Social entrepreneur Sriram V Ayer’s life could be slotted into two durations — earlier than and after 2002.
Within the former, he held a profitable company job that he loved totally. He’d began working in his early 20s, and by the point he was 27, had been promoted to a senior function throughout the firm.
“It was an thrilling time for me at work. I obtained to journey the world and was uncovered to so many experiences. In a way, it allowed me to see and study many issues,” he tells The Higher India.
The ‘after’ got here within the wake of the Gujarat riots, when Sriram was first woken out of his reverie. “Seeing the type of ache being inflicted on individuals was very disturbing. I saved interested by what makes us so hateful in direction of one another. Seeing what individuals had change into scared me,” he remembers.
Three years later, this — coupled with a number of extra profound experiences — would encourage Sriram to ascertain NalandaWay Basis in Chennai.
The organisation works with kids from low-income backgrounds to “obtain by means of arts” (ATA) and make studying enjoyable. These artwork types embody theatre, dance, music, pictures, inventive writing, storytelling, and movie.
Since inception, the organisation has labored with over 10 million college students throughout Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Bihar, and Jammu & Kashmir. That is executed by means of direct classroom intervention, in addition to collaboration with different civil society organisations, which incorporates the Authorities of Delhi, Sriram explains.
How can we make communities perceive each other?
Sriram discovered himself in Baroda, Gujarat in Might 2002, two months after the Godhra riots. The violence continued to precipitate and unfold over the months, and Baroda was witnessing the after-currents quite strongly.
At the same time as he continued his job, the fear of polarisation round him remained in his thoughts. In 2004, one other occasion would push him to consider the place the world was heading.
“One night, a younger boy named Vinod walked into my workplace cabin with agarbattis (incense stick) in his hand. In dialog, I gathered that his father had left the household when he was very younger. His mom and sister had been concerned in making the agarbattis.”
He goes on, “He was attending faculty through the day and promoting agarbattis within the night to have the ability to fund his charges.”
It was this dialog, he says, that made him realise the significance of getting a very good mentor in a single’s life.
“Right here was a younger boy who was so eager on pursuing his schooling, however his monetary scenario didn’t enable for that. Whereas he was doing the whole lot in his capability to proceed finding out, I felt he would have benefited immensely from having a mentor in his life,” provides Sriram. A couple of years later, after the institution of his organisation, he discovered Vinod and started supporting his schooling. In the present day, the younger man works in a agency in Chennai.
In the meantime, within the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami — which devastated Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and components of India — the identical 12 months, Sriram started noticing how individuals stepped up to assist others in misery.
“Right here, there was no query about one’s faith, affiliations, caste or creed. Individuals who had no prior expertise in catastrophe administration got here out to assist. Witnessing that modified one thing inside me,” he provides.
With the Godhra incident nonetheless contemporary in his thoughts, he felt the necessity to do one thing concrete to result in change.
“What if I may discover college students like Vinod a mentor from a group aside from their very own? It might present each of them an opportunity to grasp one another’s group effectively, and see issues from a distinct perspective. I assumed doing this might clear up two points — being respectful of various religions, and with the ability to discover a mentor to assist and help college students from underprivileged backgrounds,” says Sriram.
This was his eureka second, and led to the formation of NalandaWay in 2005, for which he stop his job the earlier 12 months.
He says, “On the whole, we’re all born with qualities of compassion and kindness. One simply must work on making certain that we proceed to hone these qualities and permit them to be on the forefront.”
With NalandaWay, Sriram makes an attempt to stabilise the lives of youngsters reeling from one catastrophe or the opposite, and encourage them to not solely perceive concord and co-existence, but additionally work in tandem to construct brighter futures for themselves.
Use artwork to voice your fears
With no formal coaching in schooling or the social sector, the social entrepreneur learnt alongside the best way. He remembers having a number of conversations with kids, academics, and different stakeholders to see how finest he may design programmes to assist.
“After I requested a bunch of youngsters why they had been disinterested at school and courses, the solutions I obtained had been all normal — uninterested in the best way issues had been being taught, academics being impolite, common lack of any incentive to review and do effectively…” he says.
To discover a strategy to make schooling intriguing, he launched the youngsters to artwork.
They had been assigned the identical chapter they’d described as boring, and had been requested to current it as a play.
“Abruptly, they had been prepared to go above and past to grasp the subject and walked away with such an actual sense of studying,” Sriram says.
As a result of method through which they had been taught, every baby felt seen, in addition to a way of accomplishment. “The kinaesthetic type of studying appeared to bode effectively with all of them and that was an enormous studying for us,” he says.
This, in flip, debunked the parable that kids aren’t fascinated by studying.
“It was nearly discovering a medium that labored for them,” Sriram says.
The inspiration works carefully with kids coming from backgrounds of trauma — rescued from baby labour, impacted and orphaned as a result of tsunami, affected by HIV/AIDS, and trafficked for flesh commerce.
