R Mahalakshmi, a ninth grade student from Veeravanallur Handloom Weaver’s cluster in Tirunelveli district when asked to write a small note on what she enjoyed most at the ten day Children’s camp at the little known Kodaganallur village on the banks of the Tambrabarani said, “ We played lots of games like chess, Chinese checkers, Lego, carom, volley ball and badminton. I was really sad when the camp came to an end.“
Some eleven children participated in a “fun summer camp” organised by YOKE, Youth of Kodaganallur Endeavour, some ten kilometres away from Veeravanallur, where Crafts Council of India has been working with the handloom artisan’s children for over seven years. Besides providing the children with a small stipend to encourage them to study as well as learn weaving from their parents, CCI tries to engage the children through extracurricular activities at summer camps.
According to Chitra Vasudevan of YOKE, the camp catering to children from all the neighbouring villages was oriented towards personality development, and children were encouraged to shed inhibitions, articulate their thoughts and learn to express themselves clearly. This they were taught through mime, drama, dance, music, art and games. They ended up doing a lot of skits for which they wrote their own dialogues, developed props using simple local material and also staged plays with interesting and relevant social themes.
Besides expressing themselves through drama, the children had regular group discussions where issues of interest were raised, discussed and the children themselves came up with solutions. This was an excellent learning experience as it was the first time that they met and interacted with children from other villages all of whom faced different sets of issues. During the discussions the children from Veeravanallur seemed well aware of the prevailing economic and social conditions and felt that the wages of weavers were very low..
The resource persons assembled for the camp were eminently qualified to engage and motivate the children. Priya akka, Gouri akka, Selvi akka who taught them music, Karagattam, and Oyillattam had endeared themselves to the children and were fondly mentioned in all their compositions.
The children had plenty of opportnities to read, play games, draw, and watch films. They were encouraged to keep a daily diary of their activities and this was brought out as a one page newspaper with an apt title “Dina Magizhchi”, (Daily Happiness). Away from the daily drudgery and monotonous routine of school, homework and tuitions the Kodaganallur camp was a breath of fresh air much loved and cherished by the children.
“An unexpected downpour on the concluding day of the camp made us anxious whether the eagerly awaited evening programme, planned with great excitement would take place at all. However, once the rain stopped with all of us working together we were able to get the place ready for the function. And at 5 pm the valedictory function began on schedule with Mr Vishnu, Sub Collector, Cheranmahadevi, presiding. The function was a great success …”’ so wrote S Divya. And thus ended the summer camp of 2015.