Empowering the youth through art and theatre.

Empowering the youth through art and theatre.

27th March 2019 was celebrated as World Theatre Day.

Theatre– a stage where art meets talent from all walks of life–is a place that holds the secret to empowering the underprivileged youth of our society. A secret that the Mumbai-based NGO, Salaam Mumbai Foundation, discovered through its Academy of Arts.

The Academy focuses on using the power of art and theatre to instil in the youth from the lesser-privileged backgrounds a sense of respect for themselves by giving education a chance to improve their life. Bringing art and education together to teach and help them improve their career-prospects, the foundation offers the youth after-school programs for personal and economic empowerment through experiential platforms of learning.

It’s through theatre that these youth not only find a voice to express their innermost feelings about a life that’s far removed from the rest of the privileged world, but also get a chance to develop their talents and improve their career opportunities.

The Academy found how, with the help of art and theatre, the school-dropout rate of these youth could be brought down. it has given them a brilliant opportunity through part-time employment and scholarships to continue with their education and dare to dream for a better future.

The Arts have shown to help students to critique themselves, learn from their mistakes and be open to experimenting.

One of the success stories from the Academy is of Sakshi Kasare, a 16 year old, who lives in a slum in Bandra, Mumbai, with her family of 11 members in a tiny space. She joined the Academy where she transformed from a clueless teenager to a confident performer–a mime artist–who won her first Best Actress Award at the NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts).

The news of her wining and her photograph made an appearance in the newspapers, which made her decide that this is what she would like to do in her life–act.

Many students have benefitted from the Academy. They have gained confidence and an increased self-esteem, and learned problem-solving and collaboration that will help them when they step into the world outside.

Recently, the Academy decided to collaborate with the Stanford Talisman–a student cappella group from the world-renowned Stanford University, USA. The concert, titled ‘Circle of Love’, performed multi-lingual compositions interspersed with mime productions by the Salaam Mumbai Foundation’s Academy of Art.

An adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’, the performance brought together on stage privileged students from a world famous university and the underprivileged youth from Mumbai slums, with world-class theatre training. Their love for theatre was what brought about this collaboration.

The students from the university and the youth from Mumbai now look forward to performing in front of an audience from another country to showcase their talent.

The Salaam Mumbai Foundation and similar organisations today strive to create a space for these youth to educate them and help them learn life skills through the performing arts. They believe that these children, who may belong to the lesser-privileged background, do have the potential to make a space and a name for themselves and bring about a change in the social structure of the society they live in.

Sharing here, some snapshots of the beautiful performance by the two groups at NCPA on World Theatre Day.

 

*Linking the post to the We Are the World Blogfest – #WATWB. A blogfest that shares human news story from around the world that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

We Are The World Blogfest

 

Showing the world how arts helps improve lives of the lesser-privileged youth.

Empowering young girls for a brighter future. #BalanceforBetter

Empowering young girls for a brighter future. #BalanceforBetter

Every year, on the 8th of March, the world celebrates women on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Women being the backbone of every family and our society, are honoured for their contribution to the society, for their accomplishments–be they in any field–and their grit and determination to make a mark despite every hurdle, every barrier that they come across. It’s a day dedicated to challenging gender bias apart from felicitating women for their achievements.

This year, taking into consideration the skewed ratio of girls to boys in schools, a Mumbai based organisation, ‘Salaam Bombay Foundation‘, has organised a special campaign planned for young girls, to motivate them and empower them to achieve gender equality. And, in doing so, they aim to encourage them to continue their education and aspire for a better and a brighter future.

Children belonging to the underprivileged sections of our society prefer to drop out of schools to help their parents improve their financial condition. Many of them also get entangled in the evil web of drug menace, thereby ruining their entire lives.

Organisations like the Salaam Bombay Foundation help such children by guiding them, helping them return back to schools and continue their education so that they have a better chance at a respectable career and a future they never dreamed of.

The foundation offers girls vocational training in beauty, wellness and bakery so that they become independent and help supplementing their family income.

This year, the NGO has planned on presenting the young girls articles like pressure cookers, baking moulds and other starter kits which will be handed over to them by women entrepreneurs. The motive behind this wonderful gesture is to inspire the young girls to overcome the obstacles they face, and work hard towards achieving not only financial independence, but also improving their morale and self-esteem.

This year, around 1900 girls from Mumbai were imparted training in skills relevant to today’s modern lifestyle. About 493 of these girls have begun working and are helping out their families financially.

Helping mould the children at an impressionable age makes all the difference, not only to their confidence and overall development, but also to their lives. They are offered precious opportunities to educate themselves and enjoy a better standard of living. Through their foundation, the organisation also aims at increasing job opportunities for adolescents belonging to the underprivileged sections of our society.

The campaign theme for this year is, #BalanceforBetter, an initiative for spreading the word about gender balance around the world. The event will be held on the 8th of March at Worli Sea Face Municipal School, Mumbai, between 10 to 11 am.

If you happen to be in the vicinity, do attend the event and encourage the young girls. It’s all they need to work harder at fulfilling their dreams and living a better life.

 

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY!

Education and women empowerment

 

 

 

 

You are The Man!

You are The Man!

On this Women’s Day (2018) sharing this post from last year. Saluting Woman Power!

