Category Archives: Recent Events

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Staging a Miracle

We just wrapped up our two-week Intensive Expressive Arts Workshops at Aadharshila Home for ‘Juveniles in Conflict With Law’, Kingsway Camp. The play that emerged out of these workshops, ‘Aadharshila mein ek din- A day in Aadharshila‘  was performed for the members of Delhi Judicial Academy, Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee.

Organised by Delhi Judicial Academy, this presentation was showcased at a seminar on ‘Capacity Building for Other Stakeholders’ and our theme was ‘Understanding Childhood- Dreams, Delinquency and Destitution‘.

This truly was an unforgettable experience for us as well as the boys, who got a chance to perform on stage and share their dreams with the audience present.

Click on the link below to access the Report-

Aadharshila Expressive Arts Workshop Report

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The Compassionate Gaze

Last year we began our journey of moving deeper within urban slums and communities in Delhi. Our work with ‘Juveniles in Conflict with Law’ had taken us to a different spectrum of urban life in the city. But it is always important to go back to places that have equipped us to take the next step in the field of Social Arts.

The Adharshila Observation Home for Boys has been that space. It is an area where urbanisation, migration and the law interact at complex levels. The recently amended ‘Juvenile Justice Act’ (2015) has changed the discourse on crime and punishment for years to come. The merits and demerits of the act continue to be heavily debated.

As one of the tenets of punishment, we strongly believe in the power of reformation and the ability of legal institutions to engender change. The Observation Home in Kingsway Camp has been one such institution where this transformation is being realized. All our visits to the home so far have increaseed fatith in our own work and the role Expressive Arts can play in the process of self-learning and self-growth.

This experience has been incredibly satisfying. Although we have been working in the Observation Home for the better part of the decade, the connection with the children this time is special. We started working with a group of 15 inmates in the first week of May towards a workshop that will culminate in a performance at the Delhi Judicial Academy. We are exploring the idea of ‘Dreams, Delinquency and Destitution’ in the context of ‘Youth at Risk’. The time spent so far has also revealed a lot that needs to go in working towards the issue of mental health and diverting public opinion towards a more compassionate gaze.

We started our workshops by introducing the children to basic theatre warm-ups and creative exercises before slowly moving on to ‘childhood dreams and aspirations’. Once we got to this playful core, the task ahead become easier and smoother. Participants shared their stories, circumstances, future goals, inhibitions and restrictions that have shaped their lives today. We also explored enabling oneself to overcome these barriers and look for respect where it matters the most: to the Self.

This connection of course, comes with its own set of challenges and precautions. We do not believe in any hierarchy and genuinely consider this process to be a mutual one.

Expressive Arts is a tool that allows one to go beyond the defined realm of conversation and thought and make room for a deeper probe into issues of identity formation, that the youth struggle with today.

Working at the Home only strengthens our resolve in the core vision of the Foundation, that of equity and social justice. We do hope that this time spent can only pave way for more work in the future that is centred on the idea of healing and empowerment.

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Skating towards a brighter tomorrow

“It’s hard to catch them on camera” was a common consensus. The speed at which these kids zipped past us made us vulnerable each time we stood in that skate park. Each trick contained an element of surprise; we really had to up our own game.

The kids were a sensation, hard to keep up with. Such has been the impact of the skate-park in the heart of India, that children and their bodies are transformed entities. After all, who could have imagined a skate-park in Janwaar? A sport that finds a footnote of a reference in this country has become a way of life for over 70 children in Janwaar. Many have participated in competitions, travelled far and beyond Madhya Pradesh and many have aspirations that are limitless. Skateboarding has become a symbol of progress and ambition. A village steeped in a heavy caste divide finds hope in the new generation, willing to challenge boundaries that have permeated the village hierarchy for centuries now. The skate park has come to represent an equal space, as children from different castes share objects that defy the limit of independence. Rules are simple: “Girls First!” and “No School, No Skateboarding”. Janwaar is now witnessing a quiet transformation. The popularity of skateboarding has incentivised children to attend school and make their sporting arena an equal space that doesn’t discriminate based on caste and gender.

