Happy kids of extreme poverty in Bhubaneswar

Our first week was dedicated to become aware with the Jeevan Rekha Parishad Association’s works in schools, mainly with Happy Kids Schools in slum areas.

As we turned from the main road to a smaller streets and were in front of the Kanchanjanga slum we could notice the signs of deeper poverty. One last turn to left and we found us on a dirt road leading to a small square where the Happy Kids School stands. The name does not lie, the only classroom of the little school was crowded with excited, happy, smiling children.

In the school, we met about 20-25 children aged between 4 and 14, wearing clothes of many different types and colours. Their families are very poor: it is very difficult to manage to send the kids to school. Therefore, if the school wasn’t in the slum, most children wouldn’t have been able to go to school. With the two French volunteers, Alice and Cyrielle we teach them very simple things, like the ABC in a playful way. It is difficult to communicate with the pupils, because we don’t speak oriya (the language of Odisha state) and the children are just starting to learn English. However, they are very friendly and keen to play and learn. The older kids are more committed to learn, but it was a real challenge to maintain the younger ones’ attention.

After the first two days, we discussed about how could we improve the school’s everyday routine, and we decided to implement a new practice consisting in asking the children every day about their mood. In order to do it in an easy way, we made a sheet of table so their only task is to draw in the morning an “I feel happy”, “I am fine” or “I am sad” face. We consider it helpful to make the children think about themselves and the school aware of how the students’ mood changes.

Friday was a really special day, because children were waiting for guests for a birthday party. Everybody was preparing for the big day, children put on their uniforms, studied songs and dance performance. So, as the first activity of the morning, we presented them the “mood table” and ask them to write their names on it and choose their mood of the day. Due it was a special day, we could see many happy faces on the table J. After that we tried to make their face even nicer so we decorated them (we had many cute cats, brave batmen and beautiful butterflies).

And finally, the long-awaited moment arrived as the celebrated girl, Subhashree with her family entered the school. She had a big surprise as she was taken to the school instead of Puri, where she was told she would celebrate her birthday. The family decided not to have a birthday party at home or somewhere else but to go to the slum and invite the children for a meal and a birthday cake. She and everybody was really amazed by the children’s dance and songs and the children also enjoyed the celebration. They were very excited about the cake, I think it was the highlight of the day for them when the candles on the cake were lighted and after the cake was cut. They also really liked when Subhashree fed them with the cake and the other way around (as an Indian tradition). It was a very touching moment. By the end of the day, the school has become full of really happy kids.