When I heard we would be visiting a famous shelter for street children on our first day in New Delhi, India, I pictured doing some tranquil arts and crafts projects, or reading a few good books with the kids. What I never expected was what actually occurred: a full-out dance party!
Our teacher group had started the day with an intense walking tour of the Paharganj neighborhood of New Delhi and we were in a pretty somber mood as we arrived at Salaam Baalak Trust: a respected network of shelters and resources for street children in New Delhi. The door creaked open and we trudged up the blue stairway.
Instead of exiting the stairs at the floor in which we could see a classroom, however, our guide kept climbing. Up and up we walked, until the last door was thrown open. What was this?! A dance party! “Though 80% of India is Hindu,” our guide explained, “they are taking the opportunity to celebrate Christmas by dancing!” My brother didn’t waste a moment in joining in.
“Eeeii!” screamed the children, rushing over to David’s 6’7″ frame as he whirled and twirled. Grins spread like glowing flames and the sun blazed through the thick white clouds and onto the Christmas decorations. Bollywood music blared… and we danced!
We took a short break from whirling to tour the school itself. Peruse these photos and tell me: What similarities and differences do you notice from your hometown school? Looking above, the element that most stands out to me is the frequency and participatory nature of “Cleaning of Center.” In America, we rarely ask students to clean beyond tidying what they mess up, themselves, but in both Salaam Baalak Trust and during my time teaching in Ghana, I saw a lovely emphasis on students helping with school chores.
In the next room was the main classroom in Salaam Baalak Trust. In fact, our wonderful guide had sat there, himself, as a child. He is one of the many success stories of the shelter, as its education and job training programs aim to integrate youth well into society.
Ok I must insert another photo here of my brother dancing, because it’s too funny. That little kid’s face is just adorable! Oh, and did I mention that this article ends with the best video ever? But you should read the rest of the article first before watching to be a good bunny.
Next, we examined the meal plan for the students in the home. It made us smile how different the foods are from ours in Boston… except for the apple and banana! Can you imagine if my school switched menus with Salaam Baalak Trust for a day? Hehe. “Ms. Marshall, what the heck does Chhole mean?? Where’s the pizza?”
Gaze once again to the roof dancing. Notice the laundry drying on the fence, adding to the decor. And what about the exuberant boys? Isn’t it neat (evidenced, too, in the second photo where one kid is trying to strangle another) how universal male horseplay is?
Now (before the amazing video), let’s get practical. In fact, YOU could volunteer at Salaam Baalak Trust, and their website with more info is here if you are interested. This is what I found so heartening about the shelter: If you look below, you’ll see how creative, practical, and 21st century the volunteer topics are. In particular, “Multimedia” and “Marketing” stand out to me. In an era when American schools are slashing funding for the arts and barely doing technology, how phenomenal that a shelter for street children in India has this curriculum!
And now, the moment you have all been waiting for: The 1-minute video of my brother dancing with the children at the shelter!!!! Warning: the Bollywood music is partly drowned out by me laughing and shrieking in delight. Enjoy, and do leave comments!