Shell Project Better World (SPBW)
Shell Volunteers @ the UUPP Tuition Centers

Shell Foundation put us in touch with Shell Project Better World (SPBW) to start volunteering at our tuition centers on Saturdays to conduct special classes for the children under the Urban Ultra Poor Program. Shambavi, one of kids studying in 8th standard says, "I enjoyed the games and learnt many new words, thank you and come always." All the volunteers feel that the kids are so loving and intelligent. Shell volunteers are in the process of putting up a short term and long term plan and structure for these children in learning English, Math and Hindi. One of the important objectives of the volunteers is to involve alternate teaching methods such as songs, number games, rhymes, enacting plays, etc.

Parinaam would like to thank Shell Project Better World for involving such amazing people with our benficiaries and we look forward to taking the children's education to a whole new level.

A narrative by Varun (volunteer from SPBW): First Day with the Drumshed children

As if to add drama and effect to the events of the day (and consequently to my narration), it rained heavily as we drove to the school in Old Bypanahalli that we were visiting to meet the children of the "Drumshed" slum. The rain hindered our vision and attention and we initially missed the turn that was supposed to be taken. The brief travail notwithstanding, we arrived at the school at the appointed time. As we walked into the school room we found but three kids - three boys and one girl - scurrying around, speaking in Kannada in ebullient tones, setting the mood for the rest of the evening.

The boys spoke among themselves for a while and then left abruptly as if on cue and we were told that they would bring more kids from the slum. It was four o'clock in the afternoon and it had been raining for a while. The ground was wet and the air was damp. The room itself lacked electric power supply, was dark and had only one window the view from which was blocked by a house that was a few feet away.

While we waited for the rest of the kids to arrive, wondering how many would indeed turn up given the rain, we began conversing with the girl, whose name was Sambhavi and learnt that she was a polyglot: she could speak Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. She had graduated from the elementary school that were visiting and now went to a middle school that was located not too far from her home. While we were speaking she had her text and notebooks out and was working on her homework all along, barely lifting her head, though one could not miss or mistake the inherent energy that was bubbling under the surface: an attribute of her personality that can only be described as feistiness which came in bursts, like when she would quickly rise and volunteer to translate for us when we were trying to communicate with the kids. She was the oldest kid in the lot and had a domineering personality, which was actually warm and not in the least smothering. She had a caretaker's sense of authority over the younger kids that could have only come from affection and empathy for them. As the kids began to arrive, we had to bring in a couple of benches from the adjacent room for them to sit on and soon we had more than twenty kids in the room, which was probably just about the capacity of the room. Apart from us volunteers, we had in the room a teacher from the school and Roshan, an associate with Parinaam, the NGO under whose aegis we were working.

After the ritual introductions, we had a game of what we called "Pass the Basket," where we passed a bag of chocolates around with music playing and when the music stopped the person holding the bag had to stand up, speak about himself or herself and pick up a piece of chocolate from the bag. And as the kids spoke, we learned about their professional aspirations and about the movie actors who they liked. Then we played an improvised version of the game Pictionary. We separated the kids into teams of four and had one member of the team come up to the board and draw the object or animal whose name was whispered into his or her ear while the rest of that person's team-members had to identify the object or animal being drawn. The game drew raucous responses from the kids and at times, carried away by their excitement, kids from all the teams yelled their responses together. Between the game sessions we had some of the kids perform for the rest, with some narrating jokes and some others singing popular Tamil and Kannada movie songs. Nearing closing time, we handed out drawing sheets to the kids where they had to connect the numerically marked dots to complete the picture. This was to be their homework for the subsequent week.

At around 6:00 PM, we said our goodbyes and the kids thanked us for visiting them. Sambhavi, given the enterprising person that is, stood up and thanked us once again and said that she would look forward to meeting us again next week. Then we gathered outside the room with the kids and took a couple of pictures. The weather was much more agreeable on our ride back home, and we, the volunteers, discussed the lessons learnt and areas for improvement, which we agreed would be expanding on the day's exercises, making them more challenging and of greater educational value while weaning them off the need for cues like chocolates to learn or perform. We also felt that we needed more volunteers and it is for them indeed that this narrative is intended.