Summer Camp 2018 Brings Out the Talents of the Children

June 2018

Children have vacation from school for around 1 to 2 months each year. During this time in 2018, 6 days of summer camp were organized in almost all villages of Amrita SeRVe to provide a platform where children can have fun together, learn together and be creative together. While camp preparations are currently going on in the Northern states, last week several camps were successfully completed in the Eastern states of Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Telangana and Kerala.

The summer camp’s main themes of moral values, ‘healthy child – educated child’ and environmental awareness were integrated into a range of activities comprising yoga, games and studying local herbs. The camp culminated in a well-rehearsed drama performance enacted by the children in front of parents and the public.

The camps are conducted in collaboration between the Amrita CREATE and Amrita SeRVe projects, bringing together tuition teachers, village coordinators and health workers. The groups were about 10 to 70 children, between 6 and 15 years of age. In some villages, even four year old children wanted to participate, which they certainly did.

Fun, arts and values

Every day started with yoga. Children practiced Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) which benefits the whole body, mind and soul.

After yoga, the day would consist of outdoor, as well as indoor games. “Children had lots of fun while playing most known games like Kho Kho, Jumble Words and Passing the Parcel,” reports village coordinator Ashit Patnaik who organized the camps in three villages in Odisha.

Moral values were taught during the camps in the form of storytelling. The tuition teacher, health worker and village coordinator took turns. Storytelling sessions where values like being truthful, performing right action, maintaining peace, showing compassion to fellow beings and practising non–violence were conducted.  Storytelling sessions were followed by conversations with the children about the value topics.

Children enjoyed participating in bhajan sessions (devotional singing). Adults who witnessed the scene commented: “It was amazing to see our children rejoice in the chanting of divine songs.”

Last year in 2017, Amrita SeRVe started the ‘Swastha Kanya – Saakshar Kanya’ campaign. This year the same message was adapted to encompass all children, boys included. Promoting the ‘Healthy child, educated child’ idea, a positive health test was introduced where children could answer questions to confirm what they know about themselves and if they are leading a healthy life style.

An ‘educated child’-session contains awareness on how nature continues to give to human beings. Like the trees are giving fruits, the river gives water and the crops give food, the children were asked what human beings are contributing to nature. Discussions were held on how children, when they grow, would like to contribute to their village and country. It was also discussed how good education and knowledge can contribute to that.

The idea of the healing herbs session was to impart some knowledge to the children regarding home remedies for common diseases. Ashit tells that children were given Tulsi seeds and saplings for planting and the health benefits of the plant were explained and discussed too.

Searching for Sita: excerpts from Ramayana – Sundarkand

From the children’s perspective, according to much enthusiasm and effort put in, the most interesting (and final) part of the summer camp was the Ramayana – Sundarkand story which was performed by the children in a drama play. This story was chosen for its teachings, messages and the emotions involved. It seemed to be as entertaining for the actors as it was for the audience.

Ramayana is not just a story; it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in a narrative manner. It teaches how to lead a righteous, happy and peaceful life. The characters Sita, Hanuman, Vibhishan and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India.

Ramayana’s religious significance is that the poem is not seen as just a literary monument, but serves as an integral part of Hinduism and is held in such reverence, that the mere reading or hearing of it or certain passages of it, is believed by Hindus to free them from sin and bless the reader or listener.

Around 13 days were given for the rehearsal of the drama. With some help from the adults, children made all the props required for the roleplay on their own. All sorts of crowns and weapons like swords and mace, were prepared on a minimum, almost zero, budget. The idea behind the zero budget was to encourage self-reliance in a creative way; the children could learn that anything can always be made from whatever is available.

“It was amazing to see the children working in a co-operative spirit, making all the props. Of course, there were facilitators to support. They brought the costumes required for the drama from their homes. During this process everyone enhanced their creativity. Moreover, the children learned to work as a team under the teacher’s guidance,” Ashit recounts.

When the play started in Odisha villages, the audience was also involved. With a few villagers coming forward to do makeup for all the characters in the play.

Children enjoyed the drama so much that later they were seen calling each other by their character’s names like Sita, Hanuman, Angat, Jamvant, Ravana etc. It seemed that they got so identified with the roles that the vibe lingered on. That was the purpose of the drama; to give the children something valuable, packaged as entertainment, so that the moral lessons stay with them even once the drama is over.

“Parents were happy to see their children performing and gave the feedback that it will be good to see such performances again in the future,” tells Ashit.

Summer camp was a success in Odisha, as 12-year-old Ambika exclaimed:” I enjoyed every activity!”

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