The mail came in at 2:15 in the afternoon and by 3 I’d filled up the online application form and sent it across. The opportunity seemed just too amazing to let it pass by. DHL-Blue Dart offices across the world were having their Global Volunteering Day on 16 September 2011. They were looking to send about 30 volunteers to organize a competition and give away-prizes in an under-resourced school in our city too. And our school was chosen amongst 17 other schools in Pune.
This year, the aim has been to spread some impact outside the classroom too and develop the school as a whole. This opportunity seemed to be aligned to that aim. Our school has never had any competitions; the children don’t know what a debate is or what an elocution competition looks like. There have been two vaguely organized drawing competitions since I joined, but the children have never been given and prizes or certificates for it. Attending inter-school competition has been a far-fetched dream.
So we sent a proposed list of activities to the admin team at DHL and they selected two of the activities.
- Drawing Competition for 220 kids in the primary section. (Grade 1 to Grade 5).
- Quiz Competition on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Trivia (For Grade 3 and Grade 4 only, since these two classes are reading the book)
This was the first time, an event on a scale like this was being organized in our school. And the amazing thing was each participating kid was going to be awarded a token of appreciation. The team at DHL had already informed us that they wanted to give two prizes per class and of course a prize for the quiz competition winners.
The theme of this competition was Re-Drawing India, which pretty much is Teach For India’s vision statement. For little kids, this would be interpreted as : ‘What I want to be, when I grow up?’
The event went off beautifully and all the volunteers walked that extra mile to pump in more excitement into the day. They were wonderful with the kids and made this day so much fun for every kid.
The event was also attended by senior managers at DHL and they spent over an hour with the team picking out the best entries from each grade. They found the task of selecting only two entries so difficult, that they finally ended up announcing a third consolation prize for each grade.
Each of the 200 participating kids got a pencil box with goodies in it, a frooti and a biscuit packet. After happily gulping down their frooti’s, the kids gathered downstairs for the Prize Distribution ceremony. Our kids had never been a part of a prize distribution ceremony and they weren’t sure of what to expect or even how they are supposed to be standing. But of course, once we started announcing the prizes, they were all ecstatic. It was amazing to see how they cheered the winners from their classes. This was huge for them. The school for those thirty minutes echoed with sounds of applause, cheers and laughter. And the look on a kids face, when he walked towards the stage to receive his prize, was something extraordinary. Walking up to that stage, speaking or performing in front of an audience, being recognized for something is empowering for a child. Schools like ours deny the children some very basic joys of growing up due to lack of funds. My project for this second year is dedicated to this cause: to provide all children in this school those opportunities for development. (More on that in the subsequent posts).
Almost half the school year has come to an end, there is so much happening and so much more to do. That’s one of the reasons for my infrequent posts here. Hopefully, the second half of the year would see more happening in this space.