The Yuva Ekta Foundation has always believed in the power of stories and the story of Janwaar is one that needs to be told. It is a story that has connected many local influencers on one platform and helped create an environment of social change. In our visit to Janwaar we met the change-makers and had a chance to visit their institutions that have made this transformation possible. From the skate park in Janwaar to the Art Residency in Ichol (Art Ichol), we see potential that has been given a chance to blossom. These institutions have also allowed children to dream far and beyond caste occupations, have made them believe that barriers that have restricted them can now be broken.

There is however, a long way to go. The skate-park is only one such space in a village that is otherwise ready to believe in the ordinance of hierarchy. Generations that are not on the skateboard still find it hard to digest the change that they see. But Ulrike Reinhard and her team are bent on making this work. Their journey so far has been a long and arduous one. Through endless conversations and discussions with families, they have managed to generate a mutual trust that allows the villagers to see the tremendous impact skate-boarding has had on their children. The important thing to know is how easily a child’s mind can be opened up to look past social hierarchies. Adivasi’s and Yadav’s of the younger generation are now close friends who travel together and share their lives with each other. There is also a promise that it won’t be long before these divides collapse.

By the lake in the village is the spot of a new open-air library with a free access to anyone who wants to be enlightened under a tree. Janwaar is growing. From a spot in the map of Madhya Pradesh, it is now known on a global scale, as a model village and community that has shown others the way to be. We are extremely proud of our association with Janwaar Castle and Ulrike Reinhard. We hope that our visit marks the beginning of a long term relationship, and together, we can tell the story of Janwaar to everyone. Thank you for this opportunity and a big shout out to Anveer and Mannan (even though he wasn’t there physically) for making this journey a memorable one. As Arnold Schwatznegar says “We’ll be back!”

 

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Expressive Arts in the Pink City

Our tryst with Expressive Arts over the last 10 years has unraveled some amazing experiences. Amongst our varied ventures, our sessions at the Jaipur Literature Festival continue to remind us about the change and impact Expressive Arts can create, even in a short span of time.

This year, as JLF celebrates a decade of its existence, our long standing association with The Festival put us in Jayshree Periwal High School with 54 students from various social spheres. What started off as a theatre and arts workshop of January 9, 2017, became a special program by the end of January 23. There were a few, notably novel processes this time: Until now, our group comprised students from 5 privileged Private Schools from Jaipur and 5 NGO participants from rural parts of Rajasthan. But, for the first ever time, we invited participants from Madhya Pradesh as we looked to expand the scope of our Outreach Program at The Festival.  Secondly, in order to break the polarity and binary created by Private Schools from Jaipur and NGO’s across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, we partnered with the ICICI Foundation to put us in touch with 2 government schools in the city. This made possible for participants to explore a diversity of experiences which was an enriching experience for us as well.

The workshops spanned across a period of 8 days, where a focus was laid on basic tools of theatre and creative writing along with spaces to discuss our theme for this year, ‘Freedom to Dream’. It was tied in to The Festival’s theme this year which celebrated ‘70 years of India’s Independence’. Years of progress and development has left us with unresolved issues that we struggle with, in our current times. An effort was made, not only to classify these issues but also discuss them with our participants through the course of the workshops. The results were eye opening.

Hesitant at first and slightly confused, our participants, albeit slowly focussed on their lives to discover social and cultural norms around them that restrict their choices, ambitions, aspirations and their ‘Freedom to Dream’. More importantly however, they spoke about the need for collective strength and unity that is required to break these barriers. Within this, our participants envisaged a country, a nation that allows everyone an equal chance to dream, express themselves and an equal opportunity for success.

What started off as an exercise in self exploration turned into a larger vision that more than answering the questions we posed, left us with more unanswered questions about circumstances that people live with. This also meant that lots of myths and stereotypes were broken, ideas were exchanged and challenges were recognised. Our work, which aims specifically at bridging the gap between privileged and marginalised, was effective in breaking the perceived rural-urban divide that stemmed in the beginning of the workshops. We also discovered the need to pertinently highlight other factors such as caste and gender when we discuss something as precarious as ‘Freedom to Dream’.

