I recently was a part of the IWitness programme. Believe me, it was unique in its own sense. There are stories and then there is reality. And then there is me, mesmerized by their intertwining!
My programme journey began on 4 February 2019 from just outside the urban national capital of India; via the state of tea gardens; to Kishanganj, an economically distressed district. With me on this journey were eight other co-workers from different demographics and geographies.
We met briefly at the hotel restaurant that evening for the first time, technically breaking the ice in the cold. But, a few minutes later, I am sure I could see the child within all of us come out as Lisa, from Going to School, presented us with the IWitness kit and a scrappy bag and a t-shirt (both from Going to School). In my head, I was like: “Beeeeeeeeee Scrapppppyyyy!”
What kept us unified over the next two days was the spontaneity and passion of our programme partners and the fire it lit in all our hearts!
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of the chirping birds and the rising sun. But, of the working groups we made, early bird and lazy bird, I definitely was a member of the lazy birds.
That day, we visited two schools and for what (I left behind school over 20 years ago)? To witness the remarkable and unconventional ways of teaching while rekindling memories from my own school days.
And oh God! What a welcome! We were greeted by scrappy reporters (children from the project) waiting for us, with a setup built from scrap materials and, honestly, I was left aghast by their questions. I mean, a child asking: “What do you think about child marriage?” or “bad air?” or “plastic?” or “chemical farming?” I really hope that they were content with our answers.
I think this experience really turned our thoughts upside down; as just moments later there was Yuko, standing on her head (actually). Yoga was what she illustrated along with the power of keeping your mind, body and thoughts in sync. And then to keep all the conversations light was the Hindi in Hyderabadi accent. It was just too cute!
To sum up, the day had loads of scrappy interactions, intense discussions, laughs and dinner at the end of it all.
The next day was full of in-field action! Visiting some individuals who had continually inspired these kids and their learning materials / projects in the curriculum on topics ranging from sustainability to entrepreneurship. They could tell us the process of bee farming, organic farming, making organic manure and making bags out of waste sacks.
This we found out all during our interview sessions from morning throughout the day till the evening! We trod closely with these young kids, microphones in their hands, running across the village streets, taking selfies and interviewing all along. The young little heroes, I would say! Their enthusiasm seemed to get infused in us all, so much so that tiredness didn’t even cross our minds.
The kids were like: “Come on, to the next home now!” We also then became scrappyyy reporters ourselves (although we weren’t as good as the kids). And then the day closed back at the school along with the closing ceremony of the IWitness programme.
Somewhere, back behind the children, tears of happiness rolled down Lisa’s eyes. Warmth, unfeigned happiness! I felt here what I have always believed in there is no greater joy than to be a help to others, to see another life get back on track, to help a family stay together.