A sad but happy day. After three months of classes at Don Bosco Ashalayam, our employability skills program for the kids at the orphanage is over, and as always we finished with our certificate giving ceremony, speeches and, of course, the inevitable party!
Don Bosco Ashalayam, (Home of Hope) started in January 1997 and provides shelter and rehabilitation for up to 150 at risk children in Palam Gaon, West Delhi. These include street and working children, orphans and urban refugees. They also run a 24-hour free emergency child helpline for kids in distress.
ETASHA began running an employability skills programme for over 20 such vulnerable kids at the Ashalayam and this is only the second time we have worked with street children and orphans and they present a different set of challenges for us. Many of the kids have been exploited and are suspicious of adults and we have worked hard to gain their trust, but gain it we have judging by the atmosphere today.
Meenakshi and I were there from ETASHA and Father Norbert from Don Bosco. My motherly instinct was working overtime as I listened to kids giving speeches in English, after less than three months of us being there. My maternal instinct kicked in as I sat nervously, praying they would do a good job…..and they didn’t let me down! I watched with pride as they all spoke so beautifully and movingly, all looking so confident and relaxed!
They talked about their apprehension at the beginning the course and then how their feelings gradually changed and their confidence improved. Many of them also talked about their English and anger management sessions…..all have had more than difficult lives and have a lot to be angry about. It has taken time to encourage their enjoyment of learning, but when Meenakshi asked who among them was now open to learning new things, every hand went up!
Additional prizes were given to Kapil Sen and Satish for Best Trainee and Best Effort respectively. Afterwards, soft drinks, samosas, dancing…… and a few tears; Rahul cried, saying he had never felt ‘such bonding’. I’m not sure who was the more emotional, he or I. Compliments came from both sides, and we got a big compliment from Father George who had this to say (You’ll have to forgive our bragging, but we are really, really proud of our kids at Ashalyam!):
“There is a world of difference between what they were and what they are today. They have become more confident, and I find that they are less shy, and open and frank. I never expected that they would speak English as they have spoken today. We Definitely owe a debt of gratitude to ETASHA Society & especially to Dr Meenakshi Nayar and her team.”
As I said, maybe it’s bragging, but I don’t care. I went home tonight with a great big smile on my face and I want people to know why it’s there.