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 Children  India Project #13595

Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India

by Make A Difference
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Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India
Transform Outcomes for Children at Risk In India

The Cycle of Change

 

In the end lies a new beginning-and in a beginning lie the seeds of several new possibilities. At Make A Difference, it is this never-ending cycle of renewal and rejuvenation that keeps the organization running where every year as an academic year comes to an end, the new one begins immediately driven by an able volunteer force-old and new.

The academic year of 2018-2019 has been one to remember. With the ever-expanding scope of the Aftercare project, plans are afloat to create Community Centers for the Aftercare youth, safe spaces for them to interact and relax, in other cities after the successful model in Cochin. The Aftercare youth, in fact, have been relentless in their own pursuit of making a place for themselves in the chaotic hussle-bussle of the universe-take for example, Pawan who had a chance to intern at Club Mahindra in Goa for two months! All this while being just being a first-year student of BVOC in Hospitality and Tourism. Here’s a picture of him basking in the glory of the Goan sun in a light-hearted moment,

Many like Pawan are set to start their new journeys as placements in colleges and vocational trainings go on through the city and expected to see completion by July.

To see this and many other projects reach fruition, there lies the concentrated efforts of many young leaders who strive relentlessly through the year. These young leaders include the volunteers and the fellowship team. MAD Fellowship is a leadership and development program that seeks to push volunteers to the next level of social leadership. MAD Fellows are selected from an applicant pool of thousands and are bestowed with the onus of driving operations from the front in their respective cities. These young leaders are provided with the exposure, skills and training necessary to execute these duties-the central platform for which is the Leadership Circle, a three day on-ground immersive program where fellows from all cities congregate to learn, share and interact with one another. MAD has been following the model of two LCs-a Mini LC with the director team, strategists and city team leads and a main LC with all the fellows in attendance. This year, the main Leadership Circle was held at Marriot Convention Centre in Hyderabad with 400+ people in attendance.

 

 

LC 2019

 

With the LC done, the fellowship team is preparing to go on-ground and start with sourcing campaigns and recruitment workshops, recruiting the next generation of leaders who will be taking forward the cause of ensuring equitable outcomes for children in need of care and protection. The cities have already kickstarted the process, with a few cities holding VLCs (volunteer leadership circles) to acquaint volunteers with the organizational goals for the coming year, along with enabling them with a broader understanding of the sector and the category of children in need of care and protection. Recently Chennai help one to an astounding response, while Pune finished its first RW of the year!

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Haruki Murakami once wrote that once you walk out of the storm, you are forever changed. This storm can either be good or not, but one thing that is certain that it is of great magnitude. Luckily for us, this gust of change has been massive, yet gentle; tremendous in scale but embracing. The last quarter for Make A Difference as an organization saw us heralding a new era in the truest sense of the term.

In collaboration with technology services giant, DXC, Make A Difference launched the ‘Children of India’ campaign-an advocacy campaign to spread awareness about children in need of care and protection. The campaign that took several months to research and develop was launched in March beginning with a complete rehaul of the official MAD website. Among other components, the website now hosts a one of its kind interactive video that tells the story of a child called Bindya and her journey with a twist-there are certain points where the viewer can intervene and flip their phones to flip the outcomes for Bindya. As the call for action says, it is “Never Too Late” to change the outcomes for children like Bindya.

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Class in Vellore
Class in Vellore

As we enter the last phase of the year, ‘a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, we are overwhelmed by a sense of thankfulness. There is a sense of plentitude and completion. However, true to the Keats poem, this time has its own music too-music that is serenading, invigourating and energetic. At MAD too, while we look back at the year with gratitude for all things achieved, we prepare ourselves every minute for all that is to come.

Standing at this exciting juncture of our journey, we realized that one thing that continues to bind volunteers across age, time and space is children. And indeed, our operations through the year strongly reflect it. We continue to develop and design our programs around these children than committing the cardinal error of making them adapt to us. Our Education, Foundation, Transition Readiness and Aftercare projects thus continue to develop while incorporating the best practices we keep hearing from the field! In Ed Support for example, lesson plans are customized as per the requirement of a particular class with a readymade central repository available for all! Here’s a story we heard about Sahil,

There is a kid named Sahil. He was unable to retain things for a long time. His teacher was demotivated and worried about how he would clear the 9th grade and cope with 10th. He couldn’t even read properly or understand words in English. He was struggling in basic arithmetic as well. We struggled a lot but then realised that creative lesson plans using activities immediately helped him understand simple concepts. We also started breaking down concepts into tiny steps and started explaining it to him. At the end of the year, he was able to read a paragraph in English without our help. Earlier he would take 10 minutes to solve an addition problem but by the end of the year, he was able to do so in 2 minutes. Working together, we were able to figure out a way to help him. Now he is much more confident too and willing to learn and try hard in class

Like Sahil, there are thousands of children across the country who are able to overcome the hardships thrust at them by the society for their unmitigated spirit. And behind this spirit, lies the support of a community, a network of supporters who through their gesture of kindness, love and faith truly heal these children. To express our gratitude and at the same time observe our 12th birthday, we celebrated a week of happiness dubbed ‘MAD Week’. With its philosophy of “Happiness is Contagious”, several volunteers in their respective cities spent the first week of November either visiting old age homes, distributing thank-you cards, arranging a ‘Diwali Mela’ for children in shelters or even distributing tea to those whom we often fail to acknowledge or thank. Overall, MAD Week was a time for us to take a pause and revisit the humane values of love and kindness that indeed, make the pulse of a civilization.

