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Saturday, March 15, 2014

One Year of BalaVidya at Coimbatore - Experiences of the team members

“ When I visited Coimbatore, I met a bunch of individuals who shared with me a collective intent of taking children closer to self-discovery. Right when BalaVidya was unfolding its wings, I was fortunate to meet people who aligned with the philosophy that education is not filling a vessel but lighting a flame and all of them willing to light lamps with their inner fire.

 When I expressed the desire to bring BalaVidya to children in Coimbatore, I was overwhelmed to see so many come forward to share their time, effort and knowledge with children. I always feel that self driven people who share a common intent can take the essence of BalaVidya to many children. This way BalaVidya remains a movement of the spirit touching more and more individual spirits and does not get confined  by place, time or money.

Good intention is like a divine being that has many hands, the many hands willing to work towards BalaVidya movement were revealed to me. As they work with children they will also be working towards their inner self was my intuition.”


Pavithra Suryakiran ( Founder, Vedic Foundation)


Here are some of the excerpts from the experiences shared by the BalaVidya team members towards the end of the program. 

I was sitting on the fence – should I go behind my purpose in my life or to be bound by my duties. Both were important.I had a perfect milieu for the latter yet life purpose was looming large. Just then I got a call  for this project.
Even before I could wink I grabbed the chance and I am grateful I did. I was fully prepared and waited for the first day at the school. On my visit I saw my assumptions of a government school coming down like a sand castle. 

The children were warm, receptive and unassuming. Their enthusiasm, energy and sincerity are so irresistible and compelling that it propelled my earnestness & diligence in my work. Every week I looked forward to visiting the school as much as the children looked forward for us to come.
It was pure joy, singing, playing and laughing all the way. In core lesson classes their sincere attention, solemn effort and insightful questions kept me on my toes. The unmatched love that they gave me is an earned treasure that I will cherish forever.
Lesson learnt: you receive much more than what you give!
I am so happy that Balavidya reached out this far and wish that they extend this competent project in all those needed schools.

 – Rema K. Giridhar 

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It was a fabulous team to work with Geetha, Arul, Rema, Jayashree, all were wonderful with their own style and connect with the kids. I was a bit worried on how to teach the kids without knowing their language – Tamil. My anxiety was at the peak when we started off at the Sundapalayam school and observing Rema’s classes was a learning for me. She took classes in English and the children understood her very well and her body movement sequences supportively followed the spoken language. Something clicked inside me after this.
I
 started to use my body to speak too. And I’ve felt that people understood me and resonated better with me, supportive movement language expressions helps the listener.

The whole year, I was able to experience children. Wow! that itself is a huge experience and  
learning  – seeing their spontaneity, their intimacy, the way they are always watch, understand and relate with whatever happens in the moment, now, here!
Watching them and understanding their nature was a big learning for me. Overall, lots of learning, intimate moments with the children, the team and with the teachers.
 


Anbayirukanum (compassionate with love), Ottrumayarikanum (together and united) were two of our themes given as affirmations during Yoga and Meditation and today they are not just words any more in Sundapalayam school.  I have felt that children have integrated it in their lives, they are following it and I have seen those words playing their role and come up live.
Prasad Naveen

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Children would get excited to read the books I used to distribute. What enthusiasm! Initially, I used to find it difficult to calm them down. Slowly I started appreciating good behaviors and ignoring when anyone was disrupting the classes. Soon some children, who were used to getting attention for being naughty started to behave well.

The class teachers remained in the class, which helped in integrating the program. With Rema’s help, the children became familiar with phonetics, so when I gave the 5th Graders books to read, the improvement was obvious. They were eager now to read and not getting intimidated or scared when they came across long words/ sentences.  Some of them are also attempting to read English newspaper or magazine, when they come across one.
Even the “shy” ones readily come up to the front of the class to read from the books using phonetics. I can see the pride in their face now that they can read better.

