An eventful September

It has been an eventful and creative September. First off with Ganesh Chaturthi. The tiny tots were so thrilled to make play dough Ganesha.

And then, Teachers Day. The children literally showered us with their love!

Take a peek at what some of our students came up with after being inspired by Chris Van Dusen’s excellent books “If I Built a House” and “If I Built a Car”.

As you can see, making things is the favourite part of our school day – both for teachers and for students. Be it making masks…

Or towers out of newspapers…

Or simply a gun out of sketch pens!

Continuing the capsule on health and hygiene, this month children learnt about dental hygiene and got to take home a new toothbrush.

Heads in the Clouds

It’s been a month of stellar achievements this July. Fifty years of the moon landing, ISRO’s successful launch of Chandrayan 2 are both milestones in the history of humanity.

Our students have been studying the Solar System in their science class and as such primed for an exploration of these events. Being the opportunistic teachers that we are, we brought in books, articles and videos about Armstrong and the Apollo missions, Kalpana Chawla, ISRO, Chandrayan. The discussions triggered by these have been mind bending.

One kid, it turns out, actually thinks we are living inside the earth. We can’t convince her that we are ON the earth, part of Space like all other planets and stars. Her argument being “If that were the case, I should be able to see Mercury and Jupiter and Saturn in the sky”. Er, you can. You might need a telescope to see more clearly, but, you can. So now we have to plan a night session to show her.

Another poses “Is Earth the only place with people?” – within a couple of weeks of being introduced to Space. Yes, probably been exposed to the concept of aliens before. But to go on and posit “We can’t really be sure can we?” – that shows a depth of thought we had not anticipated.

A third points at a picture of Buzz Aldrin on the moon and says “That’s me in ten years. I am going to be the first Indian on the moon.” 100% confidence, 0% doubt.

Little wonder that I have been walking on air the past few days. 🙂

A Capsule on Health and Hygiene

It’s July and classes are in full swing. Along with studies, practising hygiene is an ongoing activity. The heat and dust of urban living makes it imperative. So, a 15-minute Hygiene Capsule every month serves as a timely reminder!

First session started from the top, er, Head – a quick ‘how to’ keep hair and scalp clean free of nits and dandruff, regular oiling, shampooing. Curious kids armed with “why’s”, and so, a few laughs are soon underway. Boys vs girls, long vs short hair, curly or straight – a volley of Q & A. Not to let go of any opportunity, we teacher-volunteers who’ve learnt to think on our feet, quickly turned it into an English speaking practice class too. Talk of fringe benefits!

Winding up, it was the turn of the kids to speak up. Answers ranged from “clean head, shining hair”, “do not waste water” (so nice to hear this in water-starved Bangalore!), “only if hair is neat and clean, it can look stylish, hai na Ma’m? (from the girls), and “yay! we have less work ” from, yes, you guessed it – the boys.
The session ended with each one getting their bottle of shampoo, and many promises of clean, shining hair.

Next month, it’s onto ‘teeth’. Lots of toothy grins in store for sure…😀

Also aligned with the topic of health is the free eye check up arranged for the kids of Swapaksh by Shankara Eye Hospital. With their assistance we were able to identify a few problems and get early remedy.

Back to School!

It’s June! June is monsoon time. As also back to school time. Looking back at our posts from last June, the rain really played havoc with our schedules. So blessed that we are now able to house our school in much better quarters and lessons continue uninterrupted, come rain or shine.

Support has poured in in the form of textbooks, schoolbags, stationery and other study material. The new academic year has started brilliantly with the smell of new books and wet chalk. And oh the kids! How they love all the attention! One kid just wouldn’t stop stroking her new textbook, smoothing out invisible lines in her perfect new treasure. Another tells me, after an intense session with her math textbook “Time just flew by today! Can we continue to work longer? Please?”. The children have started the new academic year in right earnest. We hope the momentum will continue to build and wish them all good luck.

In another heartwarming turn of events, we have had several teens turn up at our centre, offering to help, wanting to work with our kids and make a positive impact. One youngster voluntarily donated part of his academic scholarship. A college student has offered up her time to help with backend work. What could be more reassuring than this? Our world is most definitely in good hands!

The month not only started on a high note, but also ended on a high note. We were very fortunate to have volunteers from Vibha visit our school and engage the kids in a morning of varied activities. From team building activities like tandem colouring and ferrying water with a sponge to out and out fun games like balloon bursting and passing the parcel, the children had a blast. As the games and activities were winding down some kids slowly started dancing and then others joined in and within a few minutes, the whole school was dancing a merry jig. Many thanks to Vibha for showering our kids with such love and attention.

Summer Camp

Over the last month we have been running summer camp for the kids rather than regular school to give the children a well deserved break and expose them to various other fields and activities.

Children have engaged in theatre, puppetry, craft, art, magic, singing, dancing and the like. It has been a good time for them to unwind and explore new things.

What’s in a game

One of these days I played Chinese Whispers with the kids. They learnt some new words and sentences and as the game moved on, they started forming their own sentences.

Moving forward, I thought I would give it a twist. I just asked them some simple questions:

  1. While every kid was trying his best to convey the correct message, what made the message distort?
  2. Everyone was blaming it on the other kid about the mistake that happened but no one was accepting the same for their own. And specially, no one did it on purpose. How did the mistake happen then?

After discussing these two questions for a bit, I twisted the game further:

I told them that once a word or sentence is passed from one kid to another, we will suppose that 10 years have passed. Doing this, when the word or sentence arrived in the end after completing full circle, it had already crossed centuries and it obviously got distorted.

