Vikramshila Speaking Festival
Kolkata, India
2015

Vikramshila Education Resource Society is an NGO based in Kolkata, India doing incredible work to " make quality education a reality for all children in India"  ( http://www.vikramshila.org) They have many excellent projects, including the Naba Disha centres - learning centres located in police stations and run in conjunction with the police to help foster trust and growth within the local communities. The centres aim to provide alternative learning opportunities for children who may be unable to attend regular school.

One of the ways in which they celebrate the childrens progress is with a Speaking Festival, an annual event in which children and teachers from across the centres gather to present their learning through IT presentations, art, music, dance and drama. In 2015, I had the privilege of being a part of it as a member of Suas, an Irish NGO which supports overseas partners such as Vikramshila. (http://www.suas.ie)

For 3 months in the summer, I was part of a team of 4 coordinators overseeing 32 volunteers across the bustling city of Kolkata as they worked alongside local teachers to teach English to children from underprivileged backgrounds in NGO schools and Naba Disha centres. I had a dual role: Team Coordinator to my own brilliant team of 12 volunteers, and Teaching Coordinator for all 32 volunteers based in Kolkata.

It was an incredible summer. Whilst the volunteers did the actual teaching, I trained and supported them in lesson planning, creating teaching materials, problem-solving and classroom management. I worked with Vikramshila teachers and staff to resolve issues, plan the festival and ensure that we were a cohesive team. (I also spent a lot of time racing around Kolkata in a sweaty sari clutching large piles of art supplies!)

It was my first experience training others in teaching English through the arts and I learned as much - if not more - from the talented, passionate volunteers and teachers as they did from me. Seeing the children stand proudly on stage expressing themselves in English through the arts was such a powerful experience, a memory for which I will be forever grateful.

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