Leela’s eyes were bright and energized as she looked around at our group. When she began to speak, her voice was melodious and she spoke softly:
When I was younger, maybe in the sixth standard (grade six), I became a very naughty girl. Even though I was small in size, I had no problem picking fights with kids who were much bigger than me. When given the opportunity, I successfully stole from shops around my school. When my mom was not looking, I even took money out of her handbag. In sum, I was a naughty girl.
Leela pointed to the next drawing on her paper and continued:
But now, I am different. Looking back from the vantage point of maturity and experience, I can see that there were many reasons for why I had become naughty. I think that I now understand the most fundamental reason for the decline in my behavior… the passing of my Grandfather.
My Grandfather was a great man; he was great inspiration to me. He cared for my family, our community, and this country. But even more so, he cared for me. Without him, I was lost. I did not know myself well enough to be something, to be someone - grief took over me. And I chose to be no one.
There was a pause. And then a group member wondered, “Well, you are quite a different person now than who you just described. What do you think brought about this transformation in you?”
Well, after a year, my mother wanted to make more money for me and my siblings. She left our home to work hard in America. I was the only girl in the house because my sister was attending a university – which meant that I was responsible for making meals for my brothers and for cleaning up. Of course, this gave me much more responsibility. I did not have time to wander at the shops near my school. I had no energy to fight with others because I was so tired by the end of the day.
On the whole though, in the absence of my mother, I became more grateful of what I did have, rather than what I had lost. I became mindful of the people I loved so dearly. I became mindful of how hard the people I loved worked. And through the increase in my own responsibilities, I became mindful that I, too, had the potential to be someone.
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For Leela, this story is her motivation to be inovled in Youth Lead the Change. She later told our group that this personal narrative exercise helped remind her how fundamentally she believed in the values of this program. She is now more mindful of her motivation than ever.
In this personal narrative exercise, all the trainers, including Leela, were asked to draw the path of their lives. They made a terrain unique to their life by adding in, for example, houses and places for where they have lived and including people who are involved in important events. Some even divided up their path into chapters.
Then, we spent some time sharing our stories within our teaching groups. Having spent time building our team dynamics and safe space through previous activities, the honesty and openness of this acitvity was quite amazing.
Note: Stories are combined and summarized for the sake of brevity. Names are changed for the privacy of our trainers and youth.
A few photo highlights from the day: