Reading good books is a difficult but life-transforming habit.

It was my first day in FEA Centre on March 9, 2015 after completing the Induction training. This was before Power Hour was initiated and I was ignorant about the library program. One day I have received an email about my library training. I got trained and was very excited and expectant about the program.  I passed on my excitement to my students as well but there was no sign of library books.

Every day, my students would ask when they would get the books that they were itching to read.  Unconvincingly, I would say, “Very soon”.

On the day of every Consolidation we used to discuss importance of reading, how to take care of books and the books we like/would like to read.

Source - Unknown

Source – Unknown

Finally, we received our library books. On the first day itself, students reserved their books for next 3 weeks. Most of the students read one who book before the week was over. That week we had a real book discussion session.

There were a few students who were reluctant to read. I did not force them. For the following book discussion, I planned a new and interesting strategy. I asked the students to deliver their favorite dialogs or parts from their books, using correct renunciation and intonation.  This engaged both the active and reluctant readers. I encouraged them to read the pictorial and simple Cherry Tree (by Ruskin Bond). They found it very interesting.

After conducting a successful BD, we were on a roll. I asked students for ideas to make it more effective. It was agreed that we will make half an hour for reading every day. When most students were able to make it a habit. Now it was time to engage with the parents as active partners in students’ learning.

On the day of PTI, I discussed the power of reading with the parents seeking their support so that the students can make the time and develop the habit of reading. Parents and students started conducting BD at home with students sharing their reading with their parents before going to bed. Every subsequent PTI parents were encouraged to share their experience. One of my student’s mother shared how earlier the conversation at home was predominantly about the daily soaps and how it had changed to discussion about books and stories.

Every book discussion was planned differently and creatively. By the time they appeared for E5 evaluation, all the students had read 3-4 novels and  cleared their E5 successfully in the first attempt. On February 29, 2016 it was their last PTI of my students – it was a certificate distribution ceremony. Parents were very proud and happy. They took a pledge along with their wards that they would start gifting books to their wards, relatives and friends on their birthdays and will advise others to do so to.

We choose our attitude towards people and situations. Either we can fix the problem or the blame. Introspectively, the delay in arrival of the books to our centre was a blessing in disguise as it gave us time to talk and get enthused about books.


Shaheen Shekh




This is the story of a simple boy from the outskirts of East Delhi. He belonged to a poor family and was a first-generation school student of grade 9.

One day he was in a hospital and a hurried stranger asked him for the way to go out (as he needed to purchase some medication for an ailing wife admitted in the hospital). The boy looked out for “Exit” sign and guided him. Later, in the afternoon, the same man searched for the boy to thank him profusely for his help.

The boy realized the importance of English and decided to learn it.

Back then, he had only one person to turn to – his English teacher in school. When approached with the request, the teacher replied, “Go away! You can never learn English, it’s not your cup of tea. I’m not your father’s servant.”

Dawn of resolution suddenly changed to the dusk of disappointment in no time. The debris of his hope were scattered all over the next few days as he mulled over other possibilities. At home he found a nursery rhyme book lying in a corner covered with dust. He understood most of the things. He realized that he can learn from English textbooks of primary grades and scoured his younger siblings books. Now he was learning new words but there was no one to practice or speak with. He would go to the terrace of his house every night and poured out his heart’s content in the form of soliloquy to the moon and stars. For six years, he practiced incessantly but something was amiss. 

Photo Courtesy -

Courtesy –

One day, he found Free English Academy (FEA) in his area. With a doubtful head, “Why would anyone offer these classes for free?” and a hopeful heart, “Now I will be able to speak in English”, he went in. Simple as it was, he took admission and started going to FEA daily.  He diligently followed the two golden rules – speak only in English and speak in full sentences. This place was the answer to all his prayers – an English-Only environment that  he hankered after. And the Facilitator turned out to be a better listener than the moon and stars.

With regular attendance and participation, hesitation bid goodbye and confidence became his new companion. Meanwhile, in his college, he was selected to deliver a speech in ISC (Indian Science Congress) 100th Annual Conference. The Indian prime minister was to attend this. All the presentations in FEA, gave him “I can do this’ confidence.

With diligent preparation, everything went smoothly on the day of his speech. The audience clapped and gave him a standing ovation. His three-minute speech was hailed as the best speech ever from the college.

It all happened because of FEA.

Now the young protagonist is a Student Evaluator in FEA and very pleased to share his journey through this blog.

