Towards the mid of 2013, I started feeling that life is incomplete. After living over here, on the earth, for 26 years, and working in the banking and financial services industry for nearly 5 years, things looked not so bright to me. Despite attempts to discover reasons for this new found sadness, I wasn't able to point at one. There was a strike of some unsatisfied feeling in me and I felt my life lacks something. Some void, something missing. The search led me to the grand old Maslow's need hierarchy theory. I wasn't sure but probably, I was just moving from the Safety needs to Belonging needs. Slowly, I started realizing that it had always been my dream to do something for the society, for the people around me, as soon as I am done with certain responsibilities of life. May be, the time had come.
Over the last 2 years, I had been searching for opportunities in this direction but all the volunteering opportunities wanted me to engage over the 2 days on the weekend and it seemed an impossible task to me. I tried to do some advisory work or support some of my friends who are in the social sector but then, that too was very heavy on me. I enrolled for the M121 Fellowship, an online social entrepreneurship course conducted by Movement121, Chicago. The course taught me more about running a social business. I have always been interested in these things, be it volunteering at NSS (National Service Scheme), attending rural camps, participating in debates on empowerment, reading about NGOs, thinking about Micro-finance, etc. After completing the M121 fellowship in mid of 2013, I was desperately in need of something to fill the gap that its absence would create.
This search led me to the Crayons of Hope (COH) program while exploring an article on One Billion Minds. The program sounded too simple for me. Simple, not from the execution point of view but from the thought point of view. The program's plan/structure was easy to understand.
- COH fellows will approach a school/NGO and ask for a class or set of students for the program
- The students will spend 1-2 hours every month with the COH fellows
- In each session, the COH fellows will speak/discuss about one topic of importance to the children over themes like self discovery, goals, dreams, environment, family, nation, sports, etc.
- The children will sketch a postcard on their understanding/learning
- These postcards will be sent to COH
- COH receives postcards from all fellows
- COH sends these postcards to other fellows, ie, the postcards are exchanged
- In the next session, the children receive postcards from their friends in the other part of the world, an unknown friend, a new friend, and in the process, the kid learns about the thoughts, experiences and feelings of the children in a different location
- Over the 12 sessions, the children get to convey their thoughts and also learn others' thoughts.
I applied to the fellowship and received a mail from Swastika saying I have been accepted. The next task was to figure out a school or NGO for me to get started. This process took quite a long time, almost 3 months. At last, I found the school next to my home, Subhash Memorial English High School, receptive to this idea. After an initial discussion and a lot of convincing efforts, the head mistress agreed to connect me to 30-40 kids of different classes for this project. The idea looked great to me. In fact, I thought I will take up one class, but then, getting kids of different age groups would be an interesting value addition. We thought that the kids from Class III to Class X would be our target segment. I left a couple of brochures with her and sent an introduction mail as well. In a week's time, the message reached the children and the interested children enrolled their names with the school office. About 41 children enrolled their names and I decided to go ahead with all of them, assuming some could leave the course over a period of time either due to transfers or change of school or in case they do not find this interesting.
- For millions of children around the world, destiny has already been written.
- And for most of them it will not change in a lifetime.
- Now. Imagine 1 million children exchanging 12 million postcards every year.
- Each child will exchange 12 postcards during the year.
- Postcards follow a different theme every month.
- Every postcard is a hand drawn story of identity, hope and friendship from one child to another.
- Children covered in the program follow 12 consecutive themes designed to bring out their perspective on issues concerning them.
- Receiving a postcard will help her understand what the issues mean to another child somewhere else in the world.
How we work?
- Crayons of Hope is a Not for Profit organization based in India.
- We offer a global One Year Fellowship to young people around the world to help us run the program.
- Fellows work with schools and institutions in their communities and help children craft their postcards every month.
Crayons of Hope is not a new program. The work has been in progress from nearly 2 years. With the fellows program, COH aims to improve its reach. The application to the fellowship is open through the year. The following links can be of help.
Web link - http://www.crayonsofhope.org/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/crayonsofhope
Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/crayonsofhope
So, my hope journey with Crayons of Hope has begun. I'm excited to cover these 12 sessions with kids all around me. On a lighter (or serious) note, life has moved on from being called Bhaiyya to Uncle and may be, that just shows up that there is a lot more to share with higher responsibility. In my introduction session with the children, they almost assumed that I was there to conduct a drawing competition. In fact, even the teachers had a similar opinion until I explained them the whole objective that goes behind the final sketch.
Creating hope with a postcard is tough. Things that aren't tough make life boring. So, let's get going...