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At this point, it is important to give some updates on our work and what we have in store in the coming year. We move into the new year, with more hope and confidence in our work and a lot more good wishes from our supporters.

Over the last couple of years, we have come close to completing around 140 sessions in the different schools. We are really glad of this and really proud of the champions Deepika, Mani, Smriti and Guriya who have helped us in this. The presence of our local project manager, Vinay has also brought in a lot of discipline into the activities and it is really rewarding to see him develop into a leader.

We did a random visit to the schools, to see whether our programs have had any impact. We were glad to find the reading levels, the confidence and the writing levels improved. Things still may not seem right as the way we see it, but when you think about the situation from where came, we really feel good.

What inspires us..

In the coming year we continue to pledge to do more of our activity sessions. These sessions are now better organized and we want to emphasise on experiential learning and activity based learnings.

We will be increasing our champions intake from 2 to 4 this year and hope to expand our outreach to newer schools.

We are also in the process of launching our Digital & Internet Literacy project with our partner computer center and we are really excited about this! More about this in the posts to follow.

Needless to say all of these expansions are going to require more funds, and we hope to be able to raise it with the help of our supporters and well wishers.

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One of the firm beliefs that we have within the program is that the education has to happen for the different stakeholders in the program. There are the teachers, who often are uneducated about many things and then the major ones are the parents, who are still illiterate.

So, on the occasion of the world literacy day, we organized a session to interact with the parents of the local village Raipura, at the Madhya Vidyalaya Raipura.

An inspiring thing that has happened after the last Career Awareness event in August, is the fact that there are more people who believe in our causes and would like to support us in some manner. We had a teacher from a private school, and a recently graduated doctor also accompany the team comprised of project manager Vinay, Vatsala and the 3 champions this time.

On literacy

The champions spoke about literacy, and the evils child labor, child marriage that are so prevalent in the society these days.

1 6 5 4 3 2

It was really motivating for us was when the guardians and parents re-invited the team to hold these sessions regularly and inform them from before.

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We had a hectic but really satisfying experience of conducting the Career Awareness seminar at the high school grounds in Simri Bakhtiarpur, Saharsa. The response to the event was so good that it inspires and motivates us to continue to do such events in the near future as well.

The students of Tagore Public School, sang the welcome song for the guests and the event was declared open by the Chief Guest, Shri Mahendra Narayan Prasad, a veteran teacher from the area.

Chief Guest Address

The event started with short speeches by the various invited guests and then the Chief Guest. This was then followed by a talk on alternative career options for students, by Kshitiz Anand.

Seema Gupta
Chairman of the Nagar Panchayat, Shrimati Seema Gupta was also present and shared her views on the need for students to become aware about careers from a young age.

Ritesh Ranjan
Ritesh Ranjan, Vice-Chariman of the Zila Parishad, Saharsa remembered his days in the same school where the event was held and spoke about the need for students to think about giving back to the society as well as a career goal.

After the main event, an interactive session with esteemed guests, teachers, members of the Nagar Panchayat, and a few guardians were also held in the hall of the High school Simri Bakhtiarpur. The theme of the discussion was to understand the situation of education in the area currently and also how can the Happy Horizons Trust work towards improving this.

questions Mahendra Guests of honor Chief Guest Interaction

Dr Zakir Hussain of the Project Kanya Girl’s High School, one of the better performing schools in the region was also present and he stressed on the need for more guardians to take interest in the education of the children.
Dr Zakir Hussain

The event gathered close to 600 people which was really inspiring for us.

Audience2 Momento Vatsala

Vatsala, the president of Happy Horizons Trust, delivered the Vote of thanks.

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We recently conducted the Career Awareness Seminar in the high school grounds in Simri Bakhtiarpur, Saharsa.

Our recent seminar

Here is the publicity poster of it that was shared on Social Media.
Being a small organization, it is important that we use the different available channels to spread the word.

Posted by & filed under Activities, Blog.

Over the past year and half we have focused on different kind of activities for the primary schools.

In many of our visits that we make to the government high schools, we have often asked this question: What do you want to become / do when you grow up?” The most common answer that we get are Doctor, Engineer (by boys) and Teacher (by girls)

We have been wanting to have activities for the high school students as well for a long time to enhance this thinking towards other career alternatives. So far, in the high schools, we only have the Rukmini Devi Scholarship, but that is limited to very few (girl) students. So we have been thinking on how to conduct activities that can have a larger outreach. We discussed this at length with the principals and teachers of the area too.

A result of those discussions is that we have our new event on Career Awareness Seminar amongst high school students. This event will be held twice a year, and will specifically aim to inform the students about options available after they complete their basic K12 education. It is hoped that the students will make better informed decision on what they wish to study after their basic education and not just blindly follow what others are saying.

Through our parent organization Happy Horizons Trust, these Career Awareness Seminar sessions will also look to inviting volunteers who would like to share their insights about different fields.

What do you want to become?

The first event is scheduled to be held in mid August in Simri Bakhtiarpur, Bihar.

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The other day, we were in discussion with principals of different schools on the mid-day-meal schemes, in light of the recent tragedy in the Chhapra district in Bihar. More shocking information came out, the more we discussed. The rate at which per meal is calculated is so less, that you hardly get anything these days. To expect quality in that little amount (just about under Rs 3 a meal per student) is near to impossible. At most of the places where the NGOs are given the responsibilities for executing this mid-day-meal scheme are only concerned about their own little profit. As a result, rice colored by chemicals, stones mixed with lentils, stale vegetables are a common thing. Menus decided for the week are hardly followed. Many people now see this scheme at doing more bad than good. The whole state is in shock, but many saw this coming as well.

