Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Hello Bhutan!

Rose Goel, a Silver Award participant from Uttam School for Girls, Ghaziabad, shares her experiences of the Adventurous Journey.

The IAYP Adventurous / Exploration journey was an eye opener for us that changed our perspective towards life, culture, happiness, different nations and their uniqueness. Right from planning and preparing for journey, learning team spirit, exploring places, coordinating with mentors and friends, to moving out of comfort zone, overcoming cultural barriers, understanding culture, people and people were some of the things which this journey taught us and thus proved to be an experiential workshop for us.
We were all excited about our Adventurous Journey as we headed for our visit to Bhutan, which came as a surprise during our summer vacations in 2016. From the scorching hot weather of North India we reached Bhutan, a stunning Buddhist country sandwiched between two political giants -- India and China. Our visit to the country offered us a complete get away from our monotonous and stressful lifestyle. It was an exploratory journey where we understood and witnessed what makes the distinctive culture of a nation.
Bhutan,  often considered as an offbeat destination by many, surprises everyone with all that it has to offer. Exemplified as one of the first countries that adopts the concept of Gross National Happiness to measure its growth in terms of happiness quotient, where people’s happiness comes first, and then comes money, was interesting for us to take a note of.
It was encouraging to observe that in spite of being a constitutional monarchy, the people were extremely happy with the government and the king. That was evident from the hospitality of the locals and the playfulness of their young children. Both the rich and the poor enjoy equal status. Even the king of the country does not live in a luxurious palace but a small cottage, just large enough to accommodate his family. The love for The King and the Queen could be spotted everywhere, from tiny frames in shops and houses, to large posters on the roadsides. Unlike other countries, the people of Bhutan seemed to have been less influenced by the west. Their love and respect for their nation, the king and their culture generated reverence in our heart for the people and this nation.
We found that it was a place where the women were not born to be confined to houses but shoulder equal responsibilities as menfolk, be it in big hotels, airports, roadside shops, hospitals or other places. To see this status and regard for women was inspiring for all of us.
Besides rich cultural heritage, the country also boasts of its magical Himalayan kingdom, which is full of greenery, with beautiful landscapes dotted with bright flapping prayers flags and forests cloaked in clouds, thick with the scent of pine, garlanded with peach blossoms and with a remarkable abundance of flora and fauna. This all is a result of strong constitutional obligation and efforts made by the people to preserve and protect the environment, where at least 60% of the land is under forest cover. Added to this, is the fact that Bhutan is the only country in the world that has been declared carbon negative. Like the environment, the Bhutanese people also looked impeccable as they were always dressed in their traditional attire -- Gho for men and Kira for women. They wore it with pride and carried it with style. An important aspect that caught our attention was the use of public transport by people and very few private cars on the road, which resulted in smooth and well managed traffic.
Apart from gathering all this knowledge and observations we also understood that Bhutan is undoubtedly one of the most ethnic travel destinations where everything from the layout of the building to the god figures in monasteries was dictated by traditional Buddhist artworks. Religion pervaded all level of life in Bhutan, resulting in peaceful temples, red robed monks, deities and legends.
Some of the best places visited by us included the Buddha Dordenma Statue located in the capital, Thimphu. A scenic fortress Monastery, Punakha Dzong is framed by the confluence of two rivers and jacaranda trees in Punakha and the iconic Tiger nest monastery with golden pinnacles at its rooftops in Paro.
It goes without saying that the country was truly a slice of Himalayan heaven and was an eye opener for all of us. We realized the importance of contentment in life, how to be happy with simple things and be proud of one’s own culture and heritage. As a token of regard for this visit, we took a pledge to do our duty to protect and conserve the environment and save mother earth. We are extremely happy and grateful to our school and IAYP for giving us this opportunity to have such a wonderful learning experience. To appreciate and regard a nation as an outsider and then to look and admire what makes our country unique and distinctive was something that we all learnt.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My Award Journey

Shradha Ramakrishnan, a Bronze Award Holder from Hiranandani Upscale School, Kelambakkam, shares the experience of her Award journey here.

I, Shradha Ramakrishna have completed my Bronze Award journey.

My Service section was a group activity, where we mainly taught under-privileged children some basic computer skills, incorporating other vital concepts as well. For example, on a normal day we would talk about the necessity of staying in good health and give them an activity accordingly on the computers in either Word or PowerPoint. Our talks consisted of a main group talk that summarised the topic at hand, and then we would split up into three groups where we discussed the topic in detail. Some prominent topics discussed were road safety and health. We normally ended our classes with a quick game to gauge their spirits, such as ‘Simon says’. My individual service comprised a day at the Alpha to Omega School, which is a school for children with learning difficulties.

In the Skills section I chose Bharatanatyam. It is a dance form that I am highly passionate about, and have been practising it for more than eight years now. My Arangetram, a dance graduation, was completed in July 2014. To explore this passion further after my Arangetram, was the reason I took this dance form as my skill in this section of the Award. My classes were always very demanding. Some classes involved a thorough revision of the basics and when the teacher was slightly late, it was my mandate to begin some of the crucial exercises for the younger children. Since I had finished my Arangetram, the teacher had taught me longer and more demanding pieces of dance known as Varnam Jathis. These are pieces of pure dance that make up the Varnam Dance. I was taught charis, which are simple, elegant movements that are incorporated in a dance. To keep in touch with my Arangetram dances, we revised them in almost every class. The culmination of my academic dance year was with a performance in March at Tambaram, Chennai, where I took part in the Kauthvam group dance, a solo padam ‘Bho Shambo’, and in the themed dance of Dashavataram, the 10 avatars of Vishnu. It goes without saying that dance is the key to my concentration, balance, discipline and my overall mental and physical health. It is something that I enjoy thoroughly and I explore this art form with my Guru in every lesson!

