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Underprivileged children learn new skills at summer camp

M. Vandhana
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Participation lowers school dropout rate, organisers claim

Learning is fun: Deprived children engrossed in play at the summer camp. — Photo: G. Moorthy
Learning is fun: Deprived children engrossed in play at the summer camp. — Photo: G. Moorthy

Underprivileged children are learning to dance, paint and act at summer camps organised by a clutch of non-profit organisations (NGOs).

“We have around 275 children, from five to 18-year-olds, drawn from eight slums in Madurai who are attending the camp. We have created a child-friendly atmosphere”, says C. Jim Jesudoss, Executive Director of ‘Vidiyal’, an NGO working for the rehabilitation and reintegration of street children and child labourers. ‘Vidiyal’ has been organising these summer camps for underprivileged children for the past 16 years. Most of the volunteers who educate the students at the camp have attended the camp in their school days.

“The summer camps organised by ‘Vidiyal’ were my favourite during my school days. The camps taught us many forgotten Tamil dance forms such as sattaikutchiattam, silambattam and oyilattam, besides western dance. I was popular in college because of my dance skills and I owe it all to what I learnt at the summer camps”, says V. Sasikumar, a final year English literature student from the American College, who is now a volunteer at the camp.

K. Manjula, a Standard XII student from Thideer Nagar, is a regular at the summer camps. “I have been attending the camp for 12 years. Every year I wait for the summer vacation so that I can have 10 full days of fun at the camp. This will be my last camp as a student and from next year I will attend as a volunteer. I want to be a part of the camp every year in the future too”, she says.

According to R. Muthukumar, managing trustee of Drop-In centre (an NGO), summer camps for the underprivileged children are conducted every year to lower the dropout rate in schools. “Working in close proximity with the children from the slums we know what will keep them interested in attending school. The summer camps are intended to integrate education and fun”, he told The Hindu. He organised a camp at Uchaparamedu last week, where more than 80 school students drawn from slum settlements participated.

More than 110 children from seven slums in and around Karumbalai here were a part of Madurai Seed’s (an NGO) summer camp called ‘Vasantham’ at Villapuram, according to A.S. Karthik Bharathi, Managing Trustee of the organisation.

“The kids show immense interest in the activities and the excitement is obvious at the song sessions. The kids are eager to display their talent in dancing and they even taught me some folk dances”, says Sara Imbach, an international affairs student from Switzerland, who is a volunteer at the camp in Villapuram.

“The ‘Vasantham’ camp taught me how to paint and gave me innovative ideas. It helped me imbibe leadership skills. Today, I am glad to give back to the camp by participating in it again as a volunteer”, says M. Manickaraja, a first year student at P.S.N.A. Engineering College. ‘Vasantham’ camp has been around for the past 15 years, says Mr Bharathi.

“Last year, I learnt glass painting in the camp. This year, I am learning finger impression painting. I eagerly await the summer camp every year, because we get to learn a lot in a fun filled atmosphere. The best part is that all the children are treated alike in the camp”, says R. Gayathri, a X standard student of T.S.U.M Higher Secondary School here.

Unlike in classrooms where the rank holders are given special attention, the camp gives equal opportunities for all the students, she adds.

 According to the organisers, they met with initial resistance from slum dwellers. It took a lot of convincing before they sent their children to the camps. “Almost all the children who attended the camp in their early years are now in colleges and have jobs. Now the parents want their children to attend the camps and spend their vacation in a meaningful way. They want their children to come up in life”, says Mr Jesudoss.  The camps last from five to ten days, and the students are divided into five different categories based on their age. For every 20 students, there is a volunteer.                                     

Story telling, art and craft, activity-based learning, traditional dance, martial arts, skating and field games are conducted through the day at the camps.

 Transportation is arranged for the children to and from the camps. 

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