Monthly Archives: March 2010

Hidden skills come alive

Marie Eichwald is a student of Lycee International, France. In this post she has shared her experience of working with child labourers in a two day activity with them at Saath.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, MGIS and the Lycee International of Saint Germain-en-Laye worked together with the Child Labor school. But really, it was the children who did all the work. One of the activities we proposed was for them to make their own puppets. From a cardboard box cut-out, the children made the most creative and colorful puppets – more than anything I had expected, thanks to the material and markers at their disposal.

Some of these new puppet designers clearly had some experience in sowing. One light skinned girl in blue bangles cut the cloth out as if she were making a top for herself. She chose the material boldly and snapped right ahead to make a stunning puppet.

Others meanwhile, were novices at the art, and were a lot more tentative. One grinning but timid boy was unsure of the material to choose, shy to go forward and take one for himself. When I would give him something, he tilted his ear to his shoulder, neither disagreeing to my choice, nor approving of it. But thanks to group stimulation, he ended up picking up two different patterns I would never have thought of, yet so perfect together. He even added a belt for the effect.

One thing united all the children in their making of one, two, or even three puppets for the most efficient. All of them were calm and quiet, and more than simply implicated in their work. I have the image of a tall boy crouched down in an uncomfortable looking position, meticulously cutting around the puppet’s body, his free hand delicately pressing down the material, in deep absorption in his creation. This image is reflective of the whole group. They took immense pleasure in making the dolls, dressing them according to their own wish, naming them and making each their very own.

All I can hope for is that it was as much an enriching, confidence-boosting experience for them, as it was a memorable and unforgettable one for me. Those kids are adorable, gifted, and so capable of achieving great things. It is essential to give them a chance.

Marie Eichwald (Lycee International)

Sharing an Experience

A student from Le Lycee International, France teaching a child labourer how to make puppets

Nadege is one of the students from Le Lycee International School, France who carried out activities with child labourers, who are a part of the Child Friendly Spaces programme. The programme aims at reconnect child labourers with education. It also works with parents and employers to help facilitate change within this systemic problem.

‘The project we chose to do for the child labor activity was the construction of puppets. We gathered kids who were around 5 to 10 years old, and asked each to build a puppet with the cloth that we provided. At first, many of them did not dare take material, and they would just stay still, watching us with eyes that seemed both frightened and intrigued. This struck me as extremely different from the experience that we had with the MGIS children. We did the same project with MGIS kids who were exactly the same age as these child laborers, but the MGIS children dived into the activity right away, at first constantly asking for help, and then gaining confidence as they understood what they had to do and how.

These slum kids, however, never asked for any help; they wouldn’t look around searching for a color that they liked, but took the closest cloth to them on the floor. I was moved by some of the children’s creativity and attention to details. Something that I found difficult was mostly my inability to communicate with them by using words.

It changes everything – in a way, it’s harder, but in the same time, it forces us to focus on understanding how they think. I was surprised to see how different their dispositions were – some were happy and enthusiastic, whereas others, such as this one girl who came both days, refused to smile, and I just felt torn because apart if I were to spend months with her, there was nothing – or at least not enough – that I could do in a single afternoon to bring a smile upon her face. This entire experience is really anchored inside me now, and it only makes me want to come back and do more. I think that out of all the projects, it is the one that I enjoyed the most, because it felt true and useful, a real emotional exchange between these children and us. Even if what we tried to bring was not much, it may still change some things for these kids, and hopefully some of them will rise and escape into a brighter future.’

A demain !


Hope in SAATH

This post was shared by Hope, from China. Hope was an intern with the microfinance program of Saath in 2009.

A place to have a real internship
In China, the interpretation of internship is to do some simple work or even just cleaning at the workplace. However, to me, SAATH is the place where an intern has the opportunity for a serious internship and can really do something.
I was first impressed by the high working efficiency of SAATH. It only took two days from my interview to when I was informed of the result. Along with me, there were three more Chinese interns working at SAATH. Initially, I thought that we would be delegated just some simple work or even no work in order to have time to get to know about SAATH. But I was wrong. From doing research, resorting information to writing report and reporting to immediate boss, the interns were fully occupied from day one. As to me, I worked for the micro-finance division (MFI) and my working content was mainly about studying on two government organizations and the MFI performance of the NGOs throughout India, collecting related information and writing a report to offer some advice to the application proposal for the external financial assistance. I was really pleased with that but I need to absorb as much information as possible to get the work done. Besides the Internet resource, there were shelves of books in the SAATH office that was open to the staffs and interns. I still remember that every day after work, I took a pile of year books back to have further study and just getting to know how different models are applied in micro-finance took me 3 whole days. But that was worthwhile. One day after I report to my immediate boss, Divyang, he told me that he appreciated my work and to me that was really a great encouragement to inspire me to work even harder. Though what I can contribute to SAATH in my internship is limited, but I have really learnt a lot, at least about micro-finance, from the days working at SAATH, which is such a great organization and wonderful place to have some real internship.

A box of chocolates & a mix of cookies
My first impression about SAATH was that every one in the office was busy with his or her work and every staff performed so professional that no one seemed to be an easy cookie. But it proves that life in SAATH is a box of chocolate and people here are a mix of cookies. Working for SAATH was not all about sitting in the office and facing the computer. Actually you are allowed to have flexible working hours and also can home office. As an intern, I got the chance to visit two local branches of SAATH’s MFI project and attend their monthly branch manager meeting. Though I couldn’t understand what they said at the meeting, but I could tell that these people who worked at the fist front for SAATH are really nice. When we had lunch together, considering that I was not that skilled in eating directly with my hands, they specially gave me a spoon to use. That really touched me. If they care so much when dealing with an intern, no mention how much attention they will pay when they deal with their colleagues and their work.

At the SAATH office, there were also sweet people that made me feel at home. Keren, who I respect a lot, introduced us to SAATH and would always be there whenever I need some help. Divyang, my immediate boss, always gave me encouragement and guidance on my work. Purvi, my dear colleague, always took the trouble to offer me her help. Nitesh, the system manager, was very humorous. He told me to work happily, “if you smile to the computer, it will smile at you!” His enthusiasm and optimistic attitude towards life and work is so impressive. Once,when I got sick, Purvi rode me to a medicine shop, bought me some medicine and sent me home. The other colleagues sent me messages to make sure that I was fine. Though I was sick at that time, but I didn’t feel homesick for that SAATH was just like my home.

I was told by Keren at the first interview that SAATH means together in Gujarati.
SAATH believes and advocates cooperation. So do we Chinese in our Confucian philosophy.
No matter where you are from, who you are, here, in SAATH, we stand for the same thing, work for the same goal.
Together, we make more changes possible.
SAATH, brings us more hopes for tomorrow.

Dedicated to all the SAATHis