VIRASAT | विरासत | HERITAGE
Virasat is a hindi word for heritage or inheritance. This initiative is probably what distinguishes the work we do from other strictly-education based NGOs. As a community based non-profit, we believe strongly in the importance of roots in creating self respect. Before a child can be motivated to build a better life they must first understand what gives their life meaning. For kids in the slums, life often revolves around survival. We seek to provide them with other reasons why life can be so much more than grinding to meet your basic needs. We teach about Indian culture so that each kid can feel a sense of belonging in their nation. We also expose them to dance, yoga, drama, art, and celebrate other events. Through this exposure, each child learns what they enjoy doing, how they prefer to express themselves, and most importantly, what makes their life worth living.
In trying to help our children develop a sense of self, understanding the country that they live in is incredibly important. We hope to provide the kids with an broad understanding of their country. Only three children out of 18 interviewed in the Kalkaji slum had ever been outside of the Kalkaji area. We expose the kids to the good and bad of India, so that they can feel a sense of pride and belonging in their country, but also so that they can be inspired to work hard and give back to their society. When a child feels invested in their country, they are less likely to engage in anti-social behaviour, and more likely to try to have a positive impact.
Because most of the children we work with have never seen much outside of their neighborhood, it is essential that each child feels that their community is a home worth preserving. We invite parents to the center for many of our cultural events, and encourage relationships across religious boundaries. We remind that kids that Kalkaji is their home, so even when there is trash on the ground or flies, they should not add to trash or go to the bathroom outside of designated areas. If they respect and feel invested in their community space, they will feel responsible for making it a pleasant place to live.
While almost all of our children are told over and over again of the importance of education from their parents, their teachers, and the staff workers, personal development and extracurricular activities are not often discussed. Because the communities that we work in have limited resources, what little money that is had doesn't go to activities that are just for creativity and fun. We hope to provide a way for kids to participate in these activities without financial strain. The kids get to create art, try drama, and listen to and perform music. Through these projects, the kids have a chance to explore ways that they can express themselves.
We believe that in order for a child to become a happy and productive adult they need to learn how to nurture their mind, body, and spirit. We provide art classes, cultural events, and a positive community for development of the spirit, but we also want to ensure that each child knows how to keep their body safe and healthy. We offer yoga and dance programs, run sanitation camps, and provide self-defense training. Additionally, we encourage the children to play sports activities and games where they can get exercise while learning teamwork skills.