Jesuits Vocational Center for the Tamils in the Hatton tea fields

From India we went to Sri Lanka, there we were awaiting the order of Jesuits to provide training in their vocational centers. The first stop was in the tea fields of the central mountains of Sri Lanka.

There we have the order of the Jesuits doing an exceptional job of training workers in the tea fields. In the nineteenth century the English moved thousands of people to work in the tea fields. The majority of the population came from the state of Tamil Nadú.

After the civil war in Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu Indians arrived in the 19th century did not obtain full citizenship, possess documentation but do not have full rights as citizens of Sri Lanka.

The situation of these people is quite worrying, and their conditions have not improved much. They live in the properties of the tea fields, without property and always conditioned to have to work in the tea fields in quite deplorable conditions.

We had the opportunity to visit a village in a tea field, we saw the conditions, they invited us to one of the houses to have a cup of tea that they cultivated and harvested there. They were very happy to be able to offer what they had, to spend some time together, enjoying their hospitality.

We also visited the village school, full of smiling children, waiting for us to play! We did a theater workshop for them, and they were delivered from the first minute !!! we play together, we laugh, we enjoy and we share …

For us it is full satisfaction, sharing and that the children enjoy without contention, freely, discovering, learning, delivered … Pure innocence!

Back in Hatton, we started the workshops in the vocational center. Our contact was Father Prem. The students were varied, from teachers of English, sewing and computer science, to the students of the center.

The training was intensive for 3 days, with 32 people, all eager to learn and share with us. As always at the beginning we gave ourselves the necessary time to get to know each other and connect, discover what we were doing there, but as the training progressed everyone became more and more involved, dedicated to creating, imagining and discovering our potentials, aptitudes and talents …

It did not take long to get to be one, to be all ready to everything and share every second giving everything …

At the end of the 3 days we concluded the workshops with very happy people, not for having finished but for the experience lived, we were thanked, and the evaluation was excellent … They were happy and we were happy … In the end we left with little gifts that they made us, between other things a kilo of Hatton tea, a valuable treasure that we still savor daily … Thank you very much !!!!

JRS Bangkok, a meeting with great people dedicated to refugees

From Malaysia we flew to Bangkok, Thailand to meet the staff of JRS Bangkok, a community dedicated to helping mainly urban refugees from many parts of the world, such as Rohingyas, Ethiopia, Somalia …

These refugees do not have papers and they live in a quite tense situation in relation to the authorities, besides having to solve their needs for the sustenance of their families …

So the agreed day we went to the facilities of JRS Thailand. There they took us to the room where the 3-day workshop for staff and educators was to be held. Attendees were of varied nationalities, especially Thai, but also from Myanmar, Somalia, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Indonesia … Almost all were educators, so the content had to be adjusted to the needs … But no problem, we have everything under control.

We started the training with presentations, to be able to connect with the group, get their attention and start to make them understand what we were offering them. Everything was flowing little by little, the motivation was increasing and we had it easier to offer what we had in the programming.

The days went by and the objectives were fulfilled. The assistants were involved and we felt that the sense of formation was being achieved. The end was great, finally it was time to do an evaluation and express what everyone had felt. The opinions of the people overwhelmed us, super positive, about what they had experienced.

Then we could express how well we had gone through, how easy it had been to share our experience with them, and how much we had learned … Surely this does not end here and we will see each other again !!!!!

Smart Iqra Education Center, meeting Rohingya and Pakistan refugee children

The next school we went to is also in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is the Smart Iqra Education Center school. It is a small school where the majority of students are Rohingyas and Pakistani refugees. The building was quite new, although the number of students is high.

We carried out the workshop in the area that we could, since with the furniture it is difficult to do practical activities. We went out to the garden and exposed ourselves to the sun and the high temperatures, for a limited time … The children, it goes without saying that they were delighted, we started to play and enjoy.

Then we move to the shade, sweaty and agitated, prepared for the second part, the most creative, dedicated and personal, where we explore and share. All were delivered and motivated, enjoying every minute. As it progressed there were more and more willing volunteers, wanting to participate.

In the end we all said goodbye with gratitude and wanting more. We were exhausted but delighted, grateful for the gift that all of us children had given us. Remembering those faces of happiness and enthusiasm … Beautiful work ours …

Salam Children’s learning Center, a small great school made to give opportunities to refugees

In Malaysia we had several collaborations, each one more interesting and enriching. The first one we did was at the Salam Children’s Learning Center. It is a small school started by a refugee family in Iran. It consists of 3 small rooms on the first floor, and the students are mostly Afghan refugees.

Our arrival was expected, all expectant, so it was very easy to start with the laughter, making the clown does not fail … The smiling faces of the children, between a certain reserve of initial shyness. Just arrive and we ruffled the whole school !!!! This was going to be easy …

And indeed, everyone was hooked to the formation in an instant !!!! It cost us very little to have them all sharing hooked and completely willing. Little by little we grew together, until the end came.

The faces of all were happy, they left us in love with them, and in the end we were clapping hands, making jokes, all laughs, even before leaving some children even hugged us, with a fit of full love … how beautiful they are all !!!!! For eating!!! The truth is that we quickly fell in love with all our students …

Before leaving, the regent family invited us for complimentary tea and pastries. There was the daughter, the woman and the man of the house. They told us a little about their history, the sufferings they had experienced leaving Iran persecuted for being Christians towards Pakistan, and how they had tried to kill them for poisoning, from which they miraculously survived to escape to Malaysia … All overwhelming … we are not aware of the injustices that happen in the world until they tell us, and we see how creepy we are capable …

In short, we leave with a very good taste, with an unforgettable experience and with the memory of the happy faces of the children … We would love to return to continue with what we started …

SOS Adeas Infantiles in Nuwara Eliya, at the doors of the children’s smiles

We arrived at Nuwara Eliya, at almost 1900 meters high, with cold and rain, a completely different scenario than we were 5 hours before, when we took the bus on the beach the temperature was at 30ºC … The change is radical … And there we contacted SOS Children’s Villages.

We agreed to do a small project in their facilities. We arrived at the farm of SOS Children Villages, we were welcomed by Sandun, the second on board of the organization in Nuwara Eliya. He gave us a guided tour of the facilities and explained the mechanism of the children’s villages, as there are women who act as mothers to a group of children, as they also have advisors who help them and guide them for an adequate development. In addition they took us to the auditorium where we would carry out the workshops and the performance.

And the first group arrived, there were about 60 children between 5 and 12 years old … It was a little messy at first, it was difficult to keep the attention of so many children, but then we had to adapt the activities to the requirements of the attendees … In the end everything was great, and the children were delighted and motivated to share together the activities and the stage … to eat them with those laughs and smiles, making mischief and seeking the reaction of their audience …

The following workshops, of a total of 4 workshops in two days, were also very good, the boys and girls enjoyed it a lot, at first a little reluctant and timid, feeling for what the topic was, but little by little they started to get infected. the desire to work, to share and to enjoy together the activities …

Finally we made for the group of children who could attend our clown show … It was the culmination of all the work done, with laughter, with the participation, love and love of the children … We are left engraved in the heart, and reminds us why we are doing what we do …

We will not forget the faces and the sensation of sharing all this time together … We leave with a little bit of you and leaving something of ours, affection and love …

Peace building Project with refugees from Sri Lanka and JRS Tamil Nadu

Finally, the day came when we put into practice the peace building manual that we had built in collaboration with JRS. The implementation consisted of training for the 225 facilitators of the Complementary Education Centers (CEC) that JRS has built in the different Tamil refugee camps of Sri Lanka in the state of Tamil Nadu in India.

In total we did 4 rounds of 3 days of training and a final round of 5 days for JRS staff. The purpose of these training rounds was to transfer the knowledge of the part of the Peace Building Manual created by Clown Science Dreams to JRS staff and facilitators so they can apply it in the refugee camps.

In the first 4 rounds we had the opportunity to meet again with all 225 CEC facilitators in the refugee camps, and they themselves are refugees. The rounds were held in Madurai, Vellore, Madurai and Dindigul.

