Friday, July 8, 2016

My First Workshop

As I walked into Mahavir Senior Model School for the first ever workshop since my internship at Udayan Care, I could hear the bustling of impatient girls, enthusiastic and thrilled to meet their friends after a very long time. As I entered into the classroom along with Ms. Shalu Saharan, the program coordinator of Udayan Shalini Fellowship Programme, there were murmurs of excitement and greetings to meet their favourite ‘Didi.’ After an exchange of pleasantries, we proceeded to outline a plan for the workshop.

Such small group workshops are just one part of the bigger Udayan Shalini Fellowship (USF), a fellowship which supports the higher education of disadvantaged girls which combines financial aid with capacity-building.  In the North Delhi USF chapter (USF is in 10 cities across India!), the workshops are conducted on the first Sunday of every month with smaller groups of about 30-50 Fellows for more intimate interaction. While also teaching key skills, these workshops also are aimed at providing an opportunity to the Fellows, often highly introverted girls, to express their opinions. This results in making them more confident and forthcoming.

This time the subject matter at hand was Stress Management. In today’s pragmatic and competitive world, ‘stress’ is ingrained in our lives, especially in teenagers who constantly deal with peer pressure and stress related to family problems, academic performance, getting into a good college, etc. Therefore, the aim of this workshop was to make the fellows understand how stress affects our physical and mental well being as well as making them aware of the techniques for managing stress in their day to day lives.

Firstly, to encourage active participation, the fellows were asked to name any activity or hobby which acted as a stress buster for them. The answers ranged from dancing, listening to music and reading to methods like writing poetry, watching cricket matches and even sleeping! All in all it was a fun activity which ended with all of us singing ‘ALL IS WELL’ from 3 Idiots! (That is another stress buster!)

After this, the Fellows split into two groups, with myself taking one group and Shalu Ma’am taking the others. There were around 30-40 girls in my group, girls who had recently passed out school.

Unanimously it was decided that since they are just entering into their college life, I would give them some tips and suggestions of how to introduce themselves in college or even while applying to internships or jobs. I was surprised to see how perceptive the girls were. At first shy, they soon let go their inhibitions, opening up to me and actively participating, sharing their background, hobbies, interests, skills and ambitions. When they came to know that I was pursuing my graduation from Delhi University, they became inquisitive and asked me all about cut-offs, the admission process, good colleges, my experience at first day in college and how difficult it was for me to move into a new city away from home.

It was an exhilarating experience for me to interact with such ambitious and wonderful girls. In spite of all the difficulties and problems that came in their way, they never gave up hope and worked diligently towards their goals, never looking back.

I would not be lying if I said that I was a little nervous at first about interacting with them personally, wondering whether I could win their affection and trust. But the warmth with which they accepted me in their family made me feel as if I had known them for ages. By the end, I realised that how important this workshop turned out for me, how it has helped me to not only improve my communication and social skills but also grow as a person.

Udayan Shalini Fellowships derives its name from conjoining two Sanskrit words “Udayan” and “Shalini” meaning eternal sunrise and a dignified woman respectively. It thus symbolises an eternal sunrise to a dignified life for a girl, who otherwise would have fallen out on the way. I am proud to say that these girls have truly turned out to be ‘Shalinis’ in a true sense and I look forward to more such interactions and workshops.

About the Author:  Anukansha is an intern working with our Udayan Shalini Fellowship Program.  She is a college student, currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Economics at Delhi University.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Reflections on a Year Gone Past -- Udayan Care’s Year in Review 2015

"When I woke up today in the morning, I started replacing old calendars on the walls and my desk. I noticed that the calendar in my mobile had also changed. Standing at this milestone in time, I think it is time to recall our past and our thoughts, words, and deeds, and see where we stand. Let's scan our fears, dreams, doubts, achievements, experiences, activities, behaviour, trials which left an impact, may be bigger or smaller, on our lives. Leave behind the demons of the past and look forward to a brand new start in 2016. The New Year can mean a fresh start, some much needed change, or a continuation of success and happiness. 
New Year is not about changing the dates but direction; it’s not about changing the calendar but commitment; it’s not about changing the actions but attitude. May each and every day of yours be renewed with lots of happiness and love. Let us also light a few candles at the altar of suffering humanity. Let each one do his or her very best for a noble cause filled with love that flows freely, uncontaminated by petty considerations of the ego." 
--Arun Talwar, Udayan Care COO 
This year has been a beautiful year, full of smiles and joy and hope.

