The final stages are being completed on the new learning centre that will be the base for Thamarai Education Projects. The centre will provide education programs for young people and encourage cross-community learning, Youth project manager Vignesh expects to deliver the building for Christmas and many children eagerly wait. In the meantime, after-school programs are continuing each day at Thamarai for 9th standard children and recent additions have been courses in menstrual care for adolescent girls, Frisbee for girls, and STEM education for students from 6th standard upwards.
The menstrual care program was mentored with our partners Eco femme who work for a transformed world in which girls and women are honoured and dignified, free from shame and oppression, equipped with the knowledge, resources, and skills to live fully in harmony with their bodies. Kalvi, from Eco femme, coached our team of female youth facilitators to deliver the program in a big sister-type atmosphere to the younger girls. Youth facilitator Savithri shared that “we all felt these sessions made us comfortable to speak up. We learned how the menstrual cycle works, the changes happening at this time of the month, how to take care of our bodies and to track our periods using charts and a few apps”. This program was kindly supported by Aahana, an Indian teenager living in the USA. Aahana’s efforts ensured that 34 village girls received a gift of four cloth pads that they can wash and recycle for a life span of 70 washes.
Adolescent girls are also training in Frisbee, a sport designed for gender equity because it is only possible to play competitively if you have a mixed-gender team. This current program is being coached by Selvi, an international player who hails from one of the local villages. Families are generally cautious to let girls participate in sports. This all-girls training program has over 20 girls training twice-weekly. Youth facilitator Jagadeswari shared that : ”Children are talking a lot about Frisbee, they are learning to throw and catch the Frisbee disk for the first time and are learning new vocabulary while they are playing. I’m very happy to see that the girl children are playing in the ground now, I can see the team spirit and happiness coming through them”.
Youth facilitators Vishnu and Arthi are taking Thamarai students in daily STEM activities, making maths much more interesting and introducing coding to children through the Scratch program. Vishnu has been mentored by the team at STEMland and both he and Aarthi in teaching development by Riffaya, an Indian STEM teacher based in the US who wants to give back to children in her country. Vishnu shares that : ”In these villages, it is very rare to see children engaging with the computer. The STEM class helps them to change their normal way of learning by rote towards practical peer learning. Through scratch, they got an idea about how cartoon videos were made. They are all excited to learn more. They happily share their projects with the whole class using the projector.
Having a base for young people and programs to thrive is vital, we look forward to this learning center being a space of full potential for all, especially those who lack resources and opportunity. We are grateful to all who have made this dream come true.