There is nothing that makes my heart sing more than when I see children happy. And more so when people come together to ensure a smile on kids’ faces.
Here’s the day of fun and satisfaction I had, when volunteering and interacting with children as part of the Nestle Healthy Kids Programme. (The programme focuses on nutrition, health and wellness as well as rural development and other community needs.)
On World Water Day, 22nd March, Nestle India as part of their Healthy Kids campaign, took the initiative to educate children from low income communities on the need for clean water and water conservation.
The day began with a visit to the Nestle office where employees as well as volunteer bloggers were briefed on the aim for the day. Frontrunners from the team also informed us all about the guidelines for the day.
It was heart-warming to note the care they exercise in dealing with these children and ensuring that whoever interacts with them follows the same. We were briefed on how to deliver messages on water conservation in a subtle manner, without scolding the children. Children can learn well only when they are heard, respected for their ideas and then informed.
The team of bloggers with the company volunteers then left for a local community area near Vasant Vihar, Delhi where kids were already waiting with their youth leaders. It was interesting to know that the youth leaders too were children who had been a part of the program earlier, and as they got older, started mentoring kids from their own communities.
For the children, we noticed that this concept works beautifully as the ones educating them are their own ‘Didis’ and ‘Bhaiyas’, aware of their challenges.
A fun ice breaker was initiated by making a huge circle, and singing and dancing together. Each individual introduced themselves by clapping twice and throwing a ball up in the air and then passing this along. After this, Nestle volunteers were allotted to different teams with the kids and the games began.
What was amazing to note was the fact that the youth leaders were using words like ‘clean’, ‘safe’, ‘healthy’ etc. while playing the games with the kids. In a subtle manner, terms essential to water conservation and clean drinking water were being passed on and the kids were catching on to these phrases.
Time flew with these fun games and post an hour, the youth leaders had a brief session with the kids talking about the importance of clean water and why we need to conserve water. It was remarkable to note that the children used the new concepts and words learnt when asked about why they feel clean water is essential to their life.
Imparting values and life skills in this interactive manner leaves a long-lasting impression on the child’s mind as opposed to a lecture. The children were so animated and spoke about clean water in food preparation, preventing diseases, and how water is essential to survival.
Post this, the teams had a poster competition. 9 teams were created and each team had a Nestle employee to help them out. The children were told at the end of this activity that the aim was to learn and help each other and not about winning. Thus each team was asked to present their poster and talk about water conservation.
Four things that struck me the most were – one, the children were so excited and eager to learn! No qualms about being out in the sun at 3 pm and not having high level equipment or gadgets. They were just so happy with what they were provided and with the people around them.
Two, a few of the children’s mothers had also attended this session and seen their kids enjoy themselves. I feel this helps validate the parents who are sending their kids to be a part of such programmes. Seeing their kids happy, making posters, talking confidently – had these parents glowing with pride.
Three, the number of girls participating in the program was immense, with an almost equal number of boys and girls. Such programs help ensure that the girls are educated, trained and encourage to participate in activities beyond household chores. The main youth leader training these children was a young girl.
Four, I saw the power of sharing and gratitude. Each child was calling out to their Nestle volunteer to help with the poster making too. When the children were given certificates they wanted their Nestle volunteer ‘didi’ or ‘bhaiya’ to stand with them, hold the poster and take a picture!
With a lump in my throat, on the verge of giving way to ‘happy tears’ I realised that these children know the power of love, learning and unconditional acceptance more than most ‘educated’ and privileged people that I have met. These kids are certainly not ‘underprivileged’ on these values!
It is the duty of people like us who have so much in tangible terms to help provide these kids more opportunities to live their dreams.
Thank you Nestle, for reaffirming my faith that people care and extend their hands and hearts to those around. I learnt more from these kids about life than I could have ever taught them!
Post supported by Nestle India