“We used theatre, artwork, music, dance, pictures and artistic writing as mediums to assist them specific and voice their challenges and fears,” says Sriram. These works had been then showcased to resolution makers, IAS officers, and faculties to assist result in change, in addition to encourage college students to proceed their schooling.
Certainly one of their profitable tasks has been the launch of NalandaWay kids’s choir, launched in 2015.
To seek out younger abilities from numerous backgrounds, the muse’s music staff conducts auditions throughout a number of authorities and government-aided faculties, kids’s houses, and orphanages in Chennai and Delhi. “Our principal criterion in deciding on kids for the choir is their degree of pleasure. Music could be taught, all we’d like is the keenness,” says Sriram.
“We arrange a percussion band within the Ongole district of Andhra Pradesh, which is on the nationwide freeway and infamous for baby trafficking. We recognized round 47 kids and youth from this space and labored with them over a time frame to coach them in people artwork and theatre.”
He continues, “As the youngsters learnt these expertise, they had been additionally coached by mentors in social consciousness, communication expertise, storytelling, drama, dance, music, and enjoying musical devices in the middle of participative workshops.”
“They went on to ship over 14 performances. In 2008, they carried out together with well-known drummer and percussionist Sivamani at Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Auditorium in Chennai.”
Yet one more profitable challenge is the Bihar Kids Radio Venture. This concerned working with adolescent ladies within the districts of Patna, Gaya, Samastipur and Lakkisarai to show them expertise in reporting, interviewing, writing scripts, and creating tales on menstruation, sexuality, heath and hygiene.
Over 60 ladies had been educated as a part of the programme. They held 4 workshops yearly, which resulted within the ladies producing a 25 minutes radio programme each week to be broadcast on All India Radio, Patna. The programme was aired repeatedly for 60 weeks.
Paying it ahead
“These kids come from very poor components of Chennai and Delhi. Some have bodily and studying disabilities as effectively. Nevertheless, as soon as a part of the choir, they’re all equal. Music unites them,” he provides.
The choir holds the excellence of getting carried out at Kennedy Heart in Washington, DC for the Serenade Choral Pageant in 2018. They’ve additionally carried out alongside a number of skilled musicians within the nation.
Dev Singh (17), who’s a part of the Delhi Kids’s Choir, says, “I’ve been related to them for over 4 years now. Music for me is like drugs — it all the time finds a strategy to heal. I’ve been part of over six performances to this point, and every has left me enriched. I’m at present in Class 12 and am hoping to proceed studying music even after finishing faculty,” he says.
Sameen Almas, affiliate director, tasks at NalandaWay who has been with the muse for over 4 years says, “The pursuit of arts permits for introspection, grounding and expression. This can be very fulfilling to observe these younger choir kids study music expertise, work collectively, change into a detailed knit group, improve their inventive confidence and carry out on phases with out worry. At that second, they personal that house.”
Sriram says that as he began engaged on constructing the muse, with every baby they helped, he felt nearer to understanding his objective in life. “Each baby we helped introduced with them a way of deep accomplishment. A few of our college students are right now working in numerous companies, incomes a very good dwelling, and paying it ahead,” he says.
Take, for instance, Latha Devi Krishnan from Chennai, who has had an unimaginable journey with NalandaWay. Sriram says, “Latha was a younger lady from Chennai who occurred to listen to me on a radio present. She managed to get my contact particulars and reached out searching for assist. She needed to review and apply for a scholarship.”
He continues, “After we met her, she was a malnourished baby with a deep need to study and excel in life. Offering her with the mentorship and scholarship to review was among the best selections ever.”
Latha says, “No matter I’m right now is due to the help I obtained from Sriram sir. I used to be an 18-year-old scared, younger lady once I contacted him. I nonetheless bear in mind, once I made that decision to him, all I had was Rs 20. I didn’t let him communicate, simply saved insisting that he had to assist me full my schooling. I used to be so persistent that Sriram sir had no selection however to ask me to satisfy him.”
That one assembly modified the course of Latha’s life. Sriram says, “In the present day, she works in a senior place at a software program firm in Chennai. She is married and has began her circle of relatives as effectively. It’s so heartening to see her do effectively. Even now, at any time when there’s a motive for her to rejoice, she ensures to name and hold me up to date.”
Latha and her husband actively help and inspire different ladies in comparable conditions as she was as soon as in.
“If I didn’t pay it ahead, I’d be probably the most egocentric particular person on this planet,” she provides.
Sriram says that like Latha, there have been a number of tales the place an actual distinction has been made by the muse’s intervention and help. Since his first encounter with a younger boy who offered agarbattis, his heartfelt endeavour has come a great distance.
Should you want to contact NalandaWay Basis, please click on right here.
All photographs courtesy: NalandaWay Basis
(Edited by Divya Sethu)