The children now appreciate one another. The hitting, beating, pushing & pulling has noticeably reduced. The proverb “The soul is healed by being with children” is very true. I don’t know how much English I have taught them, but I feel that us just being there conveys an affirmation that “they are all important” which will help increase their self esteem. This is an experience I will cherish for life.
Dr. K. V. Jayashree

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The bonding with the children has so beautifully happened that I also felt the urge to meet them every week, I did not want to miss it and most of the weeks I made it possible to be with them.
Personally I too have grown so much. There is a difference in the way I have opened myself.   Initially I was not much opened.  Not it’s just opened, my heart is fully opened and it sends abundance of love, everything seems to be beautiful and wonderful.
When I expressed my love to them that is what I too received from them. These days they get themselves settled quickly when I enter the class and they are eagerly waiting to learn and explore new things.  And I started the class with relaxation methods so that they can be more attentive and alert.They learn and grasp things quickly and are calm also.
  it gives me a lot of energy and immense pleasure and would like to continue the journey.
- Arulmozhi. K

Memorable Moments
  • When kids are called for yoga they stand in rows with one arm distance and direct the other children who are not standing in line.   First two classes we guided them and after that they do it for sure at their pace and style.
  •  When a child asks a team member – shall I call you appa? ( Father)
  • When children ask – can you please a take a photo of us friends together?
  •  After a sound meditation, when we ask what are the sounds you heard? Some answers include – Your voice, that teacher came – we heard her anklet
  •  First time we clapped to draw their attention and they joined in clapping thinking we are asking them to clap
  • When we do not go for one class, with a shy smile question comes –"ena miss  last Tuesday varalai"?(Why miss you did not come last Tuesday)
  •  When a ‘so-called’ ‘naughty’ kid settles down quickly into a meditation posture when we say it is time for meditation
  • When they learnt to use a few English sentences and when we enter the class a chorus – How are you miss? With that pride and enthusiasm of having spoken in English

One Year of BalaVidya at Coimbatore

About BalaVidya
For the past 4 years we have been working towards the development of children by facilitating their learning process and self-discovery.
BalaVidya is one of our initiatives that aims at bringing mindfulness in children and help them increase their awareness towards their self and surroundings.

Through this program we want to bring about in children:
  • Awareness: paying attention to oneself and the surrounding through observation and reflection.
  • Acceptance: being non-judgmental and positive towards life
  • Stillness: silence in their heart and mind for them to be more alert and receptive

For children to develop these qualities we encourage them to explore ancient methods of yoga and meditation combined with engaging story telling and other activities. The activities involve their physical, mental and spiritual aspects and help them connect deeper with their selves. We also train the teachers in the school during this program so that the effort can later be integrated within their system and be applied and sustained.
Our programs were mostly conducted in few rural schools here in Karnataka and we always feel the need to reach more children.

When we saw the potential to conduct BalaVidya program in Coimbatore too, we wanted to first reach out to rural children there as well. After many school visits we finalized to work with Primary Union Panchayat School @ Sundapalayam, Coimbatore after getting due approval from District Education Officer.

The Program @ Sundapalayam Govt School, Coimbatore

We started working with the school for the academic year 2013-14. The school has a strength of 125 children. We engaged weekly once for about 1 to 2 hours with children and our program with the school consisted of:
  1. Yoga and Meditation for Children through BalaVidya Stories and activities
  2. library program: This is an effort to create a joyful reading space and environment for children, to make books accessible to them. The goal is to run a library program that is completely designed and run by teachers and children.
  3. Spoken English classes

The Team

Geetha: Founder of Ankur, her experience lies in the fields of Learning & Development and Organizational Development.  She is also a teacher of Yoga. Designing and delivering workshops that strike a chord in people and facilitating them to identify who they really are is her mission.She is the co-ordinator for the BalaVidya Program in Coimbatore. She Primarily facilitated the Yoga and Meditation program.

Prasad Naveen: A facilitator at Ankur with great passion to integrate eastern Spiritual practices, Western Psychology, Art, Singing, Dance and Outbound activities like trekking into holistic approach towards life and self discovery.
Prasad conducted yoga and meditation classes and specialized in movement related exercises.

