For the fourth year in a row, a corner of the Poothurai village, a part of the Integral Village Development Programme, came alive each morning from 5th to 26th May 2012 with hundreds of children eagerly beginning their day’s activities at the Summer Camp. With twice the numbers from the previous year, the 400-odd highly engaged and motivated children from eight adjoining villages packed the compound at Satyam (the village community center) to explore, learn and share with each other and with the staff, volunteers and programme coordinators, for the month-long Children’s Summer Camp.
The camp’s popularity and reputation was so immense that the head of Kadaperikuppam, a village 13 km away, requested for the inclusion of the children there in the camp, and to personally coordinate and pay for the transportation.
Returning this year were several talented artists, sports directors, dance instructors and other volunteers, who engaged the students in a wide range of fun and educational activities.
The students were involved in and learned from many exceptional programmes. The Chinmaya Mission led them in spiritual practices through activities, stories and songs. They learned about personal finances from a local bank manager. The Azim Premji Foundation (the philanthropy arm of a leading Indian IT group) organized many interesting activities, including fascinating hands-on science experiments, creating music from instrument made out of common materials, Origami paper folding (the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, which has evolved to an art form), vegetable cloth dying, and lessons in Tamil keyboarding, theatre and English language classes.
An eye camp was arranged in collaboration with Aravind Eye Hospital (a renowned hospital chain in south India), where eye check-ups and subsequent follow-ups were done for over 350 children.
The children experienced great joy and motivation in learning new dance styles, creative thread artwork, and challenging physical activities such as making human pyramids and learning martial art karate. Thirty students earned their first karate belt in the camp. There was also visible enthusiasm in the large number of excited and spirited participants in the mini-marathon of 2.5 km.
More than 180 students had the opportunity to explore the world of computers in the upgraded computer lab. They created stories based on their daily lives with the software MovieSoup, a simple animation program that uses cartoon images of children and their villages. A few of them also successfully ventured into some basic computer programming, applying and updating their analytical skills with the software called Scratch.
A visit to the Ponlait dairy and another to a research farm Krishi Vigyan Kendra were both fun and educative as the children were shown milk processing in the dairy and given insights into farming, medicinal plants and healthy living.
On the final day of the camp, the children in turn enthralled the audience with stage performances of camp songs, classical and folk dances, karate demonstration and skits.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the camp was the inspired involvement of the community and partner organizations. For the first time this year, women from the village took on responsibilities for organizing and managing the programmes. A group of 10 women organized and led the young children, guiding them in many amusing, involved and educational craft projects, including leaf pasting, paper design and painting, as well as teaching songs, dances and skits to the children. Food, logistics and other preparations for 400 children and 30 volunteers were fully coordinated, staffed and organized by the community volunteers.
It was very encouraging to see that the entire village community had deepened sense of responsibility and taken their organizing capabilities to a completely new level. It is an encouragement and boost to our efforts to see so much collaborative aspiration towards progress and development.