They were moments of great joy and participation, all the facilitators turned totally, dedicated to the training, sharing with us their experiences and their motivations, their sorrows and their joys. For us it was a pride, a gift, to be able to share these moments with them and feel how they welcomed us with open arms, without reservations.

In each round, as usual, on the night of the second day, JRS staff and facilitators organized the cultural night, where they exhibited their artistic skills … singing typical Tamil songs, reciting poems, doing dances, or full theater performances of emotion and tradition … They were special moments, which they proudly offered us, gave us away.

The last round of 5 days served to train JRS Tamil Nadu staff for themselves to finish the training of the pending part to the facilitators. It was intensive, dense and thanks to its very enriching human quality. Together we were able to walk the path of much of the manual, step by step, building their stories, our experiences and together we shared an incredible time.

From our view outside of what they have experienced we could feel the experiences, in many terrifying times they have lived, but we also learned from their joy and their strength to overcome any situation, together, in community, always willing to share and to spread together.

They were intense days, sometimes hard and tired, but also full of joy and love. They helped us to know them a little more, to know a little more about their history, and also to know ourselves, getting to share with them our interior, our heart … We are sure that we will see each other … We miss you already !!!

Drop Out Girls JRS Tamil Nadu, dedicating ourselves to share to improve the future

The next collaboration was made in the Indian city of Trichy (Tiruchirapally). We came back to carry out a training for the girls in the refugee camps of Sri Lanka.

The project of JRS Drop Out Girls provides professional technical training to these girls to provide them with a future, training to earn a salary in the future.

Training is provided for cutting and making pieces of clothing using sewing machines, English is taught and also taught to work in a beauty salon, common trades in the culture where they live and that will provide them with income in a relatively easy and fast way .

The training was held in a house of the Capuchin monks, a perfect and simple place, with rooms for the girls, the trainers (us), and a large room where we could do the workshop. We expected a week of intensive training, all day, 5 days, with 27 girls from 14 to 22 years old. We were going to share great experiences together, where we would learn from each other while also learning from ourselves.

The first contacts, as we usually do, were difficult, they were very shy, they were surprised and hiding among them … we used it to joke and provoke a bit … in this way we started to break the ice.

We started the training with activities that made them understand what we were doing there, little by little the connection was increasing, we began to share our experiences. Each day that passed the confidence increased and that was noticeable in the results, in the delivery, and we appreciated it.

We spent all day together, eating and having dinner together, we talked about our lives and we asked and they asked us, it was most interesting to understand a little more the possible cultural differences and the different vital frames. We started having a common joke that brought the relationship closer.

Until the last day of training, it was not easy. We did the last activities and it was time to say goodbye. There were tears and we were asked that the training last longer! They were totally delivered and they were having a great time …

They told us very nice words, the evaluation of the training was exciting and emotional … We were happy to know that we had contributed to improve their lives, to be part of their memory with a smile. Surely we will return to and we will be able to share more time together … we will miss you …

Caritas Bangladesh, relieving the pain of a people, Rohingyas refugees

The following collaboration was very special for us, not only it returned us to the field work and it meant collaborating with a new organization, but it was also for people who are now in a critical situation. This is the Rohingya refugees, expelled / escaped from Myanmar by the bloodthirsty repression suffered by the country’s military.

The Rohingya people are an ethnic group of Muslim religion living in the state of Rakhine, called Arkan by the Rohingyas, in Myanmar. Its antiquity in those lands is one of the main disputes between the Rohingyas and the government of Myanmar. Today the number of refugees amounts to 1.2 million people, crammed into very basic conditions, living in tents, without any internal security control, with a growing dominance of mafias and without the possibility of any solution or hope to short term.

In addition, the reluctance of the Bangladeshi government to invest in these fields and create a minimum infrastructure, with the idea of ​​ensuring that these refugees are only temporarily and do not settle on these lands permanently. Nor do they allow schools to be created, which is why Caritas has created Child Friendly Spaces (CFS).

