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A Step Closer to Fulfilling Dreams...

For the past two years, the Avani organization has been actively engaged in the villages of Nandwal, Vashi, Kandgaon, and Pirwadi, focusing on the SALT (Stimulate, Appreciate, Listen, Learn, link, Team, and Transfer) approach. SALT involved engaging with people of all ages in the villages, stimulating them to envision and work towards their dream community. Community dreams encompassed a range of issues, including combatting discrimination, addressing violence against girls and women, navigating the complexities of teenage relationships, managing family conditions affected by alcohol, and fulfilling the basic needs of children.

In April 2023, Rituu conducted a SALT meeting with an adolescent group, during which she encouraged them to express their hopes and concerns for the village. When met with silence, she proposed a creative approach: What if they represented the village's current scenario through art? Dividing into two groups, the children devoted 15-20 minutes to prepare and subsequently presented two plays. These plays delved into issues like alcohol abuse, domestic conflicts, and gender inequality, the children were emotional as they mirrored their own life experiences.

Recognizing that their fathers weren't attending SALT meetings, the children wanted to present their dreams to other villagers. Thus, Avani Sanstha and the children of Nandwal and Vashi joined forces to communicate their dreams through street plays, aptly named "Dream Plays."

I started writing scripts based on children's dreams. I have been interested in writing scripts and staging plays since my college life. Even in college, I with other students produced a play on mental health. After many years, through children, I too was able to relive my college dreams and those days.

First, children from Nandwal based the play on their aspirations, which was titled "Behind the Scenes" - meaning to show what is actually happening. Eight days of dedicated practice ensued. It was the children's first time performing in front of their community, and initial apprehension gave way to confidence with support from the organizers. The children effectively conveyed their dreams to the audience, as they had lived through them. The dream was also presented at the Knowledge Fair in May 2023.

A similar experience unfolded with the children from Vashi, whose script was crafted in alignment with their dreams. During the Ganapati festival, these young actors performed their plays in Vashi, Kandgaon, Pirwadi, and Nandwal. While working with the Vashi children, some challenges arose when parents instructed them not to take certain roles, which disheartened the children. In response, Shah Rukh and I visited the parents to discuss the matter. We arranged a special screening for the parents. After watching their children's performances, the parents not only learned about their dreams but also gave their wholehearted approval.

The Dream Play took to the streets, and the children presented their dreams for their village through their heartfelt performances in every village. These plays moved many to tears, sparked reflection, and inspired dialogue. The street play performed by the children of Vashi was aptly titled "Aamch Hi Aayka" (Listen to us) and tackled issues like discrimination, teasing, distinguishing between love and attraction, and the harm caused by alcohol. In a touching finale, the children delivered an emotional message to the audience, highlighting the pressing issues affecting their generation and inviting the community to join and support their dreams. Their plea resonated deeply with those who watched.

During the Ganeshotsav, considered the most significant festival in Kolhapur, Avani Smile SALT team devoted time to meetings with various groups for discussions on the street play. The children and their messages had a profound impact on the audience. In some places, men appeared reflective, while tears welled up in the eyes of women. When the children extended an invitation to participate in their dreams, the response was overwhelmingly positive. In each village, between 500 and 600 individuals bore witness to these dreams.

Reflections

To conclude, I would like to underline that the idea that they want to use drama, the content of play (the dreams of children), and where to present the dreams came from children, not from Avani. . In this we did not tell them any ready made plan. It was they who gave us the subject and it was they who showed the readiness to do the street play. And it was very emotional & enthusiastic for us.

In May 2023, the children of Nandwal village performed a street play in front of GFC's partner NGOs and the people of the village at the Knowledge Fair. Then on Independence Day 15 August 2023, the children performed a street play in Nandwal village.

After seeing the street play of the children of Nandwal village, the children of Vashi village also started insisting to do street play. This moment was also exciting for us. Then we created a street play based on the dream of these children and the children of Vashi village performed this street play in Ganesh Festival in the villages of Vashi, Nandwal, Pirwadi, Kandgaon.

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Comment by Marie Lamboray on November 27, 2023 at 9:22pm

Impressive Imran! The children and you found a way to share effectively to be a catalyst of change... Could you repost this story on The Constellation's Asset platform, please? We will facilitate the learning from those stories through conversations and the conversations will lead to building knowledge assets on topics like 'Adapting SALT to children' or 'How to stimulate local responses'. These assets can then easily be used by any community.

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