Prakash Verma

Student Evaluator


It was July 2013, when I went for an interview to FEA office in Vasant Vihar. I was impressed with easy tone and temper of the recruiter. After the interview, I was very expectant and hopeful. When the anticipated phone call came through,  I was found not ready for the job and recommended to the Training Academy so that I could polish my language before being assigned a position.

The Training Academy threw a series of revelations and realisations. There were some words that I repeatedly mispronounced and the organisation was keen that I correct those sounds before I can be entrusted to lead, guide and teach the students. For instance, I struggled with ‘zoo’ and ‘preposition’. My sounds were clearly all over the place. I was struggling with my facilitation skills as well. Within a few days, I nearly convinced myself that this was not my cup of tea and decided to quit. While I had given up on myself, the organization had not.

My trainer made me understand that FAIL means “first attempt in learning” and it is not the end. In fact END means “efforts never dies” and if I received NO for an answer, it means “next opportunity”. It made me optimistic and hopeful.


 Photo Courtesy-

After successful completion of my training, I went for induction. I was rejected and asked to work on my facilitation skills. But I did not give up this time and was called for induction again. Having learnt from my past mistakes, I got selected and was assigned Freedom English Academy at Wazirpur Industrial Area (110052A).

The road to the center was covered in industrial ash. It meandered like a snake across the landscape, dotted with factories on both sides. At the end of this path, stood my center. With the help of gloomy looking factory workers, I was able to locate it. My center was a dim lit room with one window and witnessed regular power cuts. The students were the proverbial silver lining, beaming bright in the dark. That was all that I wanted. My reward for the perseverance and efforts was their smiling faces and confidence while conversing in English.

A few months later, I was given a new responsibility – Field Support Trainer – to guide and support facilitators. Initially, it was a struggle. Earlier I had to take care of only one center and 90 students who were keen to learn from me; now I had 28 centers and 56 facilitators who were reluctant or resistive to my guidance.

I did not give up and realised that because they were distinct individuals, they have different needs and strengths. That made me individualise my attention and focus to make my support more relevant for them. Within a few weeks, I started enjoying my job. This made me more flexible and responsive to the needs of the facilitator and made me polish my tools and enrich my repertoire. I was able to work consciously to fix my grammatical errors and pronunciation.

I am determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I encounter.  For me -“Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to wait for; it is a thing to be achieved.”


Amit Sharan

Field Support Trainer

The days were turning mundane and I was definitely itching for a switch, but there didn’t seem any opportunity worth pursuing. And then it came…..suddenly!

On August 13 last year, my first day as a facilitator, I was welcomed with anger, dissatisfaction and tears. The students were certainly not to pleased to see me replace their old facilitator. I felt was dreadful!  But I stood firmly facing the the 59 students students, driven only by my passion for turning impossible into possible. I had to keep the faith – theirs and mine.

Every time I began to become complacent or complaining, my students snapped me out of my stupor. Rain, hail or cold winds, most students would turn up early in the morning; housewives and young mothers would leave their babies to their neighbor’s house; girls would fight with their orthodox families- all to learn from me.  When I heard about the obstacles they were overcoming to learn English, I began to reflect on my own life. In comparison to my students, I had more riches, they had more resilience and perseverance. I taught them English, they taught me positive outlook.


During the days of my rich experience as a facilitator, life of one particular student was my lighthouse of self-motivation and perseverance.

The student, let’s call her Anu, has graduated from Freedom English Academy(FEA) now. Her  father was an Army officer, but under the influence of his friends took early retirement to devote his life to worship. Since money was short, he stopped his children from pursuing education and forced them to follow in his footsteps of devotion to a godman. But Anu didn’t give up. She continued her studies on the sly. She would always hide her books and pursued the medical stream. She joined FEA one and half year ago and came regularly without disclosing it to her father. She saved her money by not shopping and not recharging her phone. The money she saved was used to commute to the center that was about 4 kms away from her house. Often, I offered her help, but her response was a very confident, “No Ma’am. I have made this choice so I have to pay for it.” It left me both, speechless and inspired.

Anu cleared entrance examination for B.H.M.S. without informing her father. By that time, I was promoted as Compliance Supervisor and was about to leave the center. I was not sure how she would respond to the news. Inevitably, I shared the news with her and  saw despair in her eyes. I made her realize the importance of her goals and jogged her down the memory lane to her first day in the center. She seemed upbeat and had resolved to continue when Ileft.

On day, I received a call form Anu informing me that she would not be able to come for 2 weeks as her father had passed away.  Promptly, after 2 weeks she returned with a smile and asked for her workbook to complete the lessons that she had missed. I was present at center on that day and her behavior amazed me. She didn’t expect sympathy but was focused completely on the lessons she had missed.

