Vidiyal Center - Combating Alcoholism in the Community
Many girls in Shalini’s school community are affected by their fathers’ alcoholism and related violence in the home. This kind of trauma is widely known to disrupt children’s development and impede learning. Shalini has not only seen this play out with her own students first hand – in challenges with engagement, confidence, trust, focus and more – but it also emerged as a loud theme and primary issue in a community survey that she conducted with her co-fellows, Alamelu Kathiresan and Sanjana Rajaram. To tackle this challenge, Shalini and her co-fellows, with the guidance of her program manager, Divya Bharathi, established Vidiyal Community Center. This afterschool center for girls was designed to provide a safe space for girls to express themselves through art and writing, to discuss openly and think critically about the issues of addiction and violence impacting them and their community, and to gain confidence and skills to address those issues.
Shalini and the team began by utilizing a crowdfunding strategy to raise awareness and the funds necessary for the center. They managed to raise Rs.3 lakhs (approximately $4500 USD) in order to rent a space in the community that ensured ease of access for girls and their families. They also used those funds to secure resources to stock the center with a library and art supplies. After successfully raising the funds, the team then turned to social media, their Teach For India alumni community, and to a range of external organizations to recruit and enlist volunteers to provide a variety of relevant and high-quality workshops at the center. This included workshops for both girls and their families on health and issues of alcohol addiction, as well as workshops that equipped girls with skills of storytelling, visual arts, design thinking and problem-solving and more.
As part of their efforts over the first six months at the center, the team impacted at least 75 girl children across three neighboring communities and conducted more than 20 skill workshops. They hosted an exhibition for parents and community on student-generated solutions for community challenges that was covered by the local news media. They are encouraged by the increase in confidence levels of the girls in the classroom, the quality of work the girls have produced at the center, the positive input they have received from both girls and their families, as well as the increase in girls’ attendance they witnessed at both school and the center. The students also published a community magazine titled Vidiyal to showcase their creativity. Throughout these efforts, Shalini and the team have not only provided a physically and emotionally safe space, but they have also helped girls more fully and freely express themselves and grow as leaders to ensure a healthier and happier future for themselves, their families and communities.
Since transitioning out of their school post-fellowship, the team realized that they needed to access the non-profit ecosystem and partnered with Bhumi, a non-profit working in the education space to sustain the impact we created. As part of Bhumi’s community program, children gain basic skills in literacy and are supported to discover their individual talents. The community centers are run by two tutors from the same community for the children after school on weekdays. The tutors are trained in academic delivery, engaging the children and connecting with the parents to ensure their involvement in the learning and growth of their children.
Additionally, the team held a series of seven workshops (each workshop comprising a minimum of seven classes) on the weekends, including Warli painting workshop, music, theatre and storytelling workshop, gaming workshops for collaborative learning (including parent-child gaming workshops for community engagement) and mandala art workshops to fuel their creativity and find different mediums to express themselves in a co-created safe space. The team is currently working to launch a non-profit called Math Love. The organization will use a holistic math learning model to build a love for math among children and impart skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.