On this hot summer day the children gathered at the office for a day of fun and learning. Pooja, along with child rights expert Nilesh Puradkar, had planned a program of interactive games designed to help the children think about important issues.
In the first game, Railway Station, the children were asked to imagine three “stations” dubbed “Should Have,” “Can Do Without,” and “Not Necessary.” Deciding where to put things like books, medicine, new school bags, and cell phones helped the children learn to prioritize as they justified their choices. The children realized that some things they wanted, such as junk food, qualified as unnecessary expenses. This was made particularly clear when some of the children shared that there were times when their mothers could not provide food for lunch and they had to wait until afterwards to eat.
Next, Nilesh asked the children about dangerous people or places in the community. The children revealed that there were some mentally-challenged and alcoholic individuals who could act aggressively – especially when teased. The children also shared some fears about people snatching children for child labor or child abuse. Nilesh asked them whom they might approach for help, and the children mentioned teachers, neighbors, and SHARE. Nilesh described a number of other options, including police, ward officers, and the Education Department.
The Bird and Trees game then provided a little break. A game involving changing partners, it was also an exercise in group building and peer support. Mostly the children thought it was a lot of fun!
Afterwards, Nilesh returned to the theme of things that are necessary and things which are not. He referred to the Mumbai floods of 5 years ago, when SHARE provided shelter for 10 days for some of the artisans. Remembering that experience, the children made lists of the 12 most important items they needed to survive. Then they were asked to progressively eliminate items. This helped them focus on what was really important. They then drew pictures depicting some of their rights, such as the right to education or freedom from child labor.
The day wound up with a game called Fish Market, in which the children were frantically selling something – which nobody could actually identify! The action ended in enjoyable chaos. The lesson here was that if the children want to convey a message about rights or needs, they must communicate clearly, calmly and appropriately. All of the day’s activities, combining fun, sharing, and learning, gave them much to think about as they headed for home.