Dance your soul out

When I first came to SBT, I had learnt that the performing and creative arts was significant in the organisation. Many of the children were involved in the annual play production, and also pursued careers as artists, dancers even production directors later on in life. I had wondered why the creative arts was so prominent in SBT, and thought it might have been due to influences from its Trustees such as Sanjay Roy, the man behind Jaipur Literature Festival, Anubhav Nath, director of Ojas Art, and of course, Mira Nair, world-renowned film maker and daughter of Praveen Nair, Founder of SBT. It was only a few weeks later after a casual chat with Gaurav* and Arjun*, two SBT graduates, that I realised the creative arts was not just an extracurricular hobby for SBT children.

It was so much more.

The creative arts improves your confidence, your social skills and your English. It is also a discovery of yourself. You find out things you did not know you could do. You learn more about yourself in this process.” quoted from Gaurav*

Gaurav* explains that in the annual play production, and the performance opportunities at SBT, the children are given a chance to play different roles and adopt different identities. They learn about the behaviours, attitudes and world views of the different characters they try to play. In this process, they find qualities and behavioural traits they wish to adopt, and slowly begin to shape a new identity for themselves. Gaurav* and Arjun* shared that their friends who were shy became more confident through the performing arts and saw it as a way of expressing themselves through characters.

salaam-baalak-trust-shereos-play-creative
Sheroes – SBT’s Annual Production Play in 2017

It was a thought-provoking conversation that made me realise just how holistic the creative and performing arts was. To quote from an article after becoming curious about the connection between self-discovery and the performing arts:

We say that the body does not lie, so if you know how to observe and work with bodies you can discover things that words do not reveal…the story arises from within the body and when you place a new story upon a body, it leads to change.” (from ABC Net)

Not only was dance, arts and theater a way of self-expression, a catharsis of the thoughts and feelings they keep within themselves. It taught them how to work cooperatively with others, and to fulfil the responsibility and role they were given. It opened them to new experiences, to new ways that brought them somewhere they didn’t realise they would be. Dance, arts and theaters was like a realm that allowed them to explore the possibilities – more importantly, anything was possible.

Every year, SBT has an annual play production on an array of themes related to street children and their lived experiences. Two years ago, their play “Anokha Safar” was about the story of three children in a time machine, reflecting upon the changes in the landscape of Indian society. Last year, their play was called “Sheroes”, the female heroes of society. All of the actors/actresses, dancers and production directors in the play are former and current SBT children. As for what it will be about this year, come to Delhi in November to watch it and find out yourself!

Words by Loritta

The importance of education

81461352-01d1-4c74-b774-8148d9568b44

As I write this blog post, I notice a quote on the cover of an English textbook that belongs to a former SBT kid: “A child without education is like a bird without wings“.

Indeed, this is the sense that I get from interviewing and meeting former and current SBT children during the past few days. To them, education is the way to make a change in their life, to live a life they want and to become the person they wish to be. When asked about the future, SBT children aspire to be professors, doctors, tour guides, performance directors and many more. Ajay*, a young man from SBT who is about to start university, shared that education taught him that attitude is everything:

“While studying, I learnt what it means to be a man, and I mean a gentleman. If one does not know how to respect others, it is not good.”

As the children reflect back, they share with a soft smile, lost in their thoughts at their disbelief of how much they have achieved, and how far they have come – from a life on the streets without knowing whether there will be a tomorrow, to today, a confident individual who has dreams to catch, has the desire to help others and be a role model. They are proud of who they are.

But they do not forget their past.

When they walk on the streets and come across street children and families, they still connect with them, and urge them to come to SBT’s shelter homes. Some of these street families do not recognise the importance of education, and continue to relish the freedom of the streets, even if it means a daily struggle of earning enough money for food and medicine. Young girls have to marry early as their husbands will protect them from the dangers of the street, especially at night. Some of these families use the money to take drugs without realising the long-term health consequences. With the government “cleaning” the cities by ridding homeless people, these families struggle to find shelter too. The situation is especially dire in the biting cold during the harsh winter, with no shelter, no warmth and not enough food. The effects of this life rests not only with the current generation, but also the next – it becomes a tragic, vicious cycle.

Because of their past, SBT children recognise they have a shared experience with current street families. They know what it is these street families want, what they are thinking, and what exactly they need to say to persuade these families to leave street life for a more sustainable future in education.

The situation is urgent.

As the quote at the beginning of this post goes, indeed in India, a life on the streets without education is like a bird without wings. It takes a lot of time, patience, and persistence. However, when one bird in the family finally recognises the freedom of flying, soon after, we will see in the sky, the other birds flying along.

* Name changed for confidentality

Instead of buying a cup of coffee, donate your £2 to support street children’s education at SBT: https://www.friendsofsbt.org/#

Words by Loritta