As the clouds opened up and drowned us in all their rainy glory, kids everywhere scrunched up their noses at the thought of being stuck indoors. When the rains arrive, it usually spells no play time with their friends for two-three weeks. Mindful of this, Akhila and Nivedita of Dirty Feet changed gears and came up with Monsoon special programmes which literally require kids to dunk themselves in wet, gooey mud.
“We kick-started with the International Mud Day by taking them to Phoenix Arena’s sand pit. Since the weather was unpredictable, we created a treasure hunt by hiding red soil in different states of wet and dry in buckets and covered it up with leaves, twigs so they had to scrounge through all that and get to the soil,” explains Akhila, organiser of the programmes. Their target group was between 3 and 4 years and made up of 15 kids. Messy it might have been, it was an exhilarating experience for the children. Next up on their agenda was giving them an idea about how vegetables are grown, making cow dungs, growing flowers and blowing whistles made from leaves.
“Rains mean rice plantations, so we took them to the village of Vantimamidi where they spent an entire day with a rice farmer. The kids have to do what the farmer does, but since the plantation doesn’t begin until next week, we let them play in the rice plot and help out with cleaning the sheds, farm animals and clay modelling, seed stamping and such,” shares Akhila.On other trips, the kids have helped in cleaning the vegetables. They see how every community works and learn about equality of labour. “Kids come away with the lesson that those who don’t necessarily have a white-collar job deserve as much as respect any other profession,” she adds.
The duration of the trip going to the villages is also made engaging through games that give information about different types of plants. “Through such games, we collected some 400-plus seed varieties. We tell them about the qualities of each seed. We are now doing full-day sessions in schools,” shares Akhila who is planning next week’s trip to a nearby village.