These spaces provide a safe place where children, 60% of all refugees, can be safe and have minimal development, learn basic hygiene, eat properly and can develop minimally through complementary education.

Our collaboration was through the Jesuits Refugee Service (JRS) that operated through Caritas, so for practical purposes our work directly reported to the staff and facilitators of Caritas Bangladesh. Caritas is a huge international social service organization started in 1897 that is dedicated to providing worldwide support for the defense of the poor and disadvantaged.

We flew from Barcelona, ​​for about 14 hours. Once in Bangladesh, and after endless passport checks, we met our contact, Mr. Shishir, one of the Caritas managers in Dhaka, the capital of the country. With him we were visiting the surroundings of Dhaka to take a domestic plane to Cox’s Bazar, where we would carry out the workshop.

The organization of Caritas Bangladesh had everything ready. We were housed in a hotel and the workshop would take place in the conference room. Everything was ready so that the next day we would start 7 hours a day of workshop during the following 5 days.

At 5 minutes by 8:30 we were all in the workshop room, observing each other, curious, eager to start. You could see in the face the intrigue …: what is done in a Clown workshop …? Hahahahaha … shortly you were going to discover it!

We gave the start bell and Mr. Shishir was responsible for initiating the presentations … what nerves! We really wanted to start, to share together the following days of intense work, mutual knowledge, effort and a lot of truth.

In total there were 26 people, half Caritas staff, some senior and others junior, and the other half were facilitators, all women, who would be responsible for teaching CFS in the refugee camps.

At first the atmosphere was a bit more rigid, of shyness, there were some cultural barriers that we had to overcome, it was difficult to get used to our way of doing things, taking care of and looking for your own opinion, your own expression and each of them.

The facilitating girls, Muslim majority, at first cost them to integrate the exercises to their schemes, I do not blame them, jejejeje … but little by little we all merged into a fantastic and wonderful group of expression and play, learning and experimentation.

The dynamics raised more and more volunteers. Those and those who at first looked down to ask for collaboration, now shone their eyes with emotion, the need to say their opinion, to share with all of us the essence that they had inside. In the common bond: all for the children and learning to offer more, we all immerse ourselves in this trip that lasted 5 days.

And this feeling was palpable, the final opinions, the recognitions, the expressions of gratitude of the group left us on the verge of tears. Our different way of dealing with the concepts surprised them greatly, they told us that they had not been bored for a single moment, that the treatment of the concepts had been so simple, very clear … This is the prize for what we do … Happy people !!!

Through our technique, from us, leaving a memory and knowledge that will now reach the Rohingyas, their children, to a part of the world that needs to laugh and express, are limits or barriers, so we can say that the voice of the world is also yours.

   

After this experience, intense, emotional, with images that we will not forget, with looks, gestures, laughs and smiles that remain engraved on us forever … Good luck in your incredible mission, we will see each other again, without a doubt …

From Cox’s Bazar we fly to Dhaka to catch another plane to Chennai, India, where the next collaboration awaits us … Let’s go !!!

Shanti Bhavan, a school dream for the leaders of the future

This collaboration was with a very special organization, Shanti Bhavan. It is a school that provides food, accommodation and a high quality education to children without resources from different parts of India.

This organization allows many families to break the chain of poverty thanks to the fact that their children develop exceptional skills and achieve a high quality complete education. Without exaggeration, there is a grand piano in the meeting area, and it is normal that when you pass by there you will find a student playing a piece by Mozart or Ludovico Einaudi … a pleasure for sensitivity.

The organization also provides higher education, sponsors students to go to the university that most motivates them, in India or anywhere in the world. It is a pleasure to see how they stimulate and how they enhance the abilities of the students to the fullest. They hold daily assemblies to analyze the news of the day, locally and internationally.

They perform a multitude of artistic experiences, in addition to the compulsory subjects of each course. They are champions in local soccer leagues. So in this school the boys and girls get one of the most complete educations that I have seen, and from a close and loving relationship.