The love that we share and the love that we receive make us believe that the future is bright! With this, we start designing our annual Dream Camps which is an outbound experiential camp that provides exposure, builds confidence and motivates children to connect to their dreams. Needless to say, these camps also provide an unforgettable holiday experience to these children who are often bereft of this experience. The sessions are designed in collaboration with ‘Dream A Dream’ and navigates ‘an arc of transformation’ for children. The camps are a unique mix of learning and fun, comprising sessions like ‘Beautiful You’ that help children with self-love and acceptance to an arranged fine dining experience where they learn etiquettes (and have a whale of a time!)

To make these dreams come true and arrange for the camps (along with ensuring smooth flow of other projects), the volunteer base irrespective of their individual profiles get together to raise funds! Known as ‘Community Fund Raising’, the project is more about approaching people and encouraging them to take responsibility of children, rather than the amount involved. To mobilise volunteers for the same, city circles were organized in several cities with sixteen cities holding CC on the same day! The enthusiasm of volunteers was unparalleled as they made calls to their families and acquaintances and pledged to raise funds.

The road that lies ahead of us to long and full of hope. Even while we prepare to close the year and immerse ourselves in festivities, we continue to energize ourselves for tomorrow-a bigger, better and brighter tomorrow. The future is here, and the future is bright!

MAD Week in Bhopal
MAD Week in Bhopal
City Circle in Bangalore
City Circle in Bangalore
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Every day brings with it new vitality, vigour and vast array of opportunities. Though a task may seem to be a struggle at a given moment, in the long term it always presents itself as being crucial and every bit worth the hard work. This strongly resonates with all of us at Make A Difference.

In 2015, Make A Difference broke new barriers when it was ranked in the prestigious Great Places to Work survey as one of the Top 100 Places to Work in the Great Midsize Workplaces category. Cut to 2018, Make A Difference scaled new heights as it secured a position in the Top 10! This is matter of great pride and reflects the efforts the volunteer pool over the years have put in to make MAD inclusive, positive and safe place. Talking about Make A Difference, one of our volunteers says, “It is a place which provides equal opportunities to everyone-irrespective of whether you are a fresher or someone with experience, MAD gives you a platform to build skill sets, put that to practical use and constantly exchange ideas with each other.” Apart from recognition, the award comes as a positive impetus for everyone in the organisation to be ahead of the curve and continue to strive towards attaining bigger goals.

Looking forward, we continue to invest in building a strong volunteer base. This is closely reflected in the changing model of our Recruitment Workshops which has evolved from merely a screening process to select quality volunteers to a one day immersive workshop about children at risk, the sector any the principles of care. In fact, MAD continues to incorporate the element of ‘care’ in all its designs, programmatic or otherwise, as we truly believe that healthy care can foster a feeling of goodwill and connectedness that translates to sustained and well-thought actions. Throughout the process of recruitment, right from the screening call till the PI, each MAD volunteer ensures that every applicant feels comfortable and gets constructive feedback that would enable him/her to develop their area of growth. As of now, we have conducted multiple rounds of RWs and Volunteer Leadership Circles (VLC) throughout the country. We have been able to kickstart operations in several cities and a new academic year has begun in full swing!

With new operations, we also continue to hold placements for youth-ensure a smooth college admission process or induction into a vocational training. Scholarships are presented to all youths by MAD, making it a one-of-a-kind programme where scholarships are given not on a system of “meritocracy” but discriminatorily to every youth and customised as per their need (as opposed to compelling them to adjust as per the terms laid by the scholarship). Our youths continue to soar high as several of them begin this new journey-Vellore alone this year has seen its youths opt for varied courses from microbiology to physiotherapy to nursing.

However, college is just the beginning of an arduous road ahead-for youths who have spent most of their lives within a shelter, re-orienting oneself to the outside world can be quite a task. Our Aftercare team continues to work tirelessly to facilitate the journey of these youths to becoming independent adults by creating an ecosystem where they can support themselves as well as other youths who have been through the same experiences. It goes without saying that most of these youths struggle, but with a little push they manage to overcome most of the obstacles that lie on their path. One such success story is that of Peter from Vellore who received an offer letter from Indigo Airlines earlier this year! He boarded his flight to a new life on August 16th!