An integral part of our Outreach Program is the display of an interactive performance that develops through the workshops. It binds stories with personal narratives of our participants to bring relevant ideas that have emerged in the days preceding the performances. For us, performing is never an end goal but a process within itself. Not only does this give a chance to our participants to explore themselves, it also gives a chance to audience members to raise their concerns. The sharing has been and always will be mutual. After all, the audience too, are school students and community members who belong to the age group our participants come from. Many of our participants told us how the workshops and performances were a cathartic experience, and the fact that it helped so many others open up was magical for them.

Our performance ‘Freedom to Dream: Sapnon Ki Udaan’ has reached out to more than 3000 vibrant minds in Jaipur. Travelling from from schools to communities and making its way to the festival grounds; it helped create a space that is inclusive and accepting.

We would like to thank Teamwork Arts for giving us this opportunity and Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 for providing us with a chance to connect with young minds across the country. A special mention goes out to Pratham Books and ICICI Foundation for helping us co-create and expand this platform.

A Report on The Outreach Program will be ready for public perusal soon. We will be putting up a link on the website and our social media page for anyone interested in knowing about this more.

Thank you for always believing in us and being with us! Watch out this space for more.

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10 Years of Youth Outreach @ Jaipur Literature Festival

The largest free Literary Festival in the world, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival is one of the most exciting, stimulating platforms for an egalitarian exchange of books and ideas, bringing together some of the greatest thinkers and writers from across the world! From Nobel Laureates, Man Booker prize winners to local language writers and debut novelists, the magical lure of the festival attracts audiences from different parts of the world every year.

A highlight of the demographic population that JLF attracts is the large number of young people who throng to the festival grounds, thirsting to receive from some of the best literary and political minds! Keeping this in focus and hugely aware of their intent to give back to the city that plays host to them, Teamwork Arts – the organizers of JLF, run a Youth Outreach program every year, parallel to the festival.

The Yuva Ekta Foundation, a not for profit Trust working at the intersection of Youth and Governance, has been facilitating the Outreach program for 10 years now. With a core Vision of Equity and Social Justice, the Outreach program seeks to integrate Rural youth in Rajasthan with their more privileged Urban counter parts, thereby creating opportunities of mutual learning and creative exchange.

Each year a new theme is chosen, and using the Social Arts as a medium, the participants are encouraged to explore and ideate with young people from different realities with whom they will spend the next 10 days, thereby providing further food for thought.

The Outreach began with the launch of JLF in 2008, with the theme ‘Hands on Habitat’  -  a conservation program that aimed to preserve and protect the natural resources of country, with the intent to secure a sustainable future for its citizens. This program empowered a new generation of individuals to clean up and care for designated areas, to protect and improve their natural reserves.

In 2009, the Outreach focused on ‘iPartner Citizenship’ Workshops, where the Foundation connected with a group of 50 young people from private and government schools as well as NGO institutions.Spread over two days, these workshops ignited the spark of social connect within the participants and encouraged them to actively participate in community issues, as equal partners.

The Year 2010 focused on ‘Being Human’, where amidst the color and glitter of the Festival 60 young people came together for 6 days, to share, learn and sensitize each other, as they explored different facets of Humanism.

_dsc0300Dilip Simeon, a firm believer in the Gandhian principle of non violence, shared his journey as young political activist, who committed to the Naxal cause in the early 70’s because he believed in their ideology of fighting for the rights of the landless labour. The debate was further enhanced through the presentation given by Ornit Shani and Frederik Gauteng from Jerusalem, on the Palestine Israel conflict. The highlight for this year was a one hour session with renowned Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, who shared his experiences on racial discrimination as a young student in London, and how it inspired him writing “Telephone Conversation”.

2011 carried forward the theme ‘Being Human’, wherein the focus was on ‘Building Bridges’ between people from vastly different walks of life and the workshops ended up making each individual connect with the lost little persons within themselves.

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Along with the workshops exploring the theme using theatre and the Arts, the participants got a chance to interact with Gulzar Saab, Alex Belloss, Mrinal Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Javed Akhtar, and Sudheesh Pachauri in their sessions.

Our theme for 2012 was ‘Democracy Dialogues’ . Through role plays and other games, this platform saw a diverse youth group express their differing ideas on how they understood democracy and its relevance in their lives. This became an opportunity to share and learn as the rural youth talked about engaging with the Panchayat and other rural democratic institutions while the urban youth drew upon their school education to talk from a national perspective.

dsc02122The Outreach programs were conducted within the Festival grounds, in a venue specifically marked for Young Adults. This year, the venue was christened “SAMVAD” – a place for discussion and dialogue.

SAMVAD also became an exhibition space for photographer Kulwant Roy’s work between 1940 and 1960, with images captured the formative period of Indian democracy. Curated by Aditya Arya of the India Photo Archive, the exhibits focused on the leaders of the Indian national movement and their engagement with the people.

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Participants also attended sessions in Samvad with renowned personalities; prominent among them were Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi, who discussed the role of imagination in the age of television  and a panel discussion on Dissent and Democracy led by Tarun Tejpal, Dayamani Barla, Ayesha Jalal, Aruna Roy and Sunil Khilnani .

The theme for 2013 was ‘Myself, My World- a Search for Identity’, a quest for exploring a sense of self as well as the circles of influence that impact our lives every day.

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This was one year in which we included web registrations into our group of Young Adults and our numbers swelled to a challenging 80 participants!

Divided into groups, they explored issues of Self with relation to their Family, Community and the World, using tools of Music, Theatre, Art and Creative Writing. Each group worked with a new tool everyday leaving behind an abundance of Creative Expression!

2014 focused on ‘Freedom of Expression’. Changing our format for the workshops this year, we met our participants six days prior to the festival at Jayshree Periwal High School, when 60 young people made their way to a basement, to begin a journey that explored the finer nuances of Freedom of Expression. They came from places in Rajasthan as far off as Baran, Abu Road, Bikaner and homes on the outskirts of the city, to share experiences with privileged young people from prestigious public and IB schools in Jaipur.

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These workshops were a reality check for the school participants to come to terms with the fact that bonded labour was still prevalent in our country. That despite the technological advancements they were familiar with in our metropolitan cities, there are large chunks of our country where inequity and social injustice are rampant.

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‘Azadi ki Udaan’- our first street play evolved through intensive group work and was performed at the festival grounds for a wide audience.

 

img_2477The activities towards integration continued during the 5 days of the Jaipur Literature Festival, through one hour long Art workshops every morning, during which the participants further developed the theme of Freedom of Expression.

img_2592This year saw an interesting line up of speakers at the FORD SAMVAD tent ‐ from Master photographer Dayanita Singh to dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo, creative thinkers and story tellers Anita Roy, Jerry Pinto, Paro Anand and Anand Neelakantan, the amazing mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, the inimitable Prasoon Joshi and Sufi Gospel singer, Sonam Kalra added to an enriching experience.

_mg_8472 In 2015, we explored the theme ‘Gender Justice’ using theatre. Once again we met our participants six days prior to the festival at the Jayshree Periwal High School, to explore issues of Gender Stereotypes through role plays and creating scenarios. The participants shared personal experiences of discrimination they had personally faced and together explored possible solutions.

img_5198Six days of work culminated in a street play titled ‘Naya Nazariya – Moving towards a New Perspective on Gender Justice!’ that was performed at the Diggi Palace grounds for festival audience.

The theme for 2016 was ‘Finding Me’, where we explored everyday situations, complex relationships and attempted to understand the identity crises young people everywhere face.

thumb_img_0049_1024Using role plays and scenarios, the participants shared the challenges that they face on daily basis. The school groups from Jaipur presented scenarios that focused on issues like bullying, peer pressure, the choice of subject streams like Science, Commerce and the Humanities, in Senior School. These were interspersed with slices of life from the village children, who spoke about how most decisions are taken for them by their parents, about the conservative mind set still prevalent in their society including the discrimination between girls and boys.

thumb_img_1904_1024This was another year of Firsts! The play that evolved during these 6 intense days titled ‘Finding me – Meri Pehchaan’ was then performed in 8 schools across Jaipur, during the days of the Festival. At the post performance interactive sessions, it was amazing to see how deeply the audience connected with us and was inspired to share their stories honestly, many speaking up publicly for the first time!

thumb_img_1652_1024The play was also performed at Bandhali Dhani, Khonagoria Gaon District Community Grounds. Our interaction with this audience, primarily a conservative Muslim community was a bit more intimate. Hesitant at first, young people and parents from the community shared their feelings with us about the need to bring about change in their lives by being more progressive in their outlook.

img_2666The play was also presented at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival Grounds The audience enthusiasm reinforced the universality of the issues that the play addressed.

