I returned the second day with a lot of energy, ready to start what was going to be 15 days of fun, joy and learning. I rearranged the plan for the workshop for it to span over the 15 days in June with follow ups over 4 Saturdays in July 2015.
The girls were divided again in the same categories according to age, 6-12 year olds and then 13-18 year olds. I had 3 batches, the third batch was a more advance class which had girls that I had already worked with last summer. I took on more disabled girls this summer increasing the number to 10 vs 6 in the past year.
The aim was to start making all the new girls feel comfortable. Be it comfort in their surroundings, being among the other girls or inner body comfort, being comfortable in their own skin. The whole idea of the program was to help provide the girls with a creative outlet, help create a safe space for them where they feel secure enough to come and let their hair down, where they are content with what they are doing and most importantly content with themselves. Through various dance techniques and activities, we worked on achieving healthy bodies and trust among our fellows. Promoting a healthy and positive body image was very important as several of these girls had been through physical trauma and were somewhere feeling disconnected (or disgusted) with their own bodies. Another thing majorly lacking in these girls was confidence and instilling confidence in them was my prime goal.
Meanwhile, I started more intensely training the advanced batch girls as they were now already comfortable with their bodies. For them it was more about learning how to push themselves, set goals and actually working hard to achieve them. The aim for this summer was to have them understand the feeling of wanting something, setting their heart to it and achieving it! Through several dance exercises on a daily basis we would push ourselves further and further be it physically or mentally. Something as simple as push-ups had the girls working hard. We would set a goal for each class as a group and promise to achieve it. Each day increasing by one push up. These kinds of exercises also fostered a sense of community and teamwork owing to the rule of if one stops, everyone stops and then we all start again. This encouraged the girls to keep boosting each other’s morale. They kept encouraging each other not to quit, not to give up and together we would work through whatever pain we might be feeling to achieve the goals we had set together.
15 days passed way too fast for me to even realize, because last summer the project went on for almost 7-8 weeks. Due to shortage in time this year, we were not able to put up a mini-show for an audience like we did last year but we made sure to have our own private party on the last Saturday that we met where all 50 girls got together and just celebrated. I played different songs and we had dance circles, some girls showing off their newly learnt moves and group dancing. Some were still shy, but most participated. The whole idea was to just have them laugh and enjoy themselves.
All in all, it was a fruitful summer yet again and I would not trade this experience in for anything. I will be heading back over winter break to do a small one week workshop (if permissions come through). The past two summers of work at the Nirmal Chhaya home has left me enriched with so many skills, knowledge and life lessons that will stay with me forever. So thank you, Brandeis India for giving me this opportunity to carry my project out!