Mangaluru: ‘Make A Difference’ (MAD), a non profit organisation working across 23 cities to ensure equitable outcomes for children at risk, organized a special camp for children who live in shelters for two days at St. Aloysius Institute of Management and IT-Beeri, in the outskirts of Mangaluru. The camp, which is annually organised by the organisation every year, was christened “Dream Camp” and is basically held in all the 23 cities in which the organisation is present. This Camp is one of the annual projects of “Make A Difference”. This Camp is a platform that offers holistic development experience to children at MAD through inbound and outbound training sessions, and it’s a channel for them to realize their dreams and make them come true.
Narrating more about the “Dream Camp”- Dream Camps are outbound experiential camps that help children dream about their future goals and understand what it takes to achieve those dreams. This understanding is facilitated through personal discovery, exploring new talents by challenging themselves and taking responsibility of their actions for the duration of the camp. Through its nine years of experience in the field of working with vulnerable children, the organisation has ascertained that a basic difference that lies between a child living a shelter and a child living at his/her own house are the circumstances, environments, the exposure-factors essential to let a child introspect, ‘dream’, and thereby, set larger goals in life.
Dream Camps are thus, MAD’s way of driving self motivation and self confidence by helping these children dream, exposing them to new experiences and providing a holiday experience. By motivating these children through various activities and sessions held by field experts invited to the camp, the organisation hopes to connect these children to their ‘dreams’ and thereby, ensure better life outcomes for them in the long run. Nearly 50 children attended the Camp under the guidance of about 45 MAD volunteers who are associated with the various programs run by the organisation. Dream camp mainly focuses on sessions that provide them :EXPOSURE: sessions around positive exposure to new and unfamiliar experiences at Dream Camp; EXPERIENCE: the experience of a holiday during Dream Camp; PLENARY: focusing on personal transformation and Dreaming during Dream Camp.
The Camp venue was chosen carefully by the camp team, given the various needs and requirements of the children and camp. The team had planned various activities and arranged for sessions like Care, Give and Share to be held during the camp to cater to the objectives of exposure, learning and providing these children with an unmatched holiday experience. This is the sixth time that such a camp is being organised by MAD in the city, while the last year’s camp held at the same venue and was a resounding success. Ever so devoted and selfless, the volunteers of MAD- Mangaluru are always looking to be more than just teachers to their children. Be it festivals, annual days or sports meets, they are always there to support and motivate.
MAD has been operational in the city for 8 years, and works in shelter homes like Prajna. Currently, the city has nearly 150 volunteers associated with the organisation. These volunteers are mostly between the age of 18-24, with a few volunteers being older working with 100 children. Locally MAD runs programs life Ed Support, which is an after school support academic program, Discover which is a more life skills/self discovery oriented program and Propel which is a program customized for children in classes 11 and 12 and aims at ensuring their smooth transition from school to college through both academic and emotional support.
Make A Difference was established in the year 2009, started by a group of nine people, to name a few- Rakesh, Kirti Krishna and Greeshma Rai; with Rakesh as the President. The MAD chapter was initiated at Infant Mary and Aloysian Boys’ Home. Currently, Aloysian Boys’ Home, Prajna Counselling Center, CARDTS 1 and CARDTS 2 fall under MAD’s projects. At this year’s “Dream Camp”, nearly 50 children from CARDTS 1 and CARDTS 2 located in Nanthoor and Kankanady-Pumpwell took part. These are the only centers that fall under the Library Project with the joint collaboration of Make A Difference and Bookwallah Organisation. One of the admirable traits of the children here is that, once they’ve settled down for the session, their concentration begins to boom. They have cultivated the habit of reading and now they pick their own books each week and begin to read them aloud. They’re definitely brimming with ingenuity.