We are back in Jaipur this year with the theme “Freedom to Dream”.  As we plan ahead for our workshops commencing on 10th January, the last 9 years have left us with heartwarming memories of young girls like Foranta Devi from Tilionia, who stayed bashful and shy in her ghunghat for the first 3 days of the workshop, but on the final day was on stage, singing confidently about the importance of educating girls in her village.

A sentiment echoed by the Muslim girls from Digantar fiercely narrating their ongoing struggle with their families and community, seeking permission to continue their studies beyond Class 8, an eye opener for many present.

Walls of Rural/ Urban, Privileged/ Marginalized dissolving, perceptions changing about the “other” as they break boundaries, reject stereo types, even raise their own aspirations listening to their peers – it has been a fascinating learning for all of us as we shared their journeys and connected them to each other through love and trust. As one young student sums it up for us – “If there’s anything better than being loved, it is loving!”

 

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The Banyan at 1AQ

The Yuva Ekta Foundation was at 1AQ on November 18, 2016 to showcase what has become a special performance for everyone involved. The space provided a perfect setting to perform ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein’ quite literally ‘In the Shade of the Banyan’. The lofty Banyan Tree in the middle of the courtyard with its generous canopy of roots and branches, left us all, actors and audience, mesmerised.

Attended by approximately 200 people, the audience for this play included individuals from civil society who are actively engaged in the sphere of ‘Juvenile Justice’. The feedback was encouraging and ever so special coming from members directly associated with the cause. The intent of this gathering was to bring like-minded individuals together under one forum and open out fresh avenues for discussion and deliberation on the issue.

Our use of Expressive Arts as a means to create awareness has expanded exponentially. Through the use of Theatre and the Arts, our engagement with concerns surrounding ‘Youth at Risk’ has equipped us to bring out stories that are more often than not, unheard.

What began as a journey from the Aadharshila Observation Home for Boys, Kingsway Camp, has travelled to Vasant Valley School, New Delhi and The Tramway Theatre, Glasgow, as a part of the Home Away International theatre festival organised by the National Theatre of Scotland. This was our fourth performance of the play this year, and each helped us move forward in our endeavour to use Expressive Arts for Social Change.

We would like to thank Mr. Anubhav Nath and the support staff at 1AQ for opening out their magical space to us and helping facilitate an immersive experience ‘In the Shade of the Banyan’. We would also like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Teamwork Arts for their constant support!

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Paper Puppet Theatre and Storytelling @ Kahaani Jaipur 2016

The Yuva Ekta Foundation has been associated with the Kahaani Festival in various capacities for the past few editions – as Artists, Line Producers as well as Programming Consultants.

The Kahaani Festival’s second edition for this year was recently held at the Jayshree Periwal International School, Jaipur on 5th & 6th December. This time we  participated as Artists and had a wonderful interaction with children of different age groups through both our performances.

‘Stars in his Eyes’ is a simple story for  4-8 year olds, about a poor orphan ‘Moti’ whose village is destroyed in a Flood. Displaced and ignored by all, kind and gentle Moti finds solace in the stars, and forms strong connections with many of them, the brightest being Naintara.. He also longs to be befriended by one of the smart school children he sees everyday, who walk past him without a second glance! Eventually it is his friendship with Naintara that saves this small town from a disastrous flood and Moti emerges a Hero.  

‘Stars in his Eyes’ also works as a parable intended to sensitize privileged young children towards their less fortunate peers, as well as re-connect them with the infinite wisdom of Nature.

We also performed a Paper Puppet performance titled ‘Survival’ which narrates the story of a poor Dalit family struggling to find food and survive the exploitation they have suffered at the hands of Rich farmers. Even the Rats seem to have a better life! 

Targeted at 11 year olds and above, ‘Survival’ captures one night in the lives of the landless labourer Raju, his wife Matia and son Sonu. Just as they discover some grain in a rat hole, they realise the hole is also home to a poisonous snake, who has found warmth in this hole. Is Raju desperate enough to dare death and take on the snake? Can the snake be pushed away from his refuge? Who wins in this clash of Wills?

