Chennai

Children spread a safety message on Corporation’s behalf

Two children hogged the limelight at a silambam performance, conducted by Division 96 of Greater Chennai Corporation to create awareness about getting vaccinated and COVID-19, near the Corporation School at Ayanavaram market on March 19.

Dressed in black and with masks, S. Krithika Shri and Yalini, both 10 years old, were part of a five-member team that has been reinforcing the public health message on behalf of the Corporation.

In the last one year, many children like her got an opportunity to be a part of road shows, thanks to Neelam Foundation, one of the partner NGOs working with GCC to create awareness about COVID-19.

Children from underprivileged communities learn a new art — including silambattam and oyilattam — and also become active campaigners in this fight against COVID.

Children spread a safety message on Corporation’s behalf

“Of the 550 students in the 10 Neelam Educational Centres that we have been running in the city, 200 are being trained in silambam. Theatre and sports are also part of the curriculum,” says Muthamizh Kalai, CEO and founder of the Foundation.

For instance, Saga Silambam Team has been training these children, aged between five and 15 years, during weekends in silambam.

“During the lockdown, they had online classes in silambam that kept them in touch with the art form,” says Santha Lakshmi, Krithika’s mother. Her daughter has been learning the martial art for the last three years and has also participated in district-level competitions.

“The main aim of offering such life skills to these children is to develop their creativity, remove stage fear and also to give them an opportunity,” says Muthamizh.

Karthick Raja, martial arts trainer, says his students are helping keep this art form alive. “Anybody can pick up this skill and what we have seen is that it increases the practitioner’s confidence level,” says Raja. The pandemic was an opportunity for many of them to showcase their skills. “In the last one year, we would have done at least 50 road shows in different parts of the city and each time we ensured participation from a different set of students,” says Muthamizh.

But is not there risk in exposing children to such awareness programmes in these times? Muthamizh says children give more power to a campaign.

“We have seen that people sit up and take note when children speak or perform. These are not closed-door events but we try to draw peoples’ attention at public places. Besides, we make sure all the safety protocols are being followed by children,” says Muthamizh.

By involving children in the fight against COVID, they help take the message to their communities. “All my friends in the neighbourhood know that my silambam classes are helping support a good cause, by showing why we need to take heed to messages on social distancing and regular hand-washing,” says Krithika, a Class IV student of Cambridge Nursery and Primary School.

Muthamizh dwells on the example of the rap team that has been doing commendable work in Ayanavaram. “These children have created a team that goes to shops in their locality to abide to following SOPs and to create awareness about the COVID-19 prevention.”


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 9:57:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/children-spread-a-safety-message-on-corporations-behalf/article34116754.ece

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