Bodakho-The land of sunshiny smiles

AhamBhumika ran its first Summer camp in a little village called Bodako in Bhopal. Aham Bhumika is run by the energetic Subrat Goswami, Devendra Singh and Mukul. The local volunteers were Deepa, Kavita Bhattacharya and Rupa Goswami. The other out-of-town volunteer was Aditya Arya.
I decided to take part on a whim. Subrat’s every tweet was calling me to Bodako : ) Little did I know it would end up being the experience that it was! 
We got a feel of the terrain a day before the camp. The first sight that greeted us was of children carrying water on their little heads. A 3 year old did her bit too. Parents in each house greeted us with water, a premium this time of the year. That Subrat knew each house like the back of his hand helped. The first day at camp started with introductions and shy yet excited faces. Kids from the age of 3 to 16 all in attendance. Those eager eyes waiting to see what we had to offer.
We started by introducing basic words, but very soon realized even 10 year olds were not able to read simple words or frame a sentence. Many of them just about knew the alphabet. Subrat gave us free range to experiment as we wished. So we decided to introduce phonetics into the program. This worked absolute wonders. The entertaining Aditya turned phonetics into a delightful exercise of strange noises. There were squeals of delight in the class. Children who had not read a word did so in seconds and some even read an entire paragraph with help. The look of astonishment on their faces at having achieved this was soul satisfying. The quick learners very eagerly took to teaching when asked.
We also added clay work as a daily activity. I started by instructing them on how to work with it, but stopped midway. When asked to use their imagination the results were magical. These children created tractors to cutlery to elephants to roads and a whole lot more.
Many of the children had seen a laptop for the first time introduced by Aditya. But by the end of the camp some of them were confident users. Every day was a learning experience for us. The charming Deepa got them their first cake ever during this camp. Rupa and Kavita added their creativity to the mix and kept the tiny tots involved. Subrat the designated photographer clicked away. The children of Bodako surprised us and delighted us each day. Most of the children arrived at school 2 hours ahead of schedule.
At lunch time the older children automatically assumed responsibility and served the rest. The savvy Sisodiya sisters willingly jumped in to help when needed and drove us crazy with their curiosity. Two of these sisters are already married. One of them rides a bike on the Bodako terrain and thinks nothing of it. Sweet little Reshma from the juniors refused to leave our side. She insisted she wanted to learn “ABC”. One of the boys Hemraj had a large festering wound on his toe yet attended each day of the camp. Subrat got the required medicines and Aditya nursed his wound which healed in a matter of days. Very soon the village folk started calling Aditya “Doctor Saab”. This is because there is no medical help for miles. When the very pregnant Heera’s (from the kitchen) child fell sick she hitched a ride with us and got back home on foot. Many of the children walk bare feet in this harsh environment. This is not an attempt to evoke sympathy. Far from it. These kids are a proud lot. Only children are capable of being oblivious of their condition and even reveling in it. They do however need an introduction and access to basic resources. Subrat and the Aham team quietly do what they can. These children need more people from the outside world, the world outside Bodako to touch their lives and vice versa.
When asked to draw their dream on the last day, some were not able too while others just wished to paint or have some buttermilk. Reshma wanted to live in the city and Bulbul wanted wings to fly with.
I am also glad I’ve made friends for life here. Subrat is the driving force behind AhamBhumika.  He is the primary breadwinner in his family and is passionate about his work with Aham. Thank you for letting me live with your lovely family Subrat. Thank you Rupa, Kavita and Thappa for the excellent food and for treating me like one of your own.  The trip to the Stupas was surreal. I was also super excited Subrat indulged my wild side and let us camp at Bodako. Thank you Deepa and Devedra Bhayya for the excellent food at camp. Thank you Mukul Bhayya for all the tea you made for us and for teaching me how to write my name in Bhrami. Thank you Kavita and Deepa for opening your hearts to me and for all the laughs we shared. I’m sorry I made you and the kids walk so much looking for the rock shelter : ) Thank you Aditya for being such a trooper and converting every activity into such a funny and delightful experience.
                                          Jaya Rai,teaching children during summer camp
                                         Aditya Arya imparting basics of computer to kids
                                         Kids engrossed in Art and Craft activity
                                         Meals during summer camp
                                         Rupa taking Art & craft activity
                                          Kids with art and craft activity
                                         From Left to right Rupa,Jaya and Aditya
                   Final day picture of summer camp-wearing T-shirts supported by MaCaFe,Mumabi
                                          Deepa,Jaya,Mukul,Aditya,Devendra & Kavita
                                                   Komal engrossed with Clay making
Sisodiya sisters with Deepa 
Children of Bodako thank you for this experience.