We contacted them thanks to some nice professors and American theater producers that we met at the Calcutta train station. They had been teaching as volunteers in this school and had had a fantastic experience. So after several emails we managed to square the agendas to be able to share our experiences as clowns with them !!

The school sent a car to pick us up from Bangalore, and after 2 hours on internal roads, between villages and villages, we arrived at the large farm of the Shanti Bhavan school. The enclosure was very big, full of field, at the end of the road that crossed it was the school and the residences. We were welcomed by two students, who would be responsible for a guided tour of the school and surroundings.

They left us impressed, the school is great, and they are super friendly, we enjoyed that moment with jokes and sharing mutual information. They showed us our room, simple but clean, perfect for us. They left us there to rest and we went to the assembly room a few hours later.

In the assembly we were able to meet all the students, teachers and volunteers. We listen to the news reported by the students themselves, with a space for questions and debate. After the chorus represented a couple of songs and finally there was a series of news from the teachers and they introduced us giving us space to describe who we are and what we do. Afterwards we were able to meet Ayesha, one of the school leaders, and she informed us of the time we had available. In total we did 4 workshops and 2 performances in the two days we were there.

The first workshop was with the 9th grade class, with 15 years. We went to the theater classroom, a perfect space to learn, the parquet floor and curtain. The students started arriving, which ended up being 13, and we started because we only had 1 hour and 20 minutes.

With the warm-up we got the group to concentrate, and each time they were more motivated. With the staging exercises we laughed for a while, they enjoyed, played and shared with us all their skills. In the end they did not want to go! they asked us to do more exercises, but they had to go to the next class … A joy of people …

We enjoyed the food in the dining room with the whole school. The 12th grade students asked us to sit at their table … they did not stop explaining jokes … some good ones not so much, but you could tell they were stimulated students, curious and eager to eat the world !!!

The next workshop was with the 11th grade class. 14 students attended, and we repeated the dynamics of the previous workshop, reducing the warm-up so as not to be so fair in the final dynamic. Grade 11 is 16 years old, so they already had a good conscience of what they did and what they expressed. They were very motivated, and they took it very seriously. It was a pleasure to see them giving their all, striving to express and share with us … a taste …

At night we had another assembly, but this time we were part of the entertainment … we acted !!! The occasion was witnessed by an old friend of the founder of the school, so the audience was distributed in a somewhat strange way, in the central area the adults and on the sides the students were distributed … And at the time the recital ended of piano … we left!

With an audience of about 100 people, it was not hard to get the first laughs … especially when we made the teachers leave as “volunteers” … the students broke up !!

 

The whole show was a pleasure, the people flowed and shared with us, all together, without public or actors, in everything they followed us and we followed … In the end, there was applause and mutual thanks. But the night did not end there, and we joined the audience present to enjoy the skills of the students.

The next day we had two more workshops, with those of grade 7 (of 13 years) and those of grade 5 (of 11 years). Attended 12 and 15 students respectively. Although in this case the boys and girls were younger, the desire was not minor. The game was different, the motivations varied, but they all flowed with us to express a bit of their art, their innate aptitudes, their desire to learn and express. We were surprised by their endless motivation, how they let themselves be surprised and how they shared their concerns with us. We feel good, perceiving the best of what we do, sharing, and providing a different point of view, together.

Finally, Ayesha asked us if we could repeat the show for the little ones, since the previous night they had not been able to attend, and we accepted with pleasure. The show was made in the courtyard. They gave us the signal that everyone was in their place, and we started !!!!

We went out and the children started to laugh. Some were perplexed, others scared, but most laughed just to see the clowns. The whole show went on fantastically, we all shared the moment, and the little ones, already more confident, left as volunteers even without asking! hehehehe …

They were very cute, with smiling faces, enjoying that special moment, the color of the smiles, the road we traveled together … When we finished, nobody moved, everyone wanted more! but we had acted in full sun and we were melting … So we went to the room to change.

And the end came, after two incredible days in this fantastic school, we said goodbye to the children, the teachers and the volunteers. Ajit, the director of operations, and Ayesha thanked us for the visit and Ayesha accompanied us to the car that would take us to the Bangalore train station. We already miss you, and we are left wanting to return, to share much more with such wonderful children, in this school so rich in sensations and education. See you soon!!!!!

