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.

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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 world of childhood

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“For children with no home, life is a fast train to nowhere, Salaam Balaak Trust works to restore them to the world of childhood”

                                                                                                                                                                                               ~ ~ Salaam Balaak Trust.

In an academic journal article entitled “Street Children in India: A Non-Government Organization (NGO)-Based Intervention Model” published in 2009, Dr Amit Sen closed by dedicating his article “to the millions of street children and their indomitable spirit and resilience.” For those of you who haven’t read the hundreds of articles required for doctoral studies, let me tell you this: It is highly unusual to see such a dedication from a senior clinician in an academic paper.

To me, Amit’s words and their appearance in such a context sum up SBT entirely.

SBT’s vision statement is as follows:

“For children with no home, life is a fast train to nowhere, Salaam Balaak Trust works to restore them to, the World of childhood, take for a lonely dead end, to bonding, learning and the joy of a professional life.

Salaam Balaak Trust works towards a creation of a just and equitable society, which respects the rights of the child to education, health & nutrition, family environment, recreation & constructive participation.”

SBT’s mental health program nestles within the organisation’s values and vision.  As outlined in Amit’s paper, the program maintains a psychological model of trauma and mental health with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention alongside cultivating a sense of hopefulness. So what does this mean in ‘real-world’ terms? I can’t say for sure having only spent two weeks here, but to me the emphasis on meeting the needs of young people and creating a resilient community is evident in the warmth, chattiness, confidence and kindness of the kids and adolescents in SBT’s care. I’ve observed teenager’s patience with younger children, gentle teasing among children, and young people supporting each other with school work. There is a sense of caring and connectedness throughout the whole organisation, including graduates, staff and volunteers.

Of course, things aren’t perfect – how could there be with so many young people to care for and few adults. These are structural limitations that won’t change. Also, CPD opportunities for staff are expensive and the training on offer in India is not always of a high quality. This is where I’m hoping I can help. With my research and clinical contacts in Edinburgh, I hope to help SBT staff build their knowledge and confidence around the following themes:

  • Preventing and managing bullying in residential homes
  • Diversifying therapeutic models and techniques
  • Thinking about trauma and how to help support children who have experienced complex trauma

I’ll be working closely with Shikha over the next couple of weeks towards these aims and will keep you posted on the project as it develops. For those who are interested, I highly recommend reading Amit’s original article:

Sen, A. (2009). Street children in India: a non-government organization (NGO)-based intervention model. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics30(6), 552-559.

I hope you are finding our work here in India interesting to read about. If you are, please consider supporting the project by following us on social media or giving a small donation. There is a link to donate in the ‘support us’ tab.

~Alice.