Speaking to Mangalorean.com, Vishakha Kamath- Center Head, Make A Difference,Mangaluru said, “Dream camp preparations began two months prior to the camp starting with the selection of camp leads for various teams and also dividing volunteers into various teams by noting their response.Once the teams were formed all the teams began to parallel work towards the goal “Dream Camp”.Mentor lead started with child grouping and mentor allocation.Session team started planning for various sessions during the camp.Logistics team for buying all the collateral’s needed for the camp.Safety team with ensuring physical and emotional safety.Finance with the budget.Comms and outreach with the photographer and videographer allotment for the camp”.
“Preparations were on by keeping all the teams in loop with lots of excitement and a week before we had a dry run were all the teams collaborated and tried the sessions. Finalizing everything for the camp. A day before the camp we gave kids a form to fill the details and to keep them excited about the upcoming camp. And finally the day of dream camp!!! 20 February 2016 with much much excitement all the mentors reached the venue at 6:45 am and left the center by bus at 7:15.We reached the venue by 8:00. Initially they were provided with the passport at the registration counter to travel different country”.
“The theme for the day was “around the world”, where we provided them a platform through various sessions where they can get the glimpse of various country.We started with united kingdom city for breakfast.i.e English Breakfast. Serious sessions like Give care share and “beautiful U” were conducted which where they had to introspect about their life and there was a great bonding between kids and mentors.Lunch followed these sessions.It was Indian Lunch.Then we had carnival where they get tokens and get to use that tokens and play different games. It is basically to enhance decision making and show them importance of money and they need to use it wisely. Art workshop followed the carnival where they had to choose one of the three workshops and learn new things”.
“After this we had actual around the world, where we had five countries, and Kids got to know their culture,tradition,food etc.Day one came to an end by Chinese themed dinner where we taught them how to eat with chopsticks. We left the venue after the dinner. Day one was tiring but yes was amazing. Day 2 began the same time as day one. We reached the venue at 8:15 hot and yummy breakfast waiting for us. After the breakfast we headed to badge making session where they had to think about what they want to become in life and why, and then design creative badges.Then there was treasure hunt where they were exposed to new challenges like archery, bravo and six other clues.Then we had lunch.It was a packed lunch with movie. We had burger,fries and sandwiches with funny-man “Mr.Bean” on screen.Then we had performance segment where they need to perform and plan an event with one or two being MC-they could choose dance, skit, magic show learn it via the field experts present and perform. Post performance we had dinner. With the goodies bags and the smile on every ones face for those wonderful days with sadness that it came to an end. We bid a bye and left the venue and everyone reached the destination safe” added Vishaka..
About M.A.D. :
As of today Make A Difference (MAD) reaches out to 5000 children living in 77 shelter homes in 23 cities in India, through a highly efficient Fellow managed volunteering model. A small core team of 23 staff provides expertise, processes, training and support to 400 Fellows and 3500 volunteers. Through four core programs, Ed Support, Discover, Propel and Dream Camps, Make A Difference creates a support system and an emotional safe space for children in shelters by ensuring every child has at least 3 adults who care for them, understand them and who they can reach out to when they feel overwhelmed. They have access to them for a minimum of 2 hours a week from the age of 10.
Trained mentors spend time getting to know and developing an individual plan for each of their children. This plan includes not just academic support but also life skills, personal discovery, art, music and language lessons. Depending on the age and needs of the children the programs include career awareness activities, helping them transition to better schools, helping them identify their career path and funding it when required. MAD also works closely with the shelter they are living in to ensure their basic needs are taken care of and interact with the teachers to understand the developmental needs to the children.
Awards/Recognition :MAD’s has won several awards for excellence, including Winner of the Ashoka Staples Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition-2008; Nobel Laureate of the Karamveer Puraskar awarded by ICongo – 2009; Cordes Fellow Award – 2010; World Summit Youth Award – 2011; Starbucks Youth Action Net Award – 2011; iVolunteer Award – 2013; eNGO Award – 2014
Make A Difference’s work in India has been recognized by several eminent people including Michelle Obama who chose MAD as one of the few organisations to visit on her trip to India in 2010. Most recently Make A Difference was one of only four NGO’s selected from across the entire Commonwealth to launch the Queen’s Young Leaders Trust via the first ever Royal Google+ Hangout .