Little Pooja and Radha are not playing a mindless game! No sir. They are proud participants of an international workshop held under the aegis of the Human Development and Capability Association Thematic group on Participatory Methods a group pf the Human Development Capability Association (HDCA) being held in New Delhi this week.
The workshop was held from 5 to 8 September and had two main objectives: 1 - Strengthen the organizational capacity of Project Why 2 - Explore the impacts of Project Why on beneficiaries of their work with children. The results are awaited and we all, and I in particular, wait with bated breath for the outcome.
But this post is not about whether or not we passed the litmus test, or what measures need to be taken to strengthen our capacities, this blog is about the other side of the workshop, the tiny moments that may have escaped many, the backstage angst, the fleeting moments of pride, the surreptitious phone calls to assert that all is going well, the furtive gestures to ensure that nothing is missed and more.
For 4 whole days project why was on its toes though we did try to put up an equable face. A plethora of different activities were scheduled at different times and places. It was impossible to keep an eye on all as we would have liked to as most of us (teachers and the management team) were part of a SWOT exercise that took a large chunk of time. I must confess that when we were told about having to spend nine hours (3x3) in a room the reactions of everyone were to say the least noteworthy: raised eyebrows, perplexed faces, vigorous shakes of the head and total bewilderment. The motley crew that makes up the extraordinary project team was in a quandary. They all knew that we were to play hosts to a dozen eminent academics from the world over and every one felt diffident. Would we come up to the expectations?
Moreover the past few weeks had been marked by furious preparations with the help of Sara who had come a month earlier to help prepare the workshop. The activities had to be meticulously planned: children identified, parents informed, teachers assigned, transport organised. Props needed to be made, translations done keeping in mind the ground and social reality. Then it was time to explain it all to the team and I guess our own nervousness must have added to theirs in quantum leaps.
D Day dawned after a sleepless might. We all felt like debs on the even of their coming out ball. For the first time we were to be showcased to those that mattered and that would in many ways define our future. We were aware of the fact that in spite of all our careful planning there would be many slips and glitches but decided to put our best foot forward.
The workshop began and we were carried in the whirlwind of activities barely having time to think. We simply moved from one activity to the other and one day to the next. In between we fed our curiosity on the bribes of phrases we heard along the way. As the participants visited some part of the project or finished one particular activity we devoured the "the children are great" ; "what nice answers"; "stunning pictures" ; "interesting debate" that we overheard. It seemed we had come out winners or at least been accepted warts and all!
The frightening SWOT went off like a breeze thanks to the wonderful professor who steered it. We sheepishly recalled how scared we had been and how apprehensive we had felt about the whole matter. Renato was extremely warm and managed to make even the quietest teacher not only speak but share his or her inner most feelings. We discovered things about ourselves and others and above all saw how much we shared in common. It was a priceless experience for all.
We now await the official results but I was made privy to some. The subtle and even anodyne games were powerful tools that helped delve into the children's mind and bring out their aspirations and hope. It also brought out what project why had taught them and that was a matter of great pride: some children selected the library as their most precious option while others took pictures of places of worship other than theirs to show that they had understood the importance of respecting each other. Many children wanted their friends to also join pwhy and that alone made our hearts swell with pride.
I could have waited for the official results before writing about the workshop, but the excitement was too much and somehow I felt this candid account would better showcase what I felt. It is the moment to express my indebtedness: to all those who made this workshop a reality - Mario, Renato, Nicolo, Sara, Alex, Jean Francois, Jim, Francesco, Sara, Ina - by coming and spending their invaluable time with us, to the pwhy team without which none of this could have been possible but above all to the children of project why who are a living proof of the indubitable reality that every child, no matter how deprived, has a right to dream and we are blessed to be those who are entrusted with the challenging task of making these dreams come true.