Music Basti, New Delhi
Music Basti is a music education and awareness project that began in 2008 with the support of the Integrated Development Education Association (IDEA). The programme is geared for “at risk” children, which includes street children, runaways and orphans, and currently works with over 300 such children across three shelters in Delhi. The process is facilitated through a sustained programme of workshops—150 have been conducted so far—imparting basic music education to children.
What is unique about this initiative is that it is entirely youth-led, headed by founder Faith Gonsalves, a 22-year-old graduate from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University.
The team works with the support of young musicians from diverse musical backgrounds. There’s the sarangi exponent Suhail Khan and percussionist Suchet Malhotra from India who’ve volunteered their support. UK-based music producer Ian Wallman, and Dubber and Jez have also initiated a project. The goal is to create participation and inclusion, and promote self-confidence in the children.
Over the next year, Music Basti aims to have two more centres for children. Soon it hopes to launch an online album of children’s songs recorded with the support of professional musicians.
For a two-and-a-half-year-old programme, it is too early to tell. For now, the folks of Music Basti are focused on empowerment and on building a multi-city network to promote their message, in musical notes.
Dreaming Child Productions, Noida
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An initiative by 25-year-old activist Mahima Kaur, Dreaming Child Productions is a space where children learn film-making, along with responsibility and self-reliance.
Kaur works with the children of the Harijan ‘basti’ in Noida. Two years ago, 12 children from the ‘basti’ wanted to make a film. It was an experiment for Kaur, who had been conducting theatre workshops in the slum. The children, all aged 11, were divided in four groups and trained for two months in four aspects of film-making: acting, directing, writing and cinematography. In the next two months, they managed to write, act in, direct and crew two short films, ‘Jhat Pat Ghich Pich’ and ‘Khel Khel Mein’. They also viewed cinema from around the world and learnt the tertiary aspects of film production such as costume design and storyboarding.
Seeing the transformation in children was startling for Kaur. “We realized that by maximizing the responsibility given to these children for reaching a goal not only increased their understanding of themselves, but also of the subjects surrounding that goal,” says Kaur, adding that by the next year, her first batch of 15-year-olds will be able to guide younger children on the film-making process. The children’s films have been screened at several short film festivals, including Filmbooth and Shamiana.
World Comics India (across South Asia)
Cartoonist Sharad Sharma founded the comics initiative, World Comics India, in 2002. He conducts workshops at the grass-root level to equip people, who might be illiterate, to have their say through comics. The primary function is to address an individual’s freedom of expression, thus empowering them and enabling them to fight for their rights.
This has served as one of the most popular communication tools for several organizations and people’s movement across the world. While Sharma’s initiative targets all age groups, children above the age of 8 have been particularly receptive to the training and have gone on to train their peers as well in places such as Mizoram and Assam.
Around 500 comics workshops have been organized so far. In 2009 alone, World Comics India conducted around 100 workshops.
Blind with Camera, Mumbai
In 2004, Partho Bhowmick, an IT professional with Pidilite in Mumbai, came across the work of the Paris-based visually impaired photographer Evgen Bavcar. Fascinated, Bhowmick began researching links between blindness and the visual arts.
In 2006, he began conducting workshops for visually impaired students at the Victoria Memorial School for the Blind, teaching them how to use non-visual sensors to make photographs. He has trained 120 students so far, almost all of them from underprivileged backgrounds. Earlier this year, he even founded a virtual school to supplement his physical workshops: www.blindwithcameraschool.org. Patrons can support the initiative by buying limited-edition prints (30 of each), making a donation in terms of money or camera equipment.
Bhowmick believes that teaching photography to the visually impaired helps in terms of providing them with earning opportunities. It also facilitates their social inclusion by demystifying the polarity between blindness and visual expression, helping to sensitize people and correct the public perception of visual impairment.
Blind with Camera has been hosting regular exhibitions to showcase and sell students’ work. Thirty per cent of the proceeds go to the students. Next month, Bhowmick is travelling to Liverpool, England, with two student photographers to showcase their work. Kodak supports the initiative by providing all the photographic equipment.