Imagine a place of learning where there are no classrooms. Where children huddle around resource persons under the shade of trees, in intense discussion before gleefully dispersing to express their newfound knowledge through art, music, creative writing and drama. Imagine a safe nurturing environment where each child is free to ask questions and is also free to seek answers at their own pace of understanding. A centre of learning which places greater emphasis on creativity, understanding and exploration above and beyond mere rote learning. Now imagine further that this whole enterprise is run, managed, sustained and constantly improved by a small but dedicated group of volunteers who selflessly donate their time and expertise for a cause that they believe in. A place of learning nourished by Gandhian values where the resource persons themselves are co-learners.
This was the vision which guided the establishment of Bal Bhavan Jaipur in 2002. Initially modelled along the template of National Bal Bhavan New Delhi, we soon realised that the need of the hour was for Bal Bhavan Jaipur to reinvent itself to serve the needs of those children who had slipped through the cracks of the regular education system. We began to focus on children from the most disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds who were not attending school. It became the endeavour of our fledgling band of like-minded volunteers to reach out to parents in nearby slum clusters, migrant labour camps and shanty towns. We had to convince their parents that education was more important for the future of their children rather than daily wage labour, begging on the streets and in some cases even petty crime. When the children first come to Bal Bhavan Jaipur, they are given all the training and basic knowledge that they need before being enrolled in a nearby government school. Thereafter, the volunteers and resource persons of Bal Bhavan Jaipur dedicate themselves to ensuring the scholastic and holistic advancement of each and every child. Most importantly, it is our aim that along with their school education, each and every child should learn a useful trade such as mobile repair, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, tailoring and digital photography. This allows these young citizens the financial independence to not just pursue their studies but also to support their families in the present as well as in the future.
Our volunteers include retired school principals, bank officers, young college students, journalists, working professionals and housewives. Bal Bhavan Jaipur follows a community based voluntary model. The idea is for members of the community to come forward, come together and collectively contribute to the community of which we are all a part. The proof of the efficacy of our system is that many children who have grown up at Bal Bhavan Jaipur, now return as often as possible as volunteers and resource persons.
Apart from this, Bal Bhavan Jaipur organises specific theme based workshops every month which are open to all children of our member schools. These include the “Jal Mahotsav”, “Science in Everyday Life”, “The Truth Behind Miracles”, “Ullaas- Theatre Festival”, ”Bapu ki God me Teen Din” (Three Day Camp Based On Gandhian Values), “Trotz Allem” (Day Camp for Differently Abled Children), “Aahlad” (Day Camp based on Literature, Art and Science), “Indradhanush” (Drawing and Painting festival), “Sahitya Spandan” (Creative Writing festival on the occasion of Munshi Premchand’s birthday), “Maati Utsav” (Workshop celebrating Earth Day), “Third Eye” (Digital Photography Workshop) and “The Annual Environment Camp” (Three Day Residential Young Environmentalists’ Conference). In theatre the children have expressed themselves wonderfully in campaigns such as “Yam Naam Satya Hai” (Anti-Tobacco campaign), “Apne Andar Ke Rawan Ko Jalao” (Say No To Crackers), “Jal Hi Jeevan Hai” (Water Conservation), “Chhutti” (Play written by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore) and “Netradaan Mahadaan” (Eye Donation Campaign). These plays include stage presentations as well as Street Plays and have been performed within and outside Jaipur. Bal Bhavan Jaipur also has an ongoing annual project to compile and publish an anthology of works by children called “Chhote Haath Badi Baat” which is also illustrated and designed by the children themselves. It was a happy moment for the entire Bal Bhavan Jaipur family when “Chhote Haath Badi Baat” was launched at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2015 and again in 2017.
Most importantly, these workshops & festivals present a healthy and nurturing environment where children from across the socio-economic spectrum come together and interact as peers. Bal Bhavan Jaipur’s humble effort is that mere knowledge alone is insufficient. We strive to inculcate a sense of civic responsibility, belongingness and awareness in each and every child as young citizen of our vibrant and diverse democratic nation.
More details about our organisation and our work can be found on Instagram @balbhavanjaipur and also on Facebook at fb.com/balbhavan.jaipur