Teaching life skills to young people in India

Vishwa Dewan, an 18 year old migrant from Darjeeling, never once thought he would be able to fly overseas, yet for the past three months he has been in Chicago at the Du Page University studying Animation, a subject of personal interest to him. Another young adult Santosh is pursuing a Bachelors degree in Business Administration at the Whatcom Community College in Washington State.

Two young adults, Padma and Sreenivasulu are currently on dance scholarships at the Lourd Vijay Dance Academy pursuing their passion for dance as a career. These young people, in spite of coming from vulnerable backgrounds, had lots of potential and the drive to achieve more in life.

Encountering Dream A Dream was the change in their lives. Today, many more young adults are realizing their dreams through Dream A Dream’s various Life Skills programmes.

Based in Bangalore, India Dream A Dream is a professional, registered, charitable trust. The organization has empowered over 12,000 children and young people from vulnerable backgrounds since 1999. Dream a Dream works on a strong collaborative approach with local charities, corporates, volunteers and a host of national and international strategic partners.

Dream A Dream believes education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. It’s crucial for young people to be equipped with literacy, numeric skills and life skills. It is these skills and abilities, inculcated in childhood, that make them successful as adults. These skills help people build meaningful lives for themselves and become productive members of the society.

In India however, due to widespread poverty*, young people with the misfortune of being born poor are trapped in the cycle of poverty. They do not have access to the learning environment that prepares them for a bright future. Many of these young people do not even get an opportunity to attend school, while young people already in schools do not receive a complete education and are thus drawn away from academic pursuits. The schooling system for young people from vulnerable backgrounds typically focuses on academics (rote curriculum)– neglecting, along the way, the building of psychosocial and life skills. The development of the emotional and intellectual maturity required to make difficult life-choices are ignored in school, while homes and community environments are unable to compensate for such a shortcoming.

If education is to be a route to eradicate poverty and create conditions of true and substantive equity, the schooling system needs to change in order to make school learning spaces that address the complete needs of the vulnerable child as a learner.

The vision of Dream A Dream is:

“Empowering children and young people from vulnerable backgrounds by developing life skills and at the same time sensitizing the community through active volunteering leading to a non-discriminatory society where unique differences are appreciated.”

Currently, Dream A Dream delivers Life Skills programmes to 4,000 children and young people referred from 17 partner NGOs and trains over 160 teachers and adult workers on our Life Skills Model indirectly impacting over 16,000 young people and over 2,000 volunteers through innovative engagement programmes.

* Poverty in India is widespread; a third of the global poor now reside in India. The World Bank estimates that 456 million Indians (41.6% of the total Indian population) now live under the global poverty line. In the UN Human Development Index, India is positioned at 132nd place in 2007-08. It is the lowest rank for the country in over 10 years suggesting that on non-pecuniary dimensions such as health, education and access to infrastructure the poor are badly hit.

Photo provided by Dream a Dream.

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