Updated: Jun 26, 2022
Veda in Sanskrit refers to knowledge, and our objective at Ek-Asha is to equip the children with the tools to acquire it. Whether our volunteers reach out to the best of their ability or the kids meet them halfway in their zeal to learn, their drive is our presence.
Despite the debilitating heatwave at our centres in Odisha, May was a busy month for our volunteer Manashi. That she is far away in Mumbai is inconceivable of how smoothly Ek-Asha runs. Given our instruction model, there is no uneventful day. This time it was 12-year-old Muna from Raygarha centre calling about a workshop starting in 5 minutes, at 11 AM. The students were already waiting for the session to start, and he needed help setting up the laptop/projector system. Manashi worked with a technologically challenged Year7 student for half an hour over a video call to set up the equipment. At times she would urge him to give up. However, his unyielding determination had her pursuing until they resolved the matter. The children successfully joined the ongoing class, our third batch, in the Vedic Mathematics session from May 2022.
A snippet from our classes promo from the first workshops.
During the lockdown in the summer of 2021, we held the first two workshops with the help of Durgesh Nandini Dash, a qualified Vedic maths teacher, and Mr Kiran Kumar Behera, a postdoc in mathematics. Our initiative was still in its infancy, and most of our children were only learning their numbers and letters. Elementary maths and literacy are prerequisites to understanding Vedic Maths. So it was a 'fundraiser only' event.
Thirty-one participants, primarily from overseas, joined at a small cost, raising over ₹60000. It may not sound like much to many. Nevertheless, to us, it meant full sponsorship of nearly nine children; or a small library of books and other learning resources for all four centres; or we could retain a teacher for the whole year for two Think Centre batches.
This year we wanted to extend its benefits to a select few competent children from our OTCs. We were hopeful of a reasonable turnout.
Intention and effort are what we have in plenty. Many mentors volunteered to train along with and aid their respective classes. Amruta Mishra wore out her soles in the 45-degree temperature, running straight to the Think-Centre to teach after finishing her regular school job. Others like Utkalika and Alok juggled their chores around the workshop in the morning and then went back to mentoring the OTC and Think-Centre classes in the afternoon. Some kids dropped out to attend to their obligations.
Nonetheless, it was like a tsunami of interested children who heard of the workshop from those partaking. Our initial attendance nearly doubled, and there was no denying them the pleasure of learning. When our mentors could not accommodate more, some resourceful kids voluntarily taught everything they learnt to their peers who could not join.
Our first assessment was halfway through the training. Gauging the engagement levels in the classes, our prediction of the outcome far exceeded reality. Our hope for an 80th percentile average struggled to stay in the 60s. The children and our staff were left feeling despondent. Somewhere in their learning journey with us, the confidence instilled by our mentors in their pupils probably had them believe that even a miracle was not beyond them.
While the magic did not happen in the results, it bloomed elsewhere. The privileged often succumb to failure sooner than the strugglers. Our children are no strangers to hardship and disappointments, and their resilience had them springing back up in no time.
They came into the classes an hour early, stayed late, and wasted no opportunity to learn and reaffirm what they had. Our mentors, too, poured their hearts into helping them, and they rechecked what they took for granted to ensure the children understood.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The result of the final assessment was a massive improvement. Despite our limited resources and little in the way of material reward, we now have way more maths fans than ever. To address our children's growing needs, we decided to run more batches of fundraiser workshops for interested audiences across the globe this July and August.
We are all volunteers with no vested interest in the workshops. Every last paisa goes into the education of our children. We are grateful to all our well-wishers for their contributions that keep us rolling through the milestones in our journey.
Shivani Mishra and Bagmita Tripathy,
Volunteers at Ek-Asha
-Durgesh is a certified VM instructor from Vashisht Vedic Maths, Mysore, Karnataka.
-The mentors were ready to give the children a good one and a half minutes to answer as against the 30-45 seconds they took to respond.
-All the kids were given a participation certificate at the end of the session.
-OTC stands for our Online Thinking class for ages 10 to 12
-Every year around May is Khalli/Saal Leave processing time. It is a community event lasting many days and an essential part of the tribal culture and economy in the region that's been in practice for centuries.
-Registration is open for our Vedic Maths Workshop starting on the 25th of July.
-*A correction: We learnt the mentors didn't learn in the previous workshops, rather they trained with the children to help them.