For Physical Recreation I chose Athletics. Athletics is a sport which I plan to pursue in future and I thought this would be a good opportunity to track my progress. For each athletics session, I spent two hours a day and I went twice a week -- on Saturday and Sunday. The coach gave rigorous training, which increased my stamina and speed twofold. I am currently training four times a week now. The training was unique and sometimes we would go to different places. For example, we went to St.Thomas Mount and we did sprints and other exercises uphill and ended with a brisk 3 km jog. Each class focused on a certain aspect, for example: endurance, speed, power, skill and fitness. I excel mainly in endurance because I am a long distance runner by nature. I had run 10 km in an event hosted by Chennai Runners on 10th January and out of 50 people I came 7th with a time of 52 minutes. On 6th February, the school had a sports day, and my relay team finished third and I finished third in the 100 mts race. The rains in Chennai had affected my fitness as the track was submerged and inaccessible. Getting back to form was another challenge I overcame. I thoroughly enjoyed these athletics sessions and will continue to take part in meets and soon dream to become an International Champion.

The most amazing and interesting part was the Adventurous cum Exploration Journey. For this activity I went to Coorg with my batch mates. We stayed there for 3 days and 2 nights. On day one, we decided to explore nature on our own. We walked up to the Abbey Falls and explored the vast extended forest. The walk there was scenic. After visiting the falls, we visited the source of the Cauveri River known as Thalacauveri, a temple and a historical site, on top of the hill. The second day consisted of major adventure activities. We kick-started with some football and then proceeded kayaking. It was a team exercise; I kayaked while my partner helped with turning. We kayaked for 2 km. After this, the whole group went rafting and I was manoeuvring the boat with the supervisor, again this was also for 2 km. It was a very scenic canal of water. Later on, we went to a lagoon area with rocks forming pools of water, some shallow, some deep, giving rise to different colours. Since it was a team activity we had to help each other in climbing over the rocks. The boulders of rocks surrounded a small waterfall which flowed to a gushing stream. After eating our lunch, we went for a hike to the summit of a high hill. The drive took 10 minutes and from there we proceeded on foot with our mentors. We trekked from one mountain summit to another. The first one had a thick forest which we had to walk through. It is said there are elephants in the area, but we did not see one. We trekked for a distance of 12 km altogether.

After completion of my journey, I can say that getting the Bronze Award is one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. The Award Programme has given a focus to my interests and helped me sharpen them greatly. Click here for the pictures

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Gold Award Ceremony 2016 - July 14th

Achieving a Gold Award is one of the biggest milestones in the life of Gold participants. It shows their ability, focus and determination to achieve their set goals and pursue them with passion, perseverance and single-minded devotion to the purpose. While the Gold Award journey promotes the overall development of the participants, it also gives them immense opportunities to learn from their experiences so that they can deal with the challenges that the future might pose. The Gold Award Ceremony is organised every year to salute their indomitable spirit and perseverance.

This year's Gold Award Ceremony was organised on 14th July 2016 at the India International Centre, New Delhi. The National Award Authority (NAA) took immense pride in felicitating the Gold Award Holders. This Gold Award ceremony is dedicated to appreciating the milestones and achievements of each participant. The day was dedicated to celebrate, enjoy and cherish their achievements with friends, family and the IAYP team.

This year the National Award Authority was privileged to invite Mr Abbas Ali Baig, former cricketer, Indian team as the Chief Guest, who graced the occasion with his presence.
The ceremony was preceded by an interactive session with Mr. Himmat Kalsia (Chairman, Award Programme Foundation) and Dr. Sanat Kaul (Managing Trustee, Award Programme Foundation), who reached out to the Awardees, Award Leaders and parents and initiated a dialogue about the Award Programme. They asked the audience to provide their experience and feedback and suggestions that would help the Foundation to advance the Award Programme in India.

The host and compere for the ceremony was Pratibha Singh, Award Leader and Member of the National Training Panel, who kept the audience engaged with her lively exchanges and appropriate snatches of poetry for each occasion. She commenced the Gold Award Ceremony by welcoming the Chief Guest and all the Awardees, Award Leaders and Parents. Mr. Kapil Bhalla, National Director, had the privilege to welcome the Chief Guest Mr. Abbas Ali Baig, Mr. Himmat Kalsia (Chairman, APF) and Dr. Sanat Kaul (Managing Trustee, APF). This welcome address was followed by honouring the school principals who were there to grace the occasion. Mr. Bhalla welcomed and congratulated Mr. Jorawar Singh, Principal, Cambridge International School, Phagwara; Dr. Sumer Bahadur Singh, Principal, The Daly College Indore; for their invaluable contribution to the Award Programme, and presented them the Friendship Badge.

A variety of entertainment performances were presented by Award Participants, commencing with a solo song presentation by Aditi from Vidya Devi Jindal School, Hisar. The house was dazzled when the participants form Uttam School, Ghaziabad came to the stage and presented a short tableau about how King Ashoka embraced Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths during the Kalinga War, a war that he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest. This tableau was followed by a presentation from the participants from Sri Sarada Math, Rasik Bhita about the Gender Diversity and Empowerment Project. Konkana and Swagata shared real life experiences about their efforts to approach and reach out to the underprivileged; they