No amount of wealth or money could have taught me what Anu did!

On that day, my lesson in self-motivation and courage was complete…temporarily, at least.

Pallak Gautam

Compliance Supervisor

Doubts stop countless beings from transforming their powerful thoughts into significant actions. For those who banish their doubts and fears, a treasure trove of wonderful experiences is in store for them.

It is rightly said that life will be much better if we stop stressing out the things that are beyond our control and start doing something about the things that are.

The students of Ganesh Nagar exemplified this showing how our life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.

The objective

We always talk about that we should throw garbage into dustbin not on the roads. But the problem is people don’t have dustbins on the roads. So my students and I decided to do something regarding this issue.

Change-makers at Ganesh Nagar

Change-makers at Ganesh Nagar

Day 1

We prepared posters and a funding box to collect some funds from nearby residents and shop keepers. Each one of them contributed happily, because they all needed dustbins on roads. I assigned the task of looking out for some places where we can put the dustbins. We identified few open areas where garbage was disposed off and spoke to the  residents who can take the responsibility of dustbins so that dustbins don’t get stolen.

Day 2

There after, we purchased 10 dustbins from market at reduced prices. We painted them green, wrote some quotes on them and FEA on them, so that all dustbins look uniform. By the end of Day 2, our dustbins were ready for installations.

Day 3

It was a most important day. We finalized some places after brief discussion with students who had already surveyed the area and identified spots where these bins could be installed. We spoke with shopkeepers and residents in the vicinity to take care of the bins.  They were very happy by this move and assured us that they will take responsibility and keep dustbin inside a shop at night and bring it out in the morning.

Everyday my students check on the dustbins, educate all to use it and the community around appreciates their effort.

Martin Luther King Jr. rightly said, “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”

This was one such moment in my life.


Anjum Shakir   (Facilitator of  Ganesh Nagar center)                                                                                                                                                                 


Avishek Singh  (Curriculum Manager)


As I was walking through the overflowing streets of Sangam Vihar, one of the most poorly maintained parts of the city, I heard someone calling my name aloud. I ignored and kept walking towards the bus stop. I heard the voice again. This time it was louder. I stopped and turned back, only to find a young boy in his early teens, dressed in a government school uniform and waving his hands ecstatically. He rushed to shake hands and greet me. He told me that he saw me taking a session at the Tughlakabad center. I was surprised as I generally visit a center only once a month. I noticed that he was trying to hold the conversation in English. On my way to the bus stop, I kept smiling ceaselessly.

Barely a few months ago, I was having the time of my life as a facilitator at the Tehkhand center when I was given the responsibility to support other facilitators. At first I thought that life as a Field Support Trainer would not be as fun as it was as a facilitator. It turned out to be even better.

There have been so many unforgettable moments filled with immense joy that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Earlier I had eighty odd students, now I have more than thousand students to interact with, every month. Most of them recognize me by face and some of them can even recall my name. Some of them look forward to meet me every month and are prepared with questions, riddles and puzzles. They try to outdo me and I in return always leave them with something to think about. We share a very special bond that keeps strengthening with every smile shared. It is their smiles which keeps me going on a hot and humid day.

Source –

Supporting and training facilitators has been fun too. I am delighted that most of the facilitators I support are extremely creative and open minded. Each one of them, with their distinct style of facilitation and unique perspective, makes our program richer and holistic. They welcome my feedback and try their best to implement them. Their humility amazes me. It has also been a great learning opportunity for me as training people ensures that I too fix my own grammatical and pronunciation errors.

Interacting with such a diverse group of people has changed me as a person. I have begun to listen and respect other’s perspective more empathetically. Also, I have realized how futile egos and prejudices are and how deeply they can impact work. I now believe that if we really want to solve issues that engulf us, then we must learn to rise above our egos and get things done.

When I started my journey, I had no idea that I would come so far. On the way, I did face some challenges, both physical as well as emotional. I struggled to travel around due to severe backaches. Also, it was very challenging to communicate ideas, set expectations, reflect sessions, train people and interact with students, all in a single visit. However, I was able to overcome them by the affection and support of people who make the FEA family. The space they provided me played an important part in my growth. And the experience changed my own perspective about growth. Growth, as I now see, is not a vertical phenomenon but a horizontal one. My approach towards growth and work has become more holistic.

Words can express experiences, only partially. Suffice to say that it has been quite a ride so far and I am gearing up for more.