In fact, there are instances where Aftercare youths, despite being labelled ‘second class citizens’ all their lives, manage to thrive at challenging workplaces. Here’s what an Academic Support Volunteer had to say about a youth called Guddu who recently completed his internship with the e-commerce giant, Jabong,

At Guddu’s farewell in Jabong, just before cutting the cake, his team mates delivered a farewell speech for him. They said that they were extremely happy to have Guddu as an intern. He is a fast learner and adapted to the environment very quickly. Within this small span, he established a reputation of being dependable and performed outstandingly well. Overall, they thanked Guddu for his hardwork and dedication. When it was Guddu's turn, he said he learnt a lot there. Being from the shelter home, he got to experience very different things. This internship inspired him a lot and he found new role models here. He now wants to work hard and be a role model for others

Every day hails new opportunities. How we capture and capitalise on the same depends on our approach. At MAD, we strive to reach a place where each child not only gets proper access to such opportunities but also is empowered enough to utilise the same towards a better life outcome.

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A Mind without Fear

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…”

As children, all of us were introduced to the mellifluous strains of this poem. However, it is ironical that it is mostly children who find themselves in the grip of fear for most things-be it the helplessness to control the environment or situation they are in, to a simple lack of trust in adults. The recent debate about child safety in the country forces us once again to revisit these lines and to probe deeper-do we really encourage children to be unafraid and build their self-esteem?

With millions of vulnerable children in the country, the matter is even more severe. These children lack exposure, confidence and most importantly, they lack assurance. Make A Difference with its annual event, Dream Camp, is on a mission to address this issue. Dream Camp is an annual three-day outbound experiential camp where children from shelters are provided exposure through building experiential confidence, are motivated to connect to their dream through the sessions held and are provided an unforgettable holiday experience!

The sessions held at Dream Camp are designed in conjunction with ‘Dream A Dream’, which has years of experience working in this field. By the end of three days, we aim for the children to achieve an ‘arc of transformation’-the child who walks into the camp should step out as a radiant, confident and rejuvenated mind!

One such story comes from Chennai this year. Mohan was mapped to around five children and had a mammoth task in front of him-to hold a River of Life session where children are encouraged to reconcile with their past. Being an introvert as he is, Mohan was nervous but could conduct the session. Till that time, he had little idea about what impact it had created. It surely created some effect on him as he too had been a participant. This happened sometime after the session when the children were playing a few games and Mohan was sitting near the door to ensure the children did not wander away. Suddenly, a child from his group came and sat near him and said, “Why do you look so sullen? I have suffered in my life but look at me-I am so happy! Every time I feel low from now on, I would know that it will be okay sometime. Everything is going to be okay. You cheer up too!” Mohan was stunned. That day he really witnessed a growth in that child.

This quarter also involved one of the most nerve wracking, yet the most rewarding times in MAD-board results! Through the year, both volunteers and the children/class 12 youth work hard to ensure that they not only earn knowledge but also earn the necessary qualification to propel forth in life.

This year MAD was blessed with stupendous results for both classes 10 and 12! In Coimbatore, for example, we recorded a 100% pass percentage. Each child performed well, with one particular child scoring 482/500. As it turned out, this bright young lad is the school topper!

Our class 12 youths were able to channel their hard work in the right direction as well, with their results reflecting it and how! In both Chennai and Coimbatore we had youths scoring a full 100/100 in accounts! And while results is not the final word but only an indicator, this is definitely a great positive push that our children/youth needed.

With Dream Camps finished and board results being published, it was now time to find the new generation of leaders-the MAD Fellowship cohort, a group of 310 young mobilisers passionate about bringing about a change, to bring together people to ensure a brighter future for children. MAD Fellows are at the forefront of city operations-with their energy, willingness to learn and fresh outlook they bring together volunteers and in turn enable them to cater to the needs of a child/youth. Fellowship is as exciting as it is challenging, and Fellows pick up a range of soft skills like non-violent communication, authentic listening, team management and so on. It is on this new wave of change which comprises care and empathy that fellows begin their journey of leadership development.

 

With our Leadership Team of 2018 in place, we eagerly look forward to holding our Leadership Circle in June for the new fellowship cohort. The Leadership Development program of MAD (LxD) hinges largely on the Leadership Circle where 3 days are dedicated to immersive learning with fellows, strategists and directors. It is a place for young change makers to congregate, plan, prepare and bond.

 

What next? The first thing we look forward to is placements-coordinated by the Transition Readiness and Aftercare verticals, this aims to ensure that youth have a smooth experience while entering college or vocational training courses or jobs, and have every possible support they need-be it accommodation, books, travel and so on. We also offer in-house scholarships to these youths which is not merit based. We believe each youth requires the right amount of support to sustain their dreams, and scholarships is just one component.

Finally, this year is extra special for us as we prepare to operationalize our Foundations Project, where we will focus on strengthening the basics of children with a focus on life skills and emotional health, so that by the time these children enter our other programs or reach higher classes they are better prepared and are more confident. Because each child should truly be empowered to have a mind without fear.

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Make A Difference

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Jithin Nedumala
Bangalore, Karnataka India
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