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.