Connecting local responses around the world
Hi, everyone! I am Aniruddh, and I am new around here. I am in Mahabalipuram at the Global Learning Festival, learning, sharing, documenting and translating. Since so many of you could not make it here and are eager to know what is going on, I thought I’d share with you some of my notes from Day 3 of the event.
We started the day with the appreciation of good music. Alli Sudar, a visually challenged artist, played a short melody on his flute, thus setting the right mood for what was to follow: reflection on the previous day’s SALT visit.
Jean-Louis welcomed us all to make a giant human circle and to share impressions about the day before. The responses were varied: while Joe felt that he was impacted by the powerful people he met, Vignesh was most impressed with how highly motivated the communities were. A very striking example of how successful the visits were came from Prabakar. Though he had known most of the communities that the teams visited, he was struck by how a woman from the community shared a traumatic experience with the group, something he had not been privy to until then. It showed him how the group’s attentiveness and the empathetic listening made that sharing possible.
The SALT visit made Rebecca think about our notions of success. After having people whose sense of pride came from, say, managing to move a liquor store away from the school neighbourhood, and in educating their children, Rebecca shared that she wondered if we needed to rethink our ideas about success. As someone who works with businesses, she said, she had been used to the idea of success defined largely by materiality. But a visit such as this, and the exposure to people who live differently and have very different priorities, gave her a chance to reassess her relationship to the world around her. She urged everyone to ask ourselves the question: “What does success mean to me?”
Many others shared their impressions from the visits to Thiruvannamalai and Nagapattinam districts yesterday. What was common to all these sharings was the appreciation of what the communities were able to achieve once they decided to work together. Unity and a focus on their strengths appeared to be the key factors.
Even before the first session, the groups were busy setting up their stalls in the Marketplace. Despite the hectic, though wonderful, travel the previous day, everyone was up early, excited and chattering away ideas as we ate some sumptuous breakfast: not just coffee, bread and cereal, but also idli, dosa, vada, sambar, chutney! Thus nourished everyone set out to furnish the stalls with posters, booklets, banners and other items.
I didn’t have a stall, but I wore two caps today: documentor and translator. Just when I was wondering how I should go about recording the interesting things going on at the Marketplace, Kokila, a member of Vadamalar Federation for Sex Workers, and a person I admire most, took me by the hand to translate everything to Tamil for her. So it is through her eyes that I got to see the Marketplace!
This post is long enough, but let me warn you, you can expect a longer report from me soon! Joe, Rebecca and Boris are working on a new model of extending the CLCP approach to business communities as well. They see business establishments – big and small – as adding to the strength of the triad we are familiar with: the Constellation, NGOs, Communities. In their very creative pictographic representation of their idea, these four entities were like the star fish on the sea. When integrated together with the CLCP approach, they can together tackle issues, nurture dreams and rise and grow and become actual stars on the sky! Kokila was fascinated by this imagery and shared with me that there was nothing more powerful than a picture that speaks clearly!
Kokila and I were very moved by Helena’s project on Memory Book. The idea of helping someone create a memory book, so that they could leave behind something of their own creation after they pass on, was at once powerful and moving. Not only does it leave a tangible record of someone’s love for their family and friends, it also gives them a chance to heal and unburden.
Heroes Project’s idea of having public personalities support and endorse projects, Saksham project’s method of integrating learnings from their HIV/AIDS intervention projects with both women in sex work as well as gay and bisexual men, and Transport Services International’s challenging work providing HIV/AIDS and other STI services to truckers on Indian roads were all utterly fascinating.
Beyond’s work in Singapore helps create spaces for young people from lower economic backgrounds to re-energize themselves to go to school, hone their talents in music, dance, writing, or sports, and gives them a sense of community and care. Jason, who is also from Singapore, presented his work with ‘Vertical Kalimpong,’ that recognizes how our villages (Kalimpong) have shrunk drastically and have arranged themselves vertically in skyscrapers and in apartments where we often don’t see our neighbours, let alone talk to them. Jason helps in drawing out volunteers and helps them design their work in creating a community out of this asphalt jungle! In short, as he says, he helps volunteers volunteer!
I know I have not covered all the stalls here. But soon, I promise!
The afternoon’s session was intense, to say the least! After all that food we had for lunch, I thought we were going to drop off our chairs in sleep. But no! Padma from Samraksha, Karnataka, sang a powerful song in Kannada language and had us all awake and enthralled. The song was in the form of a conversation with the Rain God, wherein for every blessing that people asked of him, he found some fault with how humans lived as an excuse not to bless them. But, every time, people promised him that they would bring about change. Though the song was, primarily, about the ills of the caste system, it was about all man-made mess.
Prabakar then lead us all in singing the CLCP song that he had written and composed. As a native speaker of Tamil, I assure you that it is a beautiful song that speaks about the greatness of CLCP and SALT approaches.
We then had an intense session where people from yesterday’s SALT visit teams shared their insights about the process, and mention something that would be a take-home lesson. The teams had listed out their key learnings on chart sheets, which were displayed for everyone’s benefit. Presentations followed.
I am afraid you will have to wait for a more detailed note about the session, but I am compelled to share what Susan Koshi shared. While her team was on its way to Nagapattinam in central, coastal Tamil Nadu, they stopped on the way for a tea break. At the place where they had halted, Susan met two groups of pilgrims on their way back from the famous temple at Sabarimala in the hills of the neighbouring state, Kerala. She struck up a conversation with them about their pilgrimage, rituals and the strict fasts they observe. Soon after, Jean Louis needed her translation skills in talking to another group of pilgrims. To one of his many questions to the group of men, Susan gave the answer herself, though she knew she was meant to convey it to them, receive their reply and translate it back to Jean Louis. When Jean refused to accept her answer and asked her again to pose the question to the pilgrims, she asked what the point was if it was going to the same answer as the one she gave! And Jean Louis replied that it was not about questions and answers, but about making human connections. In the way he posed the question, in the eagerness he showed to know about them, he was making a connection with them, which was not about what was being said. Susan shared that this was the most intense learning experience she had had in a while. Beautiful, isn’t it?
See you tomorrow with more! I got to go now, because the cultural evening has started J