Childhood is the most precious time in our lives. It is the time when basic culture and values are nurtured and growth in the sphere of health, education, etc. takes place. Still there are many areas where children are being denied of basic facilities. One such area is the slums in Chennai where children are facing day to day challenges like poor hygiene, school dropout, domestic violence,
addiction/alcoholism, child labor and other such issues.
The Art of Living has identified the above challenge and started the Happy Child Project in partnership with the Corporation of Chennai. The Project encompasses a holistic approach to transform the children, their parents and the teachers. The project aims to transform 75,000 children across 1700 slums and covers around 280 Corporation Schools in Chennai.
The program aims to address manifold objectives, few of them being listed below:
1) Address mental health and adolescent issues which involves managing relation with parents, teachers and peers, addressing habits like drugs, alcohol and smoking, dealing with studies and sex intimacy.
2) Develop life skills which includes Emotional Thinking and Social Skills such as Leadership, active listening, appreciating others views, etc.
3) Improve Health through Yoga, Breathing techniques and Meditation.
4) Create Awareness of Personal Hygiene at Home and School.
So far, the Art of Living has accomplished the objective in 15 schools with transformation of around 15,000 children. The implementation of the program was not devoid of challenges. Major challenge encountered was the indifferent attitude of the people and officials and the lack of adequate space to conduct the programs. But the untiring efforts of Mr. Prakash Athrayil and Mr. Sekhar Satagopan, senior Art of Living teachers and the dedication of volunteers helped in achieving the objective.
Some of the testimonials of students and teachers have been shared below to get a glimpse of the transformation encountered in their lives. One of the student mentioned, “I was unable to pay attention to the classes and my mind would get distracted easily. But after attending the Art of Living workshop, within 4 days I am able to concentrate and focus better.”
Another student shared, “Before attending this program, I was suffering from wheezing problem and I was unable to study well. But now, after this program I am finding relief from it and will continue to practice the techniques at home regularly. I am very thankful to the instructor and Art of Living for this.” One student shared that he was very short tempered and would get angry very easily. But the program helped him reduce that tendency and he feels calm now.
One of the teachers mentioned, “Through these programs, the Art of Living is rendering a great service to the student community, especially to those who come from economically weaker sections of the society. In these workshops students learn tools & techniques to handle emotions, negative tendencies, and also good values, life skills and behavioral skills through fun-filled activities.”
The Principal of CHSS, Rangarajapuram mentioned, “Most of the children from our school have parents working in the Cine field and hence are easily exposed to negative influences. Many of the children go through emotional challenges growing up in families with failed marriages and/or separated parents.
The Art of Living program for youth empowerment is welcome step in the direction of providing a holistic learning for these children. The principal of CHSS, Puliyur shared, “As our school is located close to the main road, children here have easy access to drugs being sold in nearby teashops and snack parlors. In spite of our constant efforts in informing local authorities, and taking action against students who take to drugs, we have not been very successful in managing the situation. In my opinion, a lasting solution for this problem can be reached only by educating the students about the harmful effects of these drugs and help eliminate these tendencies. I thank Art of Living and their faculty for their noble and sincere efforts in reaching out to our students.”
– Chandni Agarwal