Another day for some fun was Children’s Day in 2021. The UT members had rounds of Antaakshari, Dumbcharades - and ofcourse a UT treat that they always love. Some Chowmien and Gulab Jamun. See Here.
SCRABBLE AND GUITAR
Scrabble has been introduced as a side step for English word learning. While Guitar lessons have started on demand. See Here.
By 2021, The older members of Utsah Toli has mastered Diya painting, particularly with designs derived from the local art form, Aepan. The process of sharing this soft skill has been initiated and the next round of members were learning fast from their peers. The ’21 Diwali saw a sale of about 400 diyas worth about Rs. 6,000/. UT members got their treat when they received their full share of the ‘profits’. See Here.
As Covid restrictions began to ease, the urge to have fun times together grew among UT members. In 2021, they decided to plan for a rocking Techer’s Day celebration. The great laughter moments when mentors, trainer and a Trustee were asked to mimic one of the others. The members planned everything with a Mistress of Ceremony panning out the event. See Here.
SELF-DRIVEN CREATIVE WRITING
Thanks to Bhoomika, we now have budding writers and poets, who are getting published. Bhoomika’s essay on Forest Fires and Jyoti’s poem have been published on the editorial page of Nainital Samachar, a prestigious paper of Nainital. See Here.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Due to local advice, support at the village sites was stopped for some time. Mentors did their best to help telephonically at an individual level. The idea to have some virtual fun meetings on Sundays came to naught. Between issues of connectivity and devices, it could not be sustained.
Later, on public demand and in consultation with village chiefs / elders, village site work resumed - with protocols of limited numbers, hand sanitisation, face masks and distance. See Here.
THE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The Utsah Toli Team of Uma, Neema and Bhawna took charge of an important new project of Oral History. Over a period of three months, six male and six female elders met the UT members on Sundays. The males shared information about Health, Education, Poverty, Value of hard work and dedication, good career thinking, etc. from a perspective of their younger days and today’s times. The female elders taught traditional Kumaoni folk songs and dance. In the following months, the UT members recapped what they had heard and learnt. See Here.
Over time, it also led to demand-driven Rakhi making. Due diligence to quality inspired a local shop-owner to promote it as Buy Local initiative. See Here.
SOFT SKILLS TOO IN COVID TIMES
On-demand sewing and craft sessions by Trainer, Bhawna, also started during this period. Including a new craft, Macrame. See Here.
MORPHING IN COVID-19 TIMES
Mentors, Uma and Neema, started with special support sessions in small groups at village sites. It is helped children to ride over the challenges of Whatsapp / Zoom - driven school work. The personal touch of the mentors and being with a peer group is filled a bit of the vacuum of isolated learning. The effort paid off with two first-divisioners in Class XII, Nikita and Renu. They were duly felicitated for their accomplishment. See Here.
In April 2019, Chairman of Utsah Toli, Aruna Vasudev, visited the centre and spent time with the members. Her pioneering efforts at fund-raising continue to keep Utsah Toli an active “Third Space” for the children of Naukuchiatal. See Here.
The tall leader of the Chipko Movement, Magsaysay award-winner, Chandiprasad Bhatt, visited the centre and had a long interaction with the children. It was a unique and unforgettable experience. Bhattji is very impressed with the concept of Utsah Toli and fully perceives and praises the vision-mission and relevance of the project.
He pertinently commented that the impact of this effort would be ‘visible’ only after ten or 15 years. The effort of Utsah Toli is to not just impact the members who come in now as children. The vision is to mould them as future parents when they have their own children. See Here.
Non-board students, who scored 60% + have been gifted handloom file folders. The board results are awaited. See Here.
OPENING SESSION OF FIFTH YEAR
The first Sunday meeting of the fifth year of Utsaj Toli was an intense beginning. Apart from explaining the concepts of Utsah Toli, new members were partnered with old members. The old members will guide the new members on various aspects of the centre and its activities. See Here.
TOWARDS THE FIFTH YEAR
The fifth year of Utsah Toli has begun with enrolment of 42 members. This was a culmination after a month of intensive interaction with parents, listening to their aspirations for their children and expectations from Utsah Toli. See Here.