Rema K Giridhar: Rema with her skills in Phonetics and teaching English set the pace and tone of the reading culture.  Her skill in phonetics gave the required break-through to reach the language to the children.


 Dr. K. V. Jayashree, Counsellor & Trainee Psychotherapist (Transactional Analysis) facilitated the library and reading programs. Helped build the reading culture among children by encouraging them to read and comprehend


Arulmozhi K.:Trainee Counsellor (Transactional Analysis) – Facilitated the library and reading programs. Helped build the reading culture among children by encouraging them to read and comprehend.


How has the school benefited 
  • Reading culture has been introduced. Book reading, story telling, role plays and other activities are conducted during their library periods.
  • The school has integrated the practice of BalaVidya Yoga Asanas and simple meditation techniques; these are delivered by the school teachers.
  • Teaching phonetics (English) is now a regular practice in the school.
  • The confidence of the children towards the language English has increased.
  • Children have a lot of enthusiasm to learn yoga and meditation through interesting stories and activities. We see positive shifts in perspectives and attitudes of many children that comes to light in their day to day life events and we feel that introducing mindfulness to them is worth a thing.
  
What teachers say

-        Our school students were very enthusiastic to see the loving approach of the Facilitators.  They expect and wait for them to come.
-        After the Facilitators started coming to school, students have lost their fear towards English and are freely attempting to read.
-        Teaching them phonetics has increased their ability to read.
-        Yoga was taught systematically and it is very useful for us and we practice Balavidya Asanas regularly in school.
-        Children were very interested in drawing/coloring activities.
-        The approach of play and rhymes before starting the class keeps the students interested in the class.
-        We wish that this initiative does not stop with our school.  It will be useful to all if taken to other schools too.
  ( Translated from the feedback documented by the School teachers)

What children feel
( Collected from the conversations with children)
  •  I like everything in yoga class.Suya, 5th std 
  •  I love yoga class. I like to do vajrasana and simhasana. I like opening my mouth wide in Simhasana. I love the frog story. I want to give you chocolate for taking yoga class. Jayashree - 5th std
  • In yoga class i like doing balasana, simhasana, vajrasana - because I do these asanas well..i love the turtle and the way the turtle lifted the island on its back in the story. Saranya - 4th std 
  • I like balasana - it was so nice to do it. I loved the way we colored the frog.  I want to color lion next time. will you bring that picture to color? when is your birthday? my birthday is on may 30th. Bhavya - 3rd std
Most children expressed that they liked the rhymes and songs. They enjoyed the stories and are happy that they can read so much now. Children also felt that we should visit them more often and not just once a week.

Highlights from the Program

We love BalaVidya time! It is fun play and learning

It is a story to read and understand. Learn new words and practice them

Let us touch and feel our body parts and learn their names


Children and Teacher observe keenly in Rema's class
We also share our thoughts and experiences 





A session on Art after a storytelling - The story was about a Green frog that met with his limitations and then worked hard to overcome them. Children were asked to draw and colour frogs. They came up with so many different ways of colouring – There were even frogs with all the colours of a rainbow in their pictures. They had no inhibitions in naming their frogs. Their imagination and creativity travelled in all directions.  Always ready to experiment and express in their ways.

We meditate to relax and reflect
I like the chocolates during a post meditation interview





Children were very excited to do the thumb print activity based on a story read out to them.  The shapes that emerged from the thumb prints were so spontaneous and it was a thrill for the children to see ink mark on their thumbs.





Children learning the butterfly pose
Some Art in the class



The team :)
Bala Vidya will continue to spread its wings and reach out to children.  The consistent commitment of the volunteers provides the platform of BalaVidya to children and brings out their enthusiasm.  Once that enthusiasm is opened their love and affection gushes out like a huge fountain, drenching everyone around.  That love and affection fuels the volunteers to keep coming week after week.  Sustenance and focused effort are the drivers for any initiative to succeed and along with that the love, affection and enthusiasm of the children is what propels Bala Vidya.