JRS Drop out girls from Sri Lankan refugees, generating a future

We continued through southern India, and from Bangalore we returned by train to Dindigul. Our next collaboration was again with JRS (Jesuits Refugee Service). JRS does an excellent job of providing assistance to Sri Lankan refugees who are based in South India.

These refugees are the Tamils, and they have been in the 107 refugee camps in the Tamil Nadu region for more than 25 years, without any solution, the government of India does not provide them with papers and the government of Sri Lanka does not return them the lands from which they were expelled, in addition to in some cases not having papers.

Governments have been promising solutions for years but they never come. Meanwhile JRS carries out mediation to improve what their living conditions may be, and if possible to accelerate the arrival of possible solutions with the help of the UNHCR.

While the solutions do not arrive, JRS asked us if we could share a little of ourselves with a group that they provide support so that they can have some option for the future.

This group is about the “Drop Out Girls”. They are girls who have left school prematurely and have not obtained any other training. The reasons for leaving school can be several, lack of attention from parents, discrimination in Indian schools, having to work … In any case, this situation condemns them to have great limitations for their economic development, with a single alternative , get marry.

JRS provides intensive training for six months in a row. They teach them sewing and all the necessary knowledge to make clothing, and can sell it to build a future. They also learn beauty salon skills, and other skills.

Father Alex came to pick us up at the train station, he explained the details of the availability of the girls to do the workshop. There were 25 girls, two of whom had been hired as teachers. The workshops would take place at the Shakthi residence. Shakthi Folk Cultural Center is a traditional Indian dance school for Dalit girls (the most denigrated caste, even if it is not considered chaste for being very inferior) who have no training and no way to develop economically.

This center teaches traditional dances from South India, more specifically from the Tamil Nadu area. The girls earn a salary touring in shows nearby (and sometimes internationally), they offer dances as a traditional show. We have seen them and they are really good.

So Sister Chandra, the head and founder of the Shakthi Folk Cultural Center, kindly agreed to house and feed the 25 JRS girls, as well as her 25 girls and us. There we all shared more than two weeks. In return, we would hold another two-day workshop for their girls. As you can imagine we have lived great experiences for more than 2 weeks there, we try to make a summary.

The place was very clean, it was nice to be there, surrounded by nature in a rural area in South India. The food was excellent, all made by them, with rice, coconut and vegetables. What we liked most were the idlys with coconut chudney, a sauce made with coconut … a delight! Also, we ate an excellent rice byriani …

The workshop was great! two weeks, four hours a day, so we had the opportunity to apply several techniques, many exercises. They enjoyed it, and a lot, you should see them playing, screaming, enjoying as girls, transported to carefree times, in a temporary parenthesis. There were 25 girls between 14 and 21 years old, in full adolescence.

At first, it cost them. When we met for the first time, nobody could stand beside me, they were frightened and made an empty space between me and any form of feminine life … Little by little I was gaining their confidence, they began to interact with me and everything was like silk.

It was very interesting the strong old beliefs that they had, differentiating tremendously the masculine and feminine gender.

In the end with many of the girls we had jokes that we were repeating until the end of the weeks. One of them called me big brother in Tamil every time he saw me, this girl was very funny, and we ended up being friends !!!

In the group there were several characters, as it usually happens in a group of people, which is heterogeneous, and separate groups were formed. We tried to break these groups, make them understand that differences are positive characteristics in the individuals that benefit the whole group.

It was very interesting to share, we taught them our arguments and principles and they taught us their culture, their customs, their expressions, their music and their dances … almost nothing! As the workshop progressed the girls were more and more motivated, we were already a group, that together we were creating something, expressing, developing one another.

The last day was sad, they returned to the residence of Trichy, and we continued our trip to other places. We took this experience very much in our hearts, the truth is that it was very intense, very close and we worked for many hours … Aaaaaish … we just hope that we have been able to change for the better, even if only a little, his life. We will see us again!!!!!