Ashutosh Ratnakar

Field Support Trainer

“Thank you, Sir ! Thank you, Sir! Thank you very much, Sir! You have changed my life, Sir ! “- She ran into me with an envelope and hugged me ecstatically. Unused to such receptions at our centers, I was a little overwhelmed. I struggled, unsuccessfully, to recall her name.

She is one of the 1600 learners whose learning and progress is the responsibility of the 20 facilitators under my supervision.

“She had been waiting for you since morning to show you something.”- the Facilitator chipped in while I was struggling to frame my response to her exuberant outburst.

Softly, I asked, “What’s her name?” “You will get to know. She is the host today!”- responded the Facilitator with a smile.

The occasion was a Parent-Teacher Interaction (PTI) attended by some parents and about 18 students. After welcoming everyone, the hostess introduced herself as Chhavi and invited her peers to share their experience at Freedom English Academy (FEA). The Facilitator was translating it all into Hindi so that the parents could understand and participate.

Students shared experiences about how their parents were proud of them, how well their Facilitator responded to their learning needs and how they had struggled and overcome inhibitions to speaking in English.

At the end, Chhavi shared her experience. I was very attentive, hoping that I would be able to get some hints, when she speaks, that will help me recall who she was.

“Hello Everyone! I would like to share something about my mid-evaluation which was taken by Mr. Pushkar.” I was hanging on every word she uttered.  “It was the month of October and I had recently joined FEA. I was very hesitant. With Ma’am’s help I learnt how to introduce myself and talk about my family and general things. But before evaluation, I was very nervous and by the time I was called for evaluation by Mr Pushkar, I forgot everything. He asked me first to introduce myself and I did so. I also told him about my educational qualification that I had dropped my studies a year ago after doing 12th because my father did not want me to continue studying. I also told him that I wanted to study but did not want to go against my father’s wishes. He asked me a lot of other questions like what I want to become in my life ad how willI achieve that. He also took my father’s phone number.” She stopped to let the Facilitator translate.

“That evening, when my father came back home, he told me that somebody called him from her English ‘tuition’ and that my mother was asked to come in. I got scared as I was not sure why my parents were called to the center. My mother came to meet Sir at the center. After that my father was also called one day but alone. After one week, my father asked me to fill up the admission forms for B.A.”- she stopped to look at her parents sitting in the middle row.

In the meanwhile, the facilitator translated.  By now, I was beginning to recover from my amnesia and memories of the evaluation and meeting were beginning to trespass my mind.

Chhavi continued, “I don’t know what you told my parents.  But today I have this.” She was waving her examination ticket for B.A. (First Year).

She went on about how her life and relationship with her parents had changed  and broke into tears and this time after the facilitator translated, her mother got up to share her views. Her father joined in as well. There was general applause.

“Thank you, Sir! Thank you, Papa! Thank you, everyone!” the very emotional Chhavi finished her speech.

At the end, I congratulated all and motivated all the learners for coming regularly for their sessions and awarded them their Level 2 certificate. Their parents left after thanking us for our efforts.

That day, I walked out of the center, an inch taller, marveling at how one little effort could transform into a milestone !


Pushkar Ranjan

Compliance Supervisor

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” ~ Henry Miller

Day in and day out, since the first rays of sun until the birds return to their nest, our united efforts to bring in self reliance in students by learning communication and thinking skills, go on ceaselessly.

Here’s a story of a student from FEA Samaspur : 110091A.

Back in March 2013, when I was a facilitator at this center, a girl (lets’ call her K) joined the FEA. On most days, she waited outside the class ahead of her scheduled session. When I asked her why she wanted to learn English, she replied, “Sir when the time comes, I’ll tell you.” I was intrigued.

One fine evening, just before the class she asked me, “Sir, is it true that a student from a government school can never speak English as well as a student from a private school.” I answered, “That’s not true.” She probed further, “So please why do my friends , their parents laugh at me when I try to communicate with them in English.”  Without waiting for my response and with tears in the eyes she touched my feet and requested, “Sir, I will put on my heart and soul into learning. Please continue showering your blessings.”

Rainy day, festival, celebrations, exam – she was always there, waiting outside the class ahead of her scheduled session.

Life moved on and I joined as the Coach (Music-based Learning). Aabout 8 months later, when I met her, she jumped with joy, with beaming smile that spread ear to ear, she said, “Sir, I have graduated.”

The best was yet to come. She insisted that I accompany her as she had something to show me. She took me to a very nearby market to meet a vegetable vendor and proudly introduced,   “Sir he is my father Mr. Hari Prakash and father he is my teacher from the English class.” She was as fluent and well punctuated as the best student from a private school.