Birthday celebrations continue to be great fun times. See Here.
VISIT OF CARLETON COLLEGE - USA STUDENTS + LECTURE AT BHIMTAL
Padmini Smetachek, who runs a homestay in Bhimtal, was co-ordinating a visit of some students of Liberal Arts from Carleton College in Minnesota, USA. They were on a study trip with the theme of ‘Globalisation and Local Responses’. Some students expressed a desire to visit Utsah Toli, which they did in two groups. They were accompanied by their professors in History and Sociology. It was a unique experience and opportunity both for the American students and the members of Utsah Toli. The members asked the American students some sharp questions and it made for interesting conversation in this remote location. See Here.
GRATIFICATION PARTY TIME
Purchase of diyas: Approximately Rs. 350/-. Paints: Gratis Utsah Toli. Sales: Rs. 1,200/-. Definitely gratification time for a successful collective effort. Fabulous outing at Café by The Lake and memorable treat courtesy: Adit-Soni Dave and their team headed by Ishaan. Seed is sown: Innovative thinking can make local alternative income-earning possible… See Here
As the year of membership nears its end, it is time for review. Apart from the mentors, parents are the best positioned for feedback and discussion. See Here
OUTREACH BEYOND UTSAH TOLI
A visit to the local school was revelatory. Children really did not have proper seating for study. Utsah Toli took it up as an online campaign and successfully raised funds from xxx donors. GIC Naukuchatal is now filled with rainbow colours. The Chief Development Officer of Dist. Nainital. Mr. Vineet Kumar, formally conducted the handover. See Here
Come Christmas – New Year, members got busy painting pebbles and making boxes to sell Lucky Charms! See Here
The annual excursion is a time for much excitement – and lengthy discussion. Where to go, when, what to eat where…endless conversations. Members visited the nearby tea garden in Shyamkhet for the first time. It was an opportunity to learn about tea beyond the local tea they know. Then it was Mukhteshwar…alas, the clouds deprived the children of the 360 degree Himalaya view…but the drive (exhausting!) up and down was fun-filled with music and dance in the bus. See Here
Come Diwali, an innocent question ‘Do you want to paint diyas for sale?’ led to a hectic 10-12 days of activity. Purchasing, painting, delivering and sales done! Utsah Toli has orders for next Diwali! Profits were four times – members are thrilled with the idea. Mr. Mahendera Verma (Trustee of Utsah Toli) and his wife placed an order and the children were thrilled to deliver the diyas in person. See Here
There are always requests from those hitting into board exams for small and big (as in really BIG) primers for various subjects. See Here
RAMLILA TIME ONWARDS
Once it is Dussehra time, local life changes into a festive mood. Representatives of Utsah Toli were invited to attend the night-long Ramlila performances. See Here
The Hungarian painter, Zsuzsa Gajdan, once again came for a week-long workshop. Since she had a previous experience with the children of this region, she came well prepared for a very structured workshop. The participants truly enjoyed the experience.
The output is inspirational and a selection is to be printed as greeting cards in two sizes and gift-cum-thank you cards in a small size. The set has been curated as a series: Animal, Fish, Butterfly, Matisse-Hey Maa! See Here.
STORY TELLING 1
Children love to hear little stories. Now, their attention is drawn to stories in English or Hindi. One exercise is to translate it. The other is to read it out to the members on a Sunday morning.
This is the story that was presented by Vishal.
Click on pdf to download story.
MONTH OF JUNE AND LOTS OF FUN
The school holiday period in June 2018 was a great ‘season’ at Utsah Toli. The greatest moment was that seven out eight children cleared their Board exams, with two getting First Class. Surely a moment of celebration for the children and the mentors. Then, a lot of holiday project activity, learning English, photography, fabric painting – and counselling by women constables for girls who wish to join the police force. House full time. See Here
YEAR 4 BEGINS
With the kind support of Kalpataru Trust and many individual donors, Utsah Toli moved into its fourth year from April 2018. The time of applications is also an opportunity to interact and hear about the expectations and aspirations that parents have about their children.Year 4 began, as usual, with a full gathering. It was graced by one of the trustees, Mahendera Verma and Anil Chanotiya, Senior Block Chief. New members introduced themselves with confidence and they all attentively listened to what the guests had to say. See Here
ACADEMICS – MOVING AHEAD
In 2017, children had taken an oath to study with more dedication. Now, they are beginning to perform better in school with the support of the mentors, Uma Chanotiya and Rohit Brijwasi. Members who passed the 10th and 12th exams received books as a gift. This is thanks to the donation for books by Mahendera Verma, a trustee of Utsah Toli. Those who got first division got an additional gift of a pen. The mentors were also honoured for their efforts with gifts and thanks. See Here.