A gripping story told through the magic of Paper Puppets, our 12- minute performance was followed by a workshop where the participants were given cut-outs of various characters and as groups, they created short stories that were performed for everyone. Some of these performances dealt with issues like Bullying in  school and Gender Bias in  Sports.

 

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The Bargad spreads it’s canopy in Glasgow

Watch a few glimpses from our performance ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein- In the Shade of the Banyan’ at Tramway as part of #NTSHomeAway

Last month we were featured by The Hindu in an ARTICLE that encapsulated our Outreach in Jahangirpuri, and the subsequent journey to Glasgow, Scotland.

Our play- ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein- In the shade of the Banyan’ was performed at the Home Away Festival,  an International Festival of Participatory Arts that marked ten years of the National Theatre of Scotland.

Heartfelt Thank You to all who supported us in this endeavor. British Council India Creative Scotland Confederation of Indian Industry Nagode International Pvt. Ltd. SRF Limited National Theatre of Scotland and Teamwork Arts.

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Director’s Note

“Didi (sister), will you bring me a Tulsi (basil) plant on your next visit? The Tulsi is sacred; I will put it in my mandir (temple).”

This is the summer of 2009. We are at the Observation Home for Boys at Kingsway Camp, Delhi, surrounded by 25 juvenile offenders who have come to attend my Remedial Drama workshop. We are discussing dreams and aspirations and as the boys share their stories, Rahul asks me for a basil plant.

Robbery, Murder, Rape, Extortion – their crimes are brutal.                Each boy feels falsely implicated, believes that the system is working against him. Most come from dysfunctional families, have no Role Models, no Heroes who can inspire them to find a way out of the horrific entanglement of drugs, alcohol and crime.

Our challenge is to make them aware of their choices in every situation, choices that will empower rather than debilitate them. We begin using the tools of Theatre and Expressive Arts and every few months a new intervention convinces me of the possibilities of a new start to these young lives.

This is the space from where our play “Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein” is born. Questioning the ever-widening chasm between the marginalized and the privileged, demanding accountability from a society that aspires more for Mercs and Mobiles rather than a qualitative education for all.

We have begun to work at a resettlement slum close by where many juveniles live and as I try to understand complex migration issues, I sometimes falter, grow weary. And then I remember my first conversation with Rahul, seven years ago.

“Rahul, tell me then, where does your God reside?”                                           “In the temple that is within my heart!” he answers.                                       “And when you pick up a knife to kill, where does your God go?” I ask. “Didi, the doors of my temple were open long before and my God has left me. I am still waiting for him to return!”

The Banyan is a healing tree, with a loving, protective aura that embraces all with its grace.  Our play attempts to re-create this magical, expansive space in which everyone is welcome.

- Puneeta Roy, Managing Trustee – The Yuva Ekta Foundation, is Writer and Director for the play- ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein- In the shade of the Banyan’ which will be travelling to Glasgow, Scotland in early October as part of National Theatre of Scotland’s project HOME AWAY.

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Community Theatre Workshops in Jahangir Puri

The Yuva Ekta Foundation conducted a 2 week-long theatre workshop with students of Govt. Co Ed. Senior Secondary School, K Block, Jahangir Puri. These workshops were conducted in the month of May, and mark the beginning of the second phase of our Community Outreach Project in the area. The Foundation has been trying to build a community base since July 2015, and these workshops were a marvellous experience.

We worked with 80 students from school in 2 batches for girls and boys separately. The workshops culminated in 2 distinct interactive performances that covered everyday issues in Jahangir Puri and their link with larger socio-economic problems. These performances were then showcased to the parents of the participants on 28th May, 2016. What followed was an intense discussion on relevant community issues which were portrayed and discussed through the use of Playback Theatre, by facilitators from The Foundation.

We would like to thank The Directorate of Education for granting us permission to conduct these workshops. We would also like to thank the school staff for helping us throughout this project.

We are on-course to build a network of community members. A pilot project that started with a group of 25 women, now includes more than 200 families.

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