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

I still have fresh memories of my first day with AAM Foundation;  it was a beautiful morning of March 19, 2013. An immeasurable zeal had enveloped me, because this was not only my first job, but more importantly the thing which I had always wanted to soak myself in.

I was welcomed by my evening facilitaor, Ms. Pooja Dutt Sharma, in such a warm manner that I had instantly developed a great rapport with her. She explained me everything meticulously leaving no room for any doubt. So, there I was;  standing in my Pandav Nagar center, eagerly waiting for my students to join me – immensely excited, and yet, a bit nervous.

Of course, the first day brought its own share of opportunities, wherein I had to interact with all new faces.

Picture

I majorly utilized it by initiating casual conversations with them in order to break the ice, thereby exchanging a few genuine smiles. Moreover, I soon realized, that one attribute which bound all of them together, regardless of their age or gender, was the thirst to excel in their lives. At the same time, they also had an awareness that learning the English language could brighten this desire multifold.

With the passage of time, my bond with them has become as poetic as ever.

There have been numerous instances which have massively inspired me, but whenever I enroll any female student in the Free English Classes, it makes my heart swell with pride. Out of all my female students, there are three mothers, who all are in different phases of their lives, but, what unites them is that all of them are incredible multi-taskers. They are superwomen in my eyes !! They might appear quite ordinary to a lot of people, but, if we would glance through their tight schedule, then, it would take no time for us to understand that it takes a lot of will power, intelligence, and positive attitude to come out of their shell and learn something new!

The association with my students may just have been for 3 months now, but I feel that they have left an indelible mark on my senses. They have showered so much love on me, taught me so many countless things, that I often get very emotional about my relationship with them. I can honestly vouch for it  that they are not the only ones who have been guided by me. I am equally privileged to gather beautiful experiences of life from them.

In the end, I would like to contribute a quote by my favorite poet, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī:

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the mighty ocean in the drop.”

I firmly feel, that all my students are gems in their own way and if we keep working on this project, their finesse would know no limits. :)

Disha Kalia
Morning Facilitator, Pandav Nagar.

Tricycle

At first first glance this tricycle might seem disconnected from the title of the post. Considering the caption, one would prefer to see the picture of a Tiger, which would be even more misleading for a post about an organization which solely works for the benefit of underserved people providing Free English Classes (FEC) at over 40 locations in Delhi / NCR.

Although AAM Foundation has been running the FEC program since June 1999, my association with this organization has been for the better part of seven months. Being one of the many foot soldiers of the organisation, I am quite au courant about action at grass root level. Due to the nature of my job, I am mostly in the field, visiting all the centers, meeting interesting self driven students, different in every other way but similar in their desire to learn English. My role is to make learning fun at the centers. I am the host of the Jeopardy quiz – an in-class adaptation of the longest playing game show in the US by the same name.

As our English programme is completely gratis, the primary reason for students coming in day after day, is an intrinsic motivation to learn how to speak English. I see my job as being critically important in enhancing the desire of students to learn English by creating an environment that is casual, relaxed and fun filled; while at the same time conducive for learning and communicating in English.

Seven months ago, before I joined AAM Foundation, it was difficult for me to navigate the by lanes of my neighborhood in South Delhi but today I am a confident GPS with an in-built compass for locating far-flung, unheard-of places in NCR.

Due to the nature of my interactions with the students, I am also more emotionally involved with the pace and progress of our students. On April 27, During my visit to our FEC center at Tigri (a colony in South Delhi next to Sangam Vihar and Devli, erstwhile dumping zones of garbage, but which boasts of the maximum number of students enthused for learning enrolled in our 6 centers in this region) a differently abled young man, aged 21, ambled into the class. He came on a tricycle along with his sister (who came on foot) and his demeanor kept my mind engrossed for the longest time on how with self determination and passion an individual could do wonders. In my mind, I instantly named him the ‘Tiger of Tigri’. He invigorated a sense of belief and enthusiasm in me, about achieving one’s goal irrespective of who we are and whatever our individual challenges may be, giving this story universal relevance. What struck me most about this young man, was his extraordinary thoroughness in his lessons preparation and pertinacity to learn. When Ratan Tata said, “All of us don’t have equal talents. Yet all of us have equal opportunity to develop our talents’’ I believe he was talking of people like my Tiger of Tigri.

I am not trying to garner pity or compassion for this remarkable boy, and for some this must be a dull rendition of the least oral herpes transmission interesting story, but inspirations come in the most unpredictable forms. Rain or shine, we, as soldiers tread the harshest of weather to keep doing what we do and very often our faces light up with colossal smiles that are the result of having heard a word/sentence well spoken and due to the progress made by these young lotuses in the pond. Their achievements make our small individual endeavors, significant.

I hope to meet many more Tigers in my journey with AAM Foundation and get inspired to put in my best to excel in my endeavors.

Avantika Haflongbar
Jeopardy Coordinator
AAM Foundation