Rein Basera, the wonderful night shelter where we hold our program now also completed three years on January 1, and so the managing committees of Rein Basera and Street Smart decided to hold one program to celebrate both milestones.Everybody close to both initiatives was invited, speeches were prepared, caterers were hired, chairs were set up in a sparkling hall on the ground floor and the kids were brought together to prepare entertainment. The kids, in the thirty-minute time slot decided to present a group song and enact a short skit that was beautifully written by Vandita, our Project Coordinator on the lives of the children. We also had one of our volunteers Abeer Kapoor prepare an audio-visual that showed how Street Smart started out and the different phases through which it went before taking on its current form.
On the morning of the 1st, I arrived at Rein Basera to find a party-like scene. Rajkumar was perched on top
of a ladder, hanging balloons and a few other decorative things that the team had prepared over the last few days, from the ceiling. Somebody was putting up the kids’ paintings, somebody else was cutting sticky-tape, yet another child was decorating the display that was set up to show the guests everything that we do at Street Smart.
While the program was to happen in the hall on the ground floor, the hall on the first floor was where the children decorated their space. They set up stations to show the block-printing, the sewing, displayed their books and text books in one section and also exhibited their lunch bowls in the other section! It was all wonderfully done! Here are a few pictures:
When they arrived, the guests were asked to visit the display by the children upstairs and later gather in the hall on the ground floor for the program. The time that our guests spent upstairs was much more than what had been anticipated. The reason for this was only one: the enthusiasm of our hosts, the kids. I could not believe the way the children welcomed people, recited poems for them, shouted and cheered and later served them tea and snacks before eating anything themselves. It was incredible. They took over as hosts and ruled the show! I wanted to do a double somersault or some other acrobat to express my elation!
The DM of Dehradun also came for the program and he stayed right until the end! He was brilliant and I daresay he caught on the infectious enthusiasm and jubilation of the kids too!
Downstairs in the hall, the program began with a few speeches from the members of the Committee that runs Rein Basera. The wonderful work being done at the shelter was talked about as was the need to increase its capacity and scope of work. Shaila talked briefly about Street Smart and its journey in the past year.
Then came the children. They stole the show. They stole hearts. They infused the air with a powerful energy that made everybody smile and cheer! The kids started out with their skit first. It was a short depiction of their life situations: young Sunita, the “child-beggar” being beaten by Roshan, her “drunk father” for not bringing home more money, Malti and Pooja, the “rag-picking girls” sorting the cardboard, plastic and other material into piles and selling it to Rajkumar, “the trader” who pays the girls less money and bullies them and so forth. Four days before the actual program, I had seen the act and though it was good, the kids were still smiling and places or mumbling their lines. On the first, however, they were impeccable. I have to mention the efforts of Vandita, Ayushi and Aanchal, besides Kavita Chandna for guiding the children.
Then the children presented the group song “Hum Honge Kamayab” and it was loved by everybody. We did not have any instruments to accompany their singing but they did a fantastic job. Finally, we played the audio-visual. The original video is 15 minutes in length but we had to cut it to 6.5 minutes owing to time-constraints. This one was for the kids. They loved it, they laughed, hooted, cheered in the front row, while the girls: Vandita, Ayushi, Aanchal and Neelu Khanna all did the same at the back of the hall! We had used really loud, catchy item numbers that the kids had selected and all the photographs that we had taken over the last one year to show our transition from outside Astley Hall to outside Orient Cinema Hall to Gandhi Park to Rein Basera.
It was a wonderful afternoon where we met again the people who have supported Street Smart from the beginning. But I will say this again, the thing that was most surprising and most exhilarating was how the children took over as the hosts. I could see Rajkumar running with cups of tea for everybody and Gopi tailing after him with biscuits and cakes in his hands. Even the younger children did not eat anything until the guests had taken their plates and cups. The older children interacted with the guests too and I remembered that phase early in the program when the kids would go out-of-the-way to pretend that they could not see a new volunteer or guest!
Now of course, we have to look forward and try getting more children into the facility while at the same time working harder on our regulars. But all of that will happen from the next post onwards.
This one, like I had said earlier is about celebrations!