‘Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all,’ said Aristotle. At VOICE Camp, I found that it was truly possible to do both. Especially in a classroom filled with girls whose minds are alight with an all-consuming fire to learn everything, to absorb like sponges and to become strong enough to alleviate the impossible hardships they face at such a young age. My first day at VOICE Camp left me awestruck and truly inspired.
An account by Malini Gopalakrishnan…
It has been less than a month since VOICE 4 Girls welcomed me into the family. I think it was the first time that my passion counted for as much as my skills. It has been an exciting couple of weeks, and I have learnt so much. However, the highlight of my newbie month has to be my experience at VOICE Camp. This particular camp, was a VOICE Sakhi Camp, teaching girls of class nine about leadership skills and community outreach; most of them have already attended our Parichay and Disha camps where they have learnt so much about their bodies, basic health and hygiene, their safety, basic rights and responsibilities. So, you could say that most of these girls are seasoned VOICE Campers.
Now I love kids, have one whom I am trying to raise and I interact with as many young ‘uns as I can; these kids at camp made me feel like a fledgeling around them. Compared to the majority of urban children who seem so aware and sadly desensitised, each girl at camp is a riot! The energy these girls have is remarkable! It was not wasted upon me the meaning of privilege, that neither my daughter nor I had to fight tooth and nail to go to school, surrounded by these eager youngsters for whom education is etched with aspiration. They bound into the classroom with palpable excitement and joy.
Supriya Gudur, our counsellor for this camp, is a lovely 2nd year engineering students. It is obvious that the girls love her–they tease her, they listen to her, they worship her and they trust her. The classroom is monitored by my colleague Irine Elizabeth; her classroom presence is incredible even from the sidelines. The day’s lesson talks about the qualities that make a good leader; we begin with an activity which involves the girls being divided into groups with one member acting out a leadership quality (written on chits and picked out by the girls), while the team guesses the word. What ensues is a flurry of laughter and cackles, some hilarious attempts at guessing, some indignant foot-stomping from the enacting member—leading up to either a hit or a miss. The girls have a ball and I feel like I have been charged on a live wire! By the end of the activity, the girls have learnt about concepts like fairness, humility, risk-taking, honesty , encouragement etc. As the day hurries on (time really flies around these dynamos), our girls continue to assimilate facets of leadership; they learn about the skills, qualities and set of values that make one leader stand out from another. The fun never stops.
As I sit clutching my side, aching from all the laughter, wiping away tears of mirth, I have a realisation. Of how these girls, 13-15 years all, wise beyond their years in the face of all their trials, are contrastingly untouched, unbridled and refreshingly innocent. I reflect at how a mere ten-day camp has given them so much hope and unleashed all of this energy. It feels like sitting in the front row watching a miracle, seeing these girls transform from shy and reserved to confident and deliciously mischevious.
By the end of camp, we have girls opening up about various problems–ranging from a missing pair of spectacles to mounting pressure to get married. The girls are encouraged to help and support each other, to alert school authorities when they feel like the problem might be out of their control, to stand up for their rights and their futures.
As we wrap up for the day, I am asked by the girls when I will come again to meet them. It puts a lump in my throat to say goodbye… The Camp, its resident campers, my colleagues, the school on a hilltop, all made me feel rejuvenated. To be a part of something much bigger… another’s life, what a feeling it is. In the immortal words of Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait another moment to improve the world.”
You too can be part of something that is changing the world… Become a VOICE Counsellor and you too can be a part of something bigger.