nearby school. The age group ranged from 4 years to 16, and our target group was age 10 and above.
Our program was to conduct a lecture with power point slides as well as get the children to prepare posters on Tobacco and Cancer so that their interaction was proactive. We had already sent boxes of crayons, pencil and drawing paper as encouragement to the exercise.
We reached there around 10 am and were delighted to see many children already working their way to clean the library hall where the workshop was to be held. They had ingeniously covered the windows with newspaper curtains to stop the sunlight from spoiling the projection, and arranged chairs for seniors to sit, while they sat an the floor.
They had also displayed, on large tables, sketches and paintings they had created to convey what smoking and chewing tobacco could do to their health. The ideas were brilliant, to say the least; and their expression was as powerful as any accomplished artist. Looking at the creations, we felt this aware group needed no lecture on the relation between tobacco and cancer!!
We began the day’s proceedings with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by the children who had all trooped in in their school uniforms, accompanied by their House Mothers. I have never experienced such an energetic and high decibel singing of Jana Gana Mana. I had goose bumps all over.
Then Viji took over and started the presentation. I should say she is an educator par excellence and her expertise on the subject shone through clearly. Imagine silencing the chirpy chaos of 140 children without any threat of dire consequences (like kneeling down or standing up on the desk) that our teachers used to resort to. In no time, she had the rapt attention of all of them. She says in her blog that the children were the most engaging and engaged audience ever.
Prizes were given to the 15 posters voted the best – by myself, Vidyaji and Bindu. Goodies were distributed by Komal and Ayeshah who by the look of the smiles they received, had really touched their hearts.
Suresh introduced us to his own House Mother from all those years ago – the kind and gracious Mrs Joshi , who at 75 years today was still nurturing more Sureshes for the future. In his humble and charming manner he laid the credit for all he was today at her feet.
The administrator then treated us to some tea and snacks in their humble canteen where we were joined by two friendly mongrels who got a fair share of the biscuits. We found out later that the two were permanent inmates of the children’s home and their saviours too.
This was certainly one of the most special events we have ever conducted. We all came away grateful for what we have and in total admiration for the children who showed us how much they all had . And how they were eager to do well in life – emulate their Suresh Bhai.
Sujeesh Sukumaran, FOM Mumbai