It was a hot and humid day when I reached the FEC center at Basti Vikas Kendra, Sector I, Dwarka. I was very excited to be the new evening facilitator of this center. There were no students and I was sitting alone and unsure when a young man came and introduced himself Mr. Raj Shekhar from AAM Foundation. He lokked exhausted as he had been travelling to many places for mobilizing the communities for student enrolement.

With Mr. Rajsekhar’s help, I got busy enrolling students and slowly I all the four evening batches were fully enrolled. That was my first day in the center.

The next day, students came in and started using the white laptops excitedly as they seen/worked with a laptop for the first time in their lives. While taking the class, I heard shouting and screaming outside the center. I stepped out to see what was happening and was astonished to see two women fighting with each other for the Delhi Jal Board Water that had just come to the colony. I saw one woman with a brick in her hand and the other woman with the handle of the floor wiper. I was shocked. My students they enloghtened me that not a single day passes without a fight in the colony or without the police coming in to resolve conflicts in Pappan Colony. I wondered whether I should be working in a place like this. Realization dawned on me that this is the place where I have to spread the light of knowledge to illuminate their lives through the Free English Classes.

The first week was quite challenging because I did not get the work books for the students, but we spent the time doing some exercises about the basic reading, writing and speaking English.

I started enjoying facilitating learning of the students at the center. I had students like V who works in an electrical shop, and could not even write his full name in English. But a month later, he was able to not only write his full name but also write/speak 5 sentences about himself.

I have had students like P, who come specifically for preparation (exams, interviews etc). One day she  asked me to help her with interview skills and resume writing. She was selected in the first shot itself  is not working for Vodafone Customer Care somewhere near Kirti Nagar. One day as I was sitting near the door, my student A, walked in with her cousin and introduced me to her cousin the same way as I have taught her (Lesson 9 “Introduction-Others”).

One of the lesson that I learned after spending almost 50 days with my students is that never to underestimate any of our student. By their outer appearance they seem scruffy and wastrels but being a creation of God, each one has been bestowed with his immense treasure. One day there was a power cut and it was very hot to sit inside the class. I gave my students the option to leave but they  said that they want to play games. In the dimly lit room, we started playing Tippy Tippy Tap and then Dumb Charades. I started asking them General Knowledge questions. Most students did not know the answers but were trying and speaking in English. When I asked them name the 7 sister states of India, no one could answer the question correctly. My student V who always sits quietly in class and looks different suddenly started naming the states one by one. I stood there like a statue. I was reminded of my resolve to underestimate anyone’s abilities.

Candles by Liesl Marelli Photograph by Liesl Marelli.

One day my wife came along with me to the center as she had some work in the MCD office nearby. She was waiting outside the class. Once the class was over she spoke to the students and was amazed at how they presented themselves politely. The best part was that everyone spoke to her in English and could understand what my wife was asking and replied using polite phrases. She was so impressed that she gave chocolates to all the students.

Working with AAM Foundation is a real joy, honor and pleasure for me. Ever since I have joined this organization I feel satisfied and sleep well every night. It has empowered my thinking pattern and my work.

Nelson Mandela correctly said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is an honor and pleasure to give myself to AAM Foundation as a weapon to change the world.

Febin K. Mathews

Basti Vikas Kendra