Thursday, April 30, 2009

Workshop with LEAD children on Editing/Media


A few weeks ago, I offered to volunteer through Karmayog. I'd mentioned that I live in a distant suburb, that I could not commit to anything long-term or working on a daily basis. But I would still like to offer whatever skills I had to help children, preferably teenagers, and young adults.

One of the few people who did contact me was LEAD, a small outfit working with children from underprivileged backgrounds in Airoli. They told me of the limitations they worked under, and I told them of my own constraints. However, after speaking to Rupesh, I offered to come over and do a workshop. I promised that it would be creative, but did not work out a definite plan of action.

There were various reasons for this. One, I have some experience of working with kids and I know that it is almost impossible to follow a charted plan unless you are familiar with them and their current levels of understanding and responding to the subject you intend tackling. In fact, it becomes difficult to stick to a definite format even with college students and working professionals. Two, I am not a professional conductor of workshops, but I do have a fair understanding of communication. I like the freedom to switch between communication tracks at the last minute, depending on what sort of students are participating. And three, I had been warned that there would be several kids, ranging from four to fourteen.

As it turned out, the range was even wider. I saw at least two babies in attendance, on the hips of their older siblings, and some kids that were barely older than toddlers.

Getting to Airoli was a bit of a task. I was picked up at the station by one of the volunteers who rode a bike. The LEAD center was a single room with durries on the floor, a blackboard, a lot of posters and colourful pin-ups of the kind that belong to a classroom. The kids began floating in and once they had settled down, I began.

I had thought to start with a sort of game - getting the children to introduce themselves and also say a little more than just their names. I suggested that they say something new, which was not common knowledge. This exercise did not go down too well. Many of the kids were too shy to even tell their names. Hardly anyone could say anything about him/herself, although there was a one little gentleman who announced that he was a boy, and that this fact was not common knowledge.

I had a rough plan in mind when I had arrived. I had wanted to sit and talk with the kids about their lives and their creative ambitions. Maybe get them to write some poetry, or a play. But it was apparent to me that I would not be able to do this without getting to know them a little better. There were several adult volunteers around who were helping to keep order, but noise levels were very high and most of the children were too young to be able to come up with poetry, off hand. They were also not exposed to enough drama or the other arts for them to be able to relate to them immediately. At some point in the future, I would still like to do this.

It was hard to keep the children's attention, possibly because I do not speak Marathi and Gujarati, and also because the children were distracted by each other because of their very different ages. However, I spent a bit of time just getting each child to stand up and introduce him/herself. Then I introduced myself and asked them who they thought I was.

I explained to them the concept of a writer - of books, and poems and newspapers, all of which have to be created by somebody. Then I moved on to newspapers from there. I asked the kids about the names of newspapers they were familiar with, and their purpose. Some of them came up with answers with relative ease, and seemed to have a natural understanding of the function and processes surrounding news.

I took them through the whole process of writing for newspapers, starting backwards, and then forwards again - of what might be an interesting item of news from the papers, how one knows about events and how one collects information. I told them about editors and how to approach someone with a story.

After that, the children were split into three groups and told to come up with a story, the sort that could go into a newspaper. Most of them came up with instances of theft in their own neighbourhood. One came up with a filmi/celebrity story. Others came up with tales of people being possessed by spirits/ghosts.

They were all very excited, and were already fighting for 'print-space', demanding that their stories be printed (on the blackboard). Some were rather disappointed that their stories had to be wiped off, to make way for the next group - their first lesson in the ephemeral nature of media success!

It was a very basic lesson in media, but one that I hope will help the kids to think about communication and what it stands for. They might perhaps take a greater interest in newspapers, or at least, consider the possibility of developing their skills in the field. The older children would have gained more from this sort of workshop, naturally.

I do hope the initiative continues. The volunteers could take this forward by asking the kids to bring news of their own interest to the classroom/centre. This will help the children to think about and discuss the world around them. They could also build games around communication, starting with the simple one of getting each child to speak up more often.

It might be a good idea, for future workshops, to split the children into age-wise groups. I hope to go again at some point in the future.

The snaps will help us relive those happy moments....Here is the link....

Annie Zaidi

1 comment:

  1. Hi Annie,

    We were really pleased that you had come all the way from Mira Road with new ideas for our kids. Your concept was quite unique & it will help us to come with more such concepts to groom our kids & make them decide their feature goals in coming time. We are sure that you would come again & as promised we will be better organized next time by dividing the kids in diff groups.
    Thanks & wish you good time.