In April 2018, Chairman of Utsah Toli, Aruna Vasudev, visited the centre and spent time with the members. Her pioneering efforts at fund-raising continue to keep Utsah Toli an active Third Space for the children of Naukuchiatal. See Here.
FABRIC PAINTING 2
Girls have got engrossed with fabric painting. More material has been made available. They have made cushion covers and moved onto paintings for framing. Choices of designs and colours evolve by the day. See Here. See Here.
Members have begun to imbibe some basics of photography through informal lessons with the Executive Director, Pramod Mathur. See Here.
The aspiration for learning English is also very high. This is being given importance and a new teacher has been hired to cover the school curriculum. Additionally, 'Project Director, Neelima Mathur' is conducting regular informal sessions for English speaking, including reading, building on root words, making sentences, conducting simulated conversations, building stories. See Here
Ron Hess and Cheryl Groff, International Development Experts, were into documentary film-making several years ago. They moved to the development sector and were last posted in Nepal before signing off. They visited Utsah Toli and were absolutely thrilled to be there. Ron spoke to the children in Hindi about the beautiful heritage of environment they live in and how to dedicate their lives to preserve it. See Here
In December 2017, Utsah Toli was approached by another NGO, HOPE. They do regular annual health camps in Naukuchiatal. This time, they wished to add an element of cultural activity with children. Utsah Toli gave some ideas about painting and debate competitions. This was done in co-operation with the local government school and Utsah Toli members participated in it. Many won prizes as well. HOPE donated two desktop computers to Utsah Toli. These have been dedicated for school and project related work, with one computer for girls and one for boys. See Here
Hungarian painter, Zsuzsa Gajdan, came for ten days to teach painting to the members. Children enjoyed their experience with water colours, crayons and charcoal. See Here.
From June 11, 2017, Manu Singh and Simone started their ten-day volunteering at Utsah Toli. The members enjoyed the mix of formal sessions and fun & games to learn some basic spoken English. See Here
Support Tutor, Uma Chanotiya, started fabric painting sessions at the onset of the holidays. See Here.
Support Tutor, Rohit Brijwasi, started music lessons at the same time. See Here.
On June 9, 2017, members went on a trip to Ranikhet. They visited the Kainchi Dham temple on the way, had an Arjun Verma-sponsored lunch at Parvati Inn in Ranikhet and then visited the Bindsar Mahadev Temple. See Here.
It is important to keep the connect with parents and whenever possible, we try to invite them to Utsah Toli. Children get engaged for the day with much dedication – preparing bouquets, arranging for tea and snacks, writing up little speeches, which they read out to the parents. See Here
In the third year, we began to channelize children to use the internet for research and knowledge gathering. Informal conversations around a topic are used to motivate them, to look for more information on the topic. The children seem quite adept and enjoy this activity of informal Digital Literacy. See Here
The meetings with parents made it clear that the focus on study must be an important element at Utsah Toli. Many cannot afford private tuitions, without which children find it difficult to move ahead at school. The mentors are now conducting vigorous sessions to cover the curriculum, particularly of those who have board exams. The system is being further fine-tuned in the fourth year starting April 2018. See Here
Girls and boys choose their ‘activity’ of the day and settle into small, intimate groups. These are moments of bonding and sharing that create memories for them on a daily basis. See Here
Birthday parties continue to be an all-time favourite of the children and they really look forward to receiving little wrapped gifts. Children decide the menu of the day and help with the arrangements. Of course, a nice, creamy, flowered cake is always a must! See Here