Friday 31 July 2015

On Monday, the girls’ growth in confidence was clearly evidenced, as they proved wonderfully forthcoming when asked about their personal experiences at Veerni for the profiles we were writing on them. With the help of our wonderful translators Vimlesh and Mahendra, questions were asked about the villages they grew up in, their life at the Veerni Institute and their thoughts on issues like marriage and women’s health. An example of one of the touching responses we received, was that of Marudhar’s, who, with regard to her best friend at the Institute, spoke of how Sagar 'understands what I am thinking and always helps me when I get stuck with my homework.' By the end of the day we had managed to speak to each girl individually and were able to understand the way in which Veerni had changed their lives, as well as providing them with a happy tight-knit community.

Tuesday was a particularly fun day as we had promised the girls that after helping us the day before, we would have an afternoon of games. However, before the fun commenced, we split the girls into their two groups and had them review our vocabulary flash cards so as to ensure previous lessons had not been forgotten. After whizzing through these with ease, we had them master a whole new set of flashcards that were centered on objects at the school. These were intentionally a little harder but with the incentive of games, it seemed no challenge at all to the girls and they were quickly shouting out words like 'sharpener' and 'stereo' with perfect pronunciation. The games proved to be a great reward and it was lovely to see how intensely the girls would take their roles as policewomen in 'wink murder', or as the catcher in 'duck-duck-goose'. Wednesday’s focus was placed on two girls in Class 9, Monika and Padam, as we worked on their ability to present themselves and discuss their experiences of home, education and life at Veerni. By the end of the day, both girls had produced individual narratives that they felt confident expressing.

The end of the week was marked by a visit to a programme run by the Yale alumni, which the Veerni Project had worked with during the summer of 2014. Of the ten girls to attend, two had been selected to present speeches they had written to explain their experience of the Yale Project.  We were impressed by the confidence and clarity with which the girls spoke in front of a large audience and it was interesting to hear them speak of what they felt they had been able to offer the participants of the Project, such as details about Indian culture. A pride-filled note to end the week on! 

Friday 24 July 2015

Doing the fashion show with the girls proved to be a great way to establish a close connection with them. Throughout the rest of the week, they displayed confidence when it came to answering questions related to the activities we did, while also asking us certain questions, such as ‘what do you wear to college?’ or ‘how many best friends do you have?’ It was wonderful to see how comfortable they now felt, and their keenness to learn.

The week’s activities included doing puzzles, creative drawing and writing, a beading session and finally a dance class. A significant highlight of the Tuesday’s puzzle session was the completion of a 300-piece puzzle, something rarely achieved and which required great determination from Shilpa, Kanchan and myself. Moreover, the puzzles sparked additional vocabulary learning, such as the one of the world map, which was also useful in displaying the relative size of each country and their location, as the girls expressed their surprise at how small the UK was compared to countries like India, Russia and China.

The beading session planned for Thursday was met with a great deal of enthusiasm and a beautiful variety of bracelets and necklaces were produced by the end of the day – purple and green flower beads proving to be a very popular choice. After every girl was content with her matching set of jewellery, we took time to pour over some of the fashion magazines we had brought from London, using them as a means to incorporate the vocabulary of other items, such as ‘diamond earrings’ and ‘a ring with a green gem’. It was sweet to see how much interest the girls had for pictures of the Queen and her ‘fancy outfits’ as Sangeeta remarked.

Friday came around quickly and this was a day of dancing and fun. Rather than taking our usual group, we had classes 10 and 11. Spending time with new girls each Friday would be an excellent way for us to meet each of the seventy pupils at the boarding home and classes 10 and 11 had no less enthusiasm than our usual group. We initially taught them our two dances – the Macarena (which proved a huge hit) and the classic YMC. After a few encores of the Macarena the girls took it upon themselves to teach us some native dances, which ranged from traditional Rajasthani dances to a mesmerising snake dance. Our attempts at these elicited a lot of laughter but it was clear that the girls loved teaching us and we certainly had fun. By the time we had to go home it felt as though the week had flown by and we could not wait for another one to begin.  

Monday 20 July 2015

When we arrived on Monday, it was great to see that the girls had been waiting excitedly for the show, as they greeted us in the most beautiful array of clothes, with many of them also having done their makeup. However, before commencing with the beauty preparation, we sat the girls down to announce the winners of the animal contest. With so many creative drawings it had certainly been difficult to narrow it down. In the end, we presented four girls with bangles for their beautiful drawings and superb stories and made sure that everyone received an Oreo cookie - a little taste from back home, which certainly went down a treat. 

It was now time to get to work for the fashion show and the girls took it in turns to have their hair done by us. We took this opportunity to teach the girls some beauty-related English terms and soon had them asking for 'plaits' or 'pony-tails' as well as choosing either a 'hair-tie' or a 'hair-clip' from the assortment that we had brought. Most of the girls went with the sparkly hair clips and by the end they all looked beautiful and ready to walk down the runway. 

With loud Bollywood dance music playing and a cheering audience behind us, we decided to go first so as to break the ice. We proceeded to walk each pair of girls down the runway, all of us striking poses along the way. By the end, the girls were walking with such confidence that they put our walks and poses to shame!

In the wake of excitement the show had created, we got to work in our separate groups, using pre-made flash-card drawings to teach the girls the English words for all the clothes they had been wearing. In no time, we had both groups of girls repeating every type of clothing and accessory imaginable, as well as describing them using colours. It was wonderful to see the girls so happy and becoming more comfortable with us. All in all, a good note to start on!

Friday 17 July 2015

 Our excitement about it being our first day and the prospect of spending time with the girls and getting to know them, made the car journey to the Institute feel much longer than it would have been otherwise. The activity we had planned was centred on having the girls draw their favourite animal and write an accompanying story. On arrival, we were welcomed by the team and discussed our aims of working with the Veerni girls, which include building the girls’ confidence when it comes to speaking English and achieving a firm basis in terms of vocabulary.

Lunch with the girls was great as we were able to see the way they interact and chat with each other, reminding us of meal times we use to have at school. We were impressed by the dining hall, with its lovely orange table-cloths and large round tables, similar to that of a hotel!
Having gathered the 16 girls we would be working with, we introduced ourselves, including fun facts to help create the sense of a fun environment. Throughout the afternoon, Vimlesh was amazing as a translator, relaying to the girls the task and also providing us with key information, like how some of girls had only been at the Institute for two weeks and were therefore shy, meaning they would need some extra help.

We were delighted by the drawings produced, which displayed the wonderful creativity of lots of the girls and put our own drawings to shame. There were a great deal of elephants and peacocks present but representations of these animals varied and a beautiful butterfly helped break up the collection. We all sat around in a circle on the floor and each girl presented their picture and story with Vimlesh translating each to us. Picking three winners was going to be harder than we thought and the temptation to reward all of them was strong.

Prizes would be given on Monday and the plan to run a fashion show was met with excitement. We ourselves looked forward to getting involved and walking the runway! 

Thursday 16 July 2015

This blog has been set up by two Veerni volunteers, providing a space where experiences at the Veerni Institute may be relayed.