This year has been a year of new beginnings, with the start of a new Udayan Shalini Fellowship chapter in Hyderabad (the first batch funded by Genpact and Microsoft),  the grand opening of a new IT training center in Sahibibad (sponsored by United Decoratives Private Limited), the creation of a new Paper Craft Studio and Enamel Painting workroom in our Greater Noida Skill Development Center, and, through the generosity of the ASOS Foundation, the construction of a Girls' home in Noida and a commitment for a home in Kurukshetra.  Also, finally emerging from the stone age, our website now supports online donations!

This year has been a year for change as we left behind our cherished logo of 21 years, designed by volunteer artist Ajay Zharotia, to embrace a new logo brimming with the diverse colors of life and life’s endless experiences, the colors of hope and opportunity.

This year has been a year of academic achievement as an astounding 99% of our Ghar children, many who came to us nearly illiterate, passed their board exams (with over 30% of the children scoring above 70%), and 100% of our Shalinis cleared their 12th board exams (with nearly 60% of the Shalinis scoring above 70%).

This year has been a year of activism and social responsibility, as our Shalinis participated in campaigns on topics ranging from child trafficking to environmentalism; our Ghar children collected and gave away their favorite things to other, more needy, children; our IT Centre students became agents of societal change through the American India Foundation - Adobe Youth Voices programme, and our Big Friends and Little Friends partnered up to protest against using crackers during Diwali.

This has been a year for the celebration of talent, as our Ghar children garnered numerous accolades in various areas (even winning medals at the Special Olympics in USA!), were invited to speak and perform at events in USA and Indonesia, and started their own e-newsletter, The Udayans, written by the children themselves.

This year has been a year in which we ran for education, in which Udayan Care staff, volunteers, and Shalinis ran in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon alongside partners Make My Trip, Vatika, Arrows Group and ICG Medical, raising over 30 lakh for India’s future.

This year has been a year for fun and learning too, with workshops and summer camps and sports meets and holiday cheer all around, thanks to the support of partners such as Adidas, CPM India, Genpact, and Microsoft and the help of countless volunteers.  We have even taken our learnings to others, organizing a day of discussions and training workshops under the topic “To Deliver Better Outcomes For Institutions:  Towards A Socially Adjusted Young Person”.  Additionally our staff members Mr. Rahul Raja Sharma and Mr. Anirudh Raghuvanshi partnered with Save the Children to instruct Punjab’s Child Protection Officers on the new foster care guidelines, and our Managing Trustee, Dr. Kiran Modi, delivered a paper on “Addressing Challenges of Transition from Children’s Home to Independence” at the 10th ISPCAN conference in Malaysia.

This has been the year Udayan Care’s 21 years of commitment to the wellbeing of children and youth has been recognized by the Government of India with the awarding of the National Award for Child Welfare 2014 – India’s highest award for a non-profit.

This year has been a year full of too many things to list – however, most importantly, this has been another year in which we have been blessed to see a smile light up a child’s face when he achieves what he never thought was possible; in which we have been inspired by the tenacity of a girl who grasps the chance at education with all her might, knowing its value in the face of deprivation; and have been graced with the glimpse of the glimmer of hope and eagerness in the eyes of youth imagining brighter futures with new skills.

This year has been a beautiful year, full of smiles and joy and hope.

To see more of what Udayan Care has done this year, you can read our new Annual Report 2014-15 here.