It was my turn to shed some tears – tears of joy. I was moved by her words and touched by her zeal.

With grit and determination, there is no adversity that cannot be overcome. NO adversity at all.

K has taught me that for she is the living example of Vince Lombardi’s belief, “…..any man’s finest hour is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the fields of battle – victorious.”


Avishek Singh

Coach (Music-based Learning)

As a Music-based Learning Coach, I visit different centers to engage and interact with students. Most of our students are first generation learners of English language and have little or no opportunity to practice the language outside our center. Therefore, our facilitator are expected to maintain an English-only learning environment in the centers.

As with any policy, making it is the easier part, implementing it is the more difficult part. Both the facilitators, despite being well-intentioned, and students often breach this. The habitual comfort of the mother tongue or vernacular prevents both the facilitators and students from maintaining an English-only environment in the centers.

I tried a trick to enforce the policy. I explained the trick with help of the question. I asked the students, ‘Who is your good friend?’ I got answers such as, ‘One who helps us’, ‘One who tells us when we are wrong’, ‘One who is happy with our progress’ and ‘One who understands us.’ Thereafter, I joined the dots for them saying, ‘A person who uses Hindi with you does not understand that you need to practice English or maybe is not happy with your progress because if you use more English, you will learn English. He/she is not telling you that using Hindi in the center, will not help you learn English. Therefore, that person is not your good friend! So, don’t respond to that person.’ Students seemed to like the trick, but, it was not very effective in preventing the use of Hindi in the center.

Thereafter, I asked students the reason for speaking Hindi in the center. I overruled reasons like problems in expression, not knowing how to say a word in English and hesitation stemming from embarrassment of speaking incorrectly. I concluded that speaking Hindi was a habit and came naturally. Even in a completely controlled environment, when asked something in Hindi, students would respond in Hindi, as it by reflex action. It was this cycle of input-habitual processing-output that had to be disrupted for students to overcome this habit.

So far I had been out-focused with little success. Now, I decided  that it is the input of Hindi that needs to be stopped. To do so, I developed a new trick and tried it in one of the centers.  I explained to students that they are free to speak in Hindi. But, starting that day, they must stop listening in Hindi. They need not ask the person using Hindi to switch to English, neither remind nor reprimand.  Simply ignore that person , student or facilitator, by putting hands on their own ears, showing that they are not being listened to. I explained that listening is input and speaking is output. So, if we stop input of Hindi and the output will be stopped automatically. I figured that gesture of putting hands on ears was funny and explicit and so would work – non-verbal communication of a powerful message

Photo Courtesy –

 I asked the facilitator to enforce this consistently. After a few days, the facilitator informed me that the trick was working like magic. Students have started using the trick without reminder and speaking in English more often. Encouraged by this response, I tried the same trick at a few other centers and, so far, I have received positive feedback.

Thus, another alternative to ‘Don’t speak in Hindi’ can very well be ‘Don’t listen to Hindi.’


Chintan Parekh

 Coach (Music-based Learning)

 What’s a miracle?

Seeing a child who was quiet and shy,

not speaking English as his vocabulary was dry,

afraid of the world and ready to cry,

 but not willing to give up with a regular practice and a daily try,

and with an each passing day learn the language and get ready to fly,

touch the sky bidding good bye to the shy.

 The joy comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy, no sweeter fruit than to see our endless united efforts bearing fruits in form of students turning into lyricist.

I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today, was one of those experiences. I went to the Sundernagri Center (PIN 110093A). There I sang A Few of My Favorite Things (from the movie, Sound of Music) with the students. After the music activity, students were asked to compose their own lyrics titled, My Favorite Things.

The magic they wove with their pens was awe-inspiring. I share here two compositions from the students:

Composition  1  

Everybody likes to sing a song,Everybody likes to be a king,

Every girl likes to wear a ring,

These are a few of my favorite things.

I like to drink cold drink in spring,

I like to play with wings.

I like gifts tied up with strings,

These are a few of my favorite things.

Composition 2

When the child smiles

When the birds fly

when the rain comes,

I love to sing in the month of spring.

These are a few of my favorite things.

When I fall down

When my friends fight

When you cut my kite

I simply remember my favorite things 

  and then I don’t  feel so bad. 

The innocence and delight that I experienced was truly magical and enchanting. I was puffed with pride that these students who a short while ago could not even speak a word in English are turning lyricists.

Move over, Bob Dylan!


Avishek Singh

Coach (Music-based Learning)