Now her ventures cover a broad range: Bringing ‘Life Skills through Drama’ into govt. schools, rediscovering local arts and local food, opening dialogues with students about their lives and attempting to bring alive a learning and exploring atmosphere in Gandhinagar - all this while taking care of her mother who is fighting cancer at home. Here is a little more about her and her projects. Perhaps there are also ways in which you would like to get involved and collaborate?
Neema has been leveraging the freedom and flexibility she gets with her government job. She says, “There is a lot of potential in the village way of life.” She feels that some of the local food and the local traditions that make a wholesome life are still alive here and it is important for the children to see and value these things about their lives.
One project in the last month has been about the food that the kids eat. The children would get lunch money from home and then buy packaged snacks like wafers and Cheetos. Digging deeper she found that even their lunch and dinner had taken a turn from the healthy local grains that their grandparents would eat to not so nutritional food. Around five of those local grains including ragi and oats just grew in the fields alongside the cultivated crops, and still are not used anymore! So in the past month, she compiled stories and facts about these grains with the children and had them bring samples to show in the morning assembly. The children have been collecting recipes of these foods from their grandparents and some of them even cooked a dish and brought it to school. She says, “They are curious now and have started thinking about it. Some even bring these foods for lunch and are not ashamed to do so.”
Another thing that she wants to do is to revive the local arts and bring it to the children. She says, “I like art. It strengthens concentration, increases focus. It is like meditation. The respect for its value and for the kind of intelligence it develops is not there anymore. The traditional embroidery in this village has disappeared. There is only one potter left. Some kids will start to go to this potter now, to learn. I really want to find out how it works. It might increase academic ability; I can connect it to math or science in classes and make it more dynamic; it might enliven the kids who are not interested in school...”
Outside of school Neema has been a key person in the initiative ‘Life Skills through Drama’ which has been integrating drama into government schools across Gujarat. Funded by the government the project has covered three of the four zones of Gujarat. It gets teachers together in a 3 day orientation and then supports them through a year and a half period in integrating drama into their schools. There are promising plans to also take this to other states of India. The program has been pioneered by Swaroop Sampat ji who is Neema’s mentor. Neema also does a residential drama project in Gandhinagar with children twice every year.
She says, “We as teachers tend to think that children don’t know much and ignore the issues in their lives and the understandings that they already have. Here children get their own ideas. They start thinking about parents, relationships, their problems, communication... Sadness feels dangerous to them for example. Through drama they can feel it, express it and come to terms with it. It makes them confident. In 3 weeks I can see the change, their attention becomes sharp. It has changed my relationship with them. They feel like they can share anything with me.”
She has also started a Frisbee team recently in Gandhinagar. It is a sport that is hardly known in Gandhinagar. Now people are starting to play it. She dreams of a district, a community, which is alive with fests and activities, learning, sharing and creating.
She welcomes anyone who wants to support this journey and dream. She asks for you to share what you know of art, health and local knowledge through workshops, films, games or any other way, especially for children from 5th to 9th grade. She says, “I can help in translating to English if needed. Even if they want to try new workshop ideas with the kids here, the school is open. We want to bring in new things...”
If you connect to her initiatives, want to know more, help in anyway, question / challenge her or just connect with her then write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org