I then asked them to tell me one single person who distorted it and they blamed it on each other but no one came up with a single name.

At last, I asked them, “Now what do you all think we must do in such situation? No one did a mistake on purpose but we still got the wrong message somehow. What did you learn from all this?”

After so much of thinking, one bright young thing sprung up and said:

“Sir agar koi bhi baat hume koi bole to aankh band karke uspar vishwaas nahi krna chahiye…”

I said, “Very good”. And after little more explanation, I dismissed them all.

Happy Birthday to Us!

It has been a full year! Swapaksh launched on 25th March 2018 in a tiny shack with a handful of kids and we have come a long way in the last one year.

We now have two fully stocked classrooms running three sessions in a day catering to about sixty kids in all age and ability ranges. Processes are in place, routines are familiar. We have embraced Montessori methods for the younger kids and play way for our primary students.

As everywhere, we discover that each child is unique and we embrace it. A year in, we pretty much know where our students stand but every once in a while they surprise us and we find there is more and more to discover about each one.

The most rewarding experiences though are the transformations we have witnessed.

Meet G. She is a shepherdess. When we first met her, she was a little scary!  She spoke like in an eternal fight, the tiniest thing could upset her and trigger an emotional outburst. Today, we find her so much calmer and a real pleasure to talk to. She connects with us on a personal level, participates whole heartedly in group activities and is always trying to please. Her favourite thing though is showing off her prowess in spoken English. 🙂

Another student of ours is P. A shy girl, she came to school with her head covered and her personality hidden. For weeks we had no clue what she thought or felt. Then one day, she smiled. And what a smile it was! Carefree, amused, pleased, lighting up the whole space. Once the wall was broken, we discovered she is a fast learner and loves math.


The stories are endless… Even in the community we have gained the trust of the people.

Of course, it’s not all hunky dory. We do have the hard days. But then there are ok ones and there are great ones. In the end, if we are able to positively influence even one child, then it’s all worth it!

We sincerely thank all our sponsors and our community leaders for the support and the trust they put in us.

Over the next year, we hope to make even more progress in providing the students at our centre an education on par with the best. An education that keeps their minds sharp and their hearts kind.


Outside Looking In

‘Good morning ma’am…’

It was a melodious chorus of around 25 joyful kids who were sitting on mats in a small one room school that I was visiting – Swapaksh.

Most of them were wearing uniforms, had neatly combed hair and had an overall well groomed appearance. The other few, it became clear, were new.

‘How did you know?’ you might very well ask..

Well! From the helpful attitude of the other classmates and the extra patience and loving guidance of the teacher-volunteer.

They were doing ‘general introduction’ question answers that day like what is your name, where do you live etc. and whenever a kid stumbled, there was no sniggering from the fellow classmates. The teacher – and often other students -would sweetly and patiently correct and guide the kid before moving on.

It was apparent that the hardships of an underprivileged life has not yet taken its toll on the innocence and attitude of the kids.

This was not completely new to me. With past experience of teaching through NGOs at government schools, my previous myth about discipline, hygiene and aptitude level of these kids who have experienced nothing but hardships of life, was already busted. If anything, they are always more eager to learn and make use of whatever limited resources and opportunities they get.

Nevertheless, Swapaksh was a new experience in itself. In other schools, the kids are assessed as per their age and not their ability to be put in different classes. But here, there are a whole bunch of kids with different ages, different schooling backgrounds, different learning abilities, all sitting under a single roof.

Just like in a garden, each plant has its own different growing pace; all plants do not bud at the same time, neither the buds bloom into flowers all at the same day. Nature lets them grow at their pace into their beautiful form. So too were these kids, learning and helping each other to learn, growing together at their own pace.

Pleasantly surprised, I bid adieu, with each kid giving a high five and asking if I will come back again, I made my way back home.

All the way thinking…
Is it really worth my time? Will I be able to do it?

Next time, I got more involved with teaching the kids. And then I finally got answer to my questions.

When a kid finally understood a concept, it is a moment of joy ….a Eureka moment for both the kid and the teacher. That smile… that glow… that satisfaction… that delight… that I got to carry with me as my reward gave me the answer.

It’s the joy of learning. Nothing more, nothing less.

So finally, I was able to answer the kids’ question: “Will you be back?”

Yes! Definitely!

‘Tis the Season of Sharing

People’s generosity is boundless. Over the month of December, we have had two sponsors distribute colourful clogs to all the kids.

We have had another lady come in and celebrate her birthday with the kids of our school. And its not just cake and good times that she shared.

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Yet another brought us all – kids and teachers and volunteers – snack boxes on our Christmas Day celebration.

It is indeed the Season of Sharing!

To inculcate this Spirit of Sharing in our kids we had a short celebration at school. All the kids merrily sang Christmas Carols and then played Secret Santa. First time they have ever heard of Santa. Who is this magical man who brings everyone gifts!?! Well, he’s among us. YOU could be Santa. Over the week they made small handmade gifts to exchange with a ‘secret’ recipient on the day of our celebration thus becoming each others’ Secret Santa.

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And boy did they love all the making and the giving and the getting!

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All of our talk about sharing and gifting seems to have caught their imagination… How proud we were when some of our older kids gave US a gift – a surprise dance – learnt practically overnight with the aid of our teachers. And how our hearts swelled when one student made close to 40 Christmas Cards to share with all the kids in his class AND the teachers AND all the volunteers.

With a sense of pride and great humility at the same time, we share the accomplishments of our kids with all of you. Wishing each and every member of the Swapaksh family a very happy New Year 2019!