Metanoia

I admit, I am late in discussing this event, but did you watch the controversial ‘Koffee with Karan’ episode, two weeks ago? The one where the uber-talented Kangana Ranaut and Saif Ali Khan were Karan Johar’s guests on his famous couch, sipping coffee along with him? Did you notice Kangana’s confidence and her sassiness?   Do you remember her repartees, her jibes, her ripostes that were well-aimed at Mr. Johar? How fearlessly she spoke her mind without mincing words! And, she was in conversation with one of the Big Daddies of Bollywood!

I am an admirer of Ms. Ranaut, and I was blown away by her candour. The fact that she gave two hoots about diplomacy, and about the men in power in the hindi film industry,  shows how self-assured she is. She wasn’t born into the industry, with a silver spoon; she entered the industry as an “outsider”, who…

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The first man to wear a sanitary pad. #WATWB

The first man to wear a sanitary pad. #WATWB

Imagine this – you get your period and there are no sanitary pads available where you live. Or, worse – the ones available at the chemists  are far beyond your means and threaten to burn a hole in your pocket. If you were to buy those pads, your kids  go without food! And, thus you settle for some rags, or maybe some leaves, or, brace yourselves, some ash!

Can you visualise yourself in such wretched conditions? We, who take our comfortable lifestyle for granted, cannot even imagine the plight of millions of women for whom even basic amenities are luxuries they can’t dream of affording!

So, when a man comes up with a brilliant idea of a machine that manufactures low-cost sanitary pads, it’s like manna to the women living in the developing countries.

 

Sharing today, at #WATWB, the story of Arunachalam  Muruganantham, the first man  to use a sanitary pad!  A school drop out from Southern India, his courage, perseverance and dedication  brought about a change in the lives of countless women  in rural India, as well as other developing countries.

 

The inspiring story of a man.

 

Do read the inspiring story of  ‘The Menstruation Man’,   here. 

We Are the World Blogfest, or #WATWB, created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen aims to bring hope through stories that spread positivity in the darkness that surrounds us. 

Do join in with stories of real life heroes who go beyond the call of duty to make a difference to our world. 

#WATWB is held on the last Friday of every month. Share the stories on your blog and on social media and help spread the love!

Replacing the negativity with positivity through social media is the need of the hour. Let us all do our best and focus the spotlight on people who work towards bringing about a change in our society and a ray of hope to the world.

 

The man who shone a spotlight on mental health. #WATWB

The man who shone a spotlight on mental health. #WATWB

 

For me and my family, as for  countless others, he has been an angel in disguise. For,  the ability to not only treat patients of mental illness, but also offer ceaseless support and encouragement to their caregivers with love and warmth is something only an angel can carry out, isn’t it?

Image courtesy Google (pic by Prassanna)

I met Dr. Anand Nadkarni around 20 years ago. He treated my mom-in-law, who was a patient of schizophrenia. The anxiety I experienced on learning about her condition eased quite a bit after I met him.  The most important reason behind it being, I knew he would always be there to help us and support us as we traversed the rough terrain life can be with a sick family member.

But, the instance when my belief in him grew profoundly was when I discovered my hubby suffered from bi-polar disorder. I remember we were out of town when hubby had an attack. He had been suffering since some days, but I was not aware of the storm brewing in our lives.

I called up the good doctor at an ungodly hour from the resort we were staying at, and he made all the arrangements for hubby to be treated by another doctor at a hospital where hubby had to be admitted, till he himself took over hubby’s case.

Dr. Nadkarni not only treated hubby, but ensured I went in for counselling as I was under enormous pressure. The fact that I am here today, sane and stronger, is all thanks to Dr. Nadkarni.

Dr. Anand Nadkarni has been practicing psychiatry since 30 years now. He began his journey towards bringing the concept of mental health in the spotlight 27 years ago. He established the Institute of Psychological Health, an NGO at Mumbai, where mental health professionals work towards treating mental illness patients, as well as organise  support groups and conduct community projects that help spread awareness regarding mental health.

He not only consults patients, but also conducts training programs for corporate executives, and mentors young athletes, artists and players to optimise their performance. He conducts training for elite commando forces and is also the founder and trustee of Muktangana de-addiction centre at Pune, Maharashtra. He is also a prolific writer with 17 award-winning books to his credit.

For a man who is so deeply immersed in his work, it will come as a surprise to many to meet this warm, friendly person, who has the knack of putting you at ease the  instant you meet him. The time he gives you as a doctor, a counsellor, or even a friend/guide, is all yours, without any distractions whatsoever. I would like to add, simplicity and humbleness are this wonderful man’s forte!

I remember pouring my heart out to him – how I feared losing my sanity from all the stress I went through at home – to which he  smiled, kindheartedly, and said, “You are doing absolutely fine, my dear. And, you really need not fear, I am here for you!” These words – spoken almost 15 years ago –  echo in my mind as I type this post today.

A man who has spent so many years of his life working towards sensitising the public about mental health; who has made it his life’s mission to bring awareness about mental illness deserves to be called a Hero, isn’t it?

Damyanti Biswas   Shilpa Garg   Simon Falk, Eric Lahti, Lynn Hallbrooks, and Guilie Castillo   are co-hosting the We Are The World Blogfest this month to share a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful harmony, and restore our faith in humanity.

Do join in with a real life story that speaks of something positive in a world that can be quite a scary place with all the negativity we see around.