~ Be The Change ~

Giving Opportunities, Giving Life - Meet Geetika Arora, a teacher at Teach for India

With an appointment letter in my hand, I couldn’t wait to start my journey with a bunch of teenage girls at a community named ‘Majnu Ka Tila’. I was nervous to be be surrounded by girls who were at an age that will form the foundation of their being, but excited as well as it gave me an opportunity to build a stronger foundation in them. My vision for them was to make them self aware individuals who are authentic and humble in their being and who can make informed decisions in their lives.
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With initial interactions with them and other stakeholders present in the community, I reckoned that violence at home was the biggest problem that they faced and added to it was the lack of self belief and empathy. So, my belief that investing them in education and values can only make them goal oriented and better human beings, got stronger.The belief that a change is possible was fueled by their natural instincts and actions wherein I saw them holding hands and coming together to make their own goals and the plans for achieving those goals. All I have to do is to give them the right opportunity and a little push.
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They started writing poems imagining a world where everyone is given equal opportunities irrespective of their identity, wrote letters to their moms where they questioned the patriarchal society we live in, they took ownership to spread the message of ‘Kindness is their Religion’ by creating awareness programs in their community about different people that exist among us and how the boundaries are created by us. They wrote letters expressing their feelings and problems to their pen friends, taught in different classes and shared their knowledge. They even have a book reading club where they share their learning.
Some of them gave a musical performance at United Religious Initiative which gave a message that the world is ‘One‘. They started keeping workshops where they would teach art and craft, dance, jewelry designing to learn skills and spread their learning. They joined hands to make their community a better place and to spread joy with their actions. To spread awareness in their community, they have decided to educate teenage girls about ‘Sex education’ in the holidays, as the rate of teenage pregnancy is increasing at an alarming rate. They also consider food wastage as one of the major problems in their school, thus started a ‘Mindset Changing’ drive where they took responsibility and gave duties on every floor of their school to keep a check and aware kids of the among of food they waste daily and they saw a reduction of around 60% of food within a week. Recently, over a discussion on how to celebrate Christmas this year, we came up with an idea came to celebrate it in its true spirit by ‘Spreading Joy Around’, so they planned a donation drive. I had no idea what their plan was, all I knew was where and when I was supposed to meet them the next day. They made teams, took ownership and went from one door to another asking for clothes, money and food. They collected around Rs.1500 and around 500 clothes in a day. The next morning they came together and made around 150 Chapatis, Dal, Rajma and Salad from the raw materials they collected and from the money they had collected they bought Frooti, Biscuits and Chocolates. I remember the moment I met them, I couldn’t believe they had done all of that by themselves. With tears in my eyes and a heart full of pride, I was overwhelmed and my 1.5 years flash backed in front of my eyes. Every effort seemed worth it at that moment.
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All of this was possible because of their determination to make world a better place. I as a teacher have constantly tried to give them opportunities on a regular basis to interact with different people, listen to their stories and get inspired to believe that they are the light bearers of their life. I took them to the story telling festival, Kathakar, to build expression in them, to Women Economic Forum to hear ideas of women around them and build self belief, to Kidzania to build perspective so that they can make stronger carrier choices, to a summer camp for building stronger basics and personality traits. I took them to Oxford bookstore to build love for reading and now they have their own library and have a weekly reading procedure. They went for their first movie ‘Secret Superstar’ and connected so well with Insiya, that they decided to never step back because of fear and inspire their mothers to show courage. These days I have started getting emails from them as becoming digitally literate is one of the 21st century skills. I have one to one conversations with them on a regular basis to keep them on track and that has helped them to be even more goal oriented. So all of this has helped me inculcating values that, I hope, will stay with them forever and they become better human beings and make this world a better place to live in.