Mid day meals

Nothing works without politics. Then there is the thing about spending at the district levels and then at the block levels to pay bribes to get the contracts for running these schemes.
The party in power blames the opposition for conspiring to bring down the government through this. But can they stoop so low?

What served initially as a bait to attract students to come to schools, should be re-thought in its implementation strategy, for its initial goal of providing nutritious meals to children is not being fulfilled.

The feeling of frustration goes higher.

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Vinay Keshri, a young and highly motivated individual joins us as a part of the on ground team in Bihar. Yesterday, Vatsala had a meeting with the champions and Vinay.

Team meeting

Vinay with his experience of working with non-profits in Varanasi and Delhi, will help out with project management and planning. He firm belief that only education can bring a positive change to the society, resonates strongly with us and we are glad to have him on board.

He teaches at a primary school too.

Welcome Vinay.

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We are really excited! It’s that time of the year when we select the new champions. This year we have done a lot more than last year in terms of the selection process. Now that the program is gaining popularity, and many students already know about it, we got a better response in terms of the people who wanted to get associated with the project. We put on our Design thinking hats and begin the process.

First we have the senior champs talk about the project and the work that they are doing, the challenges they face and the learning they themselves have. They also talk about the impact that they are able to create in the society. We believe that this transparency at the very beginning of the process is important as it helps to build the trust between all involved in the project.

We then follow a rigorous six-step process in selecting the new champions.Every step acts as a filter and by the time we are onto the last step we have almost finalized on our champions. It serves as a funnel to get people who are really interested and motivated to be a part of the project. The role of the second year champions become critical now, as they take on the role of mentors too.

1. Writing exercise
First up is the writing exercise, in which we asked the students to write on a topic. This time the topic was “Why should girls be educated?” It had 19 students participate in it.

Writing Exercise Writing session

2. Reading Exercise
Next most important is to see the ability of the students to read and express themselves. They are evaluated on Clarity of words pronunciation, Oral expressions style, Understanding of words.

Reading Session

3. Extempore Public Speaking
This is a small exercise, where we give them a random topic to talk about and evaluate them on their ability to engage in discussions.

4. Group Discussions
The group discussions are important as reflects the ability of the students to stand up and defend what they are talking about. We had varied topics of group discussions, which were related to the areas and their lives.
Group a. How to save people from Floods and the destruction and effects of Floods due to the Kosi river
Group b. Earthquakes and its problems and what to do when it strikes.
Group c. How can Bihar progress with education.
Group d. What are your ideas and how can rural areas be developed in Bihar.

Group Discussion in progress

We don’t just stop at getting the participants to discuss amongst themselves, but also talk to the others and defend their ideas.

Participants discussion

5. Personal Interviews
After all the above, we end up short listing 6 candidates for the personal interview and discuss with them about their aspirations, their intention behind joining the project and whether they will be able to do justice to it. Most of the students have very motivating stories themselves to tell on how they are facing the challenge to continue their own education and the different support they get.

Personal Interview

6. Parents Interviews
The last but in a way the most important aspect of this selection process is the interview of the parents and talking to them about the role that they have to play in this whole initiatives. They need to support not only their own children going to the school, but also their children going out and doing activities in other schools. Not all parents are supportive, but the few that are there, inspires us to do more for the area.

All the different stages are marked and then we tally to find the best amongst the students who get the Rukmini Devi Scholarship.
Other activities

The new champions from 2013-2014 selections
We introduce to you the new champions from this year’s selection process. Mani Bharti and Smriti Kumari. Both have interesting stories to tell and have really interesting aspirations. [A separate post will talk more about these new champions]

New Champions

The next month will be crucial for the new champions as they are trained on how to conduct the activities and the very first few steps towards empowerment. The will accompany the senior champs Deepika and Guriya to the schools and learn these activities on the field.

The days ahead excites us.

Posted by & filed under Activities, Blog.

We are in the process of selecting the new champions and it has been an interesting experience so far. We got an awesome 19 students from class 9,10 and 11 who were interested in becoming champions for this new academic year. Out of this, we will be selecting 3 or 4 of them. We need to look into the financial aspects of the project to scale up.

Just like the last year, we have a six step process in selecting the new students. From writing exercises to reading to public speaking (extempore) to group discussions. We have it all. It was really amazing to see the confidence level showed in the debates during the group discussions.

The aspirations are shown during their personal interviews. The last part comprises of the interviews of the parents.

Deepika as mentor

We will be announcing the new champions soon and as a result, expand our work to more schools and more students.

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In the last post we outlined the different schemes that the government is running for the upliftment of child education in the society. All of them have a common agenda and that is to ensure that there is regular attendance of the students in the schools, and the classes are conducted on time and on a regular basis. However there are often stories that leave you dumbfounded. This is one such incident.

Go home

Today the champions were supposed to conduct a writing session to check the writing levels on the occasion of upcoming Saraswati Puja. The event could not take place because of one of the weirdest reasons! The students were asked to go back home earlier than expected, since the school premises had to be used to host a baraat party.

How ironic!

We do not mind that the school building is used for other purposes, as there may be no other such large building in the village. But this should not be done at the cost of closing the school, or not letting the child have the time for school. Here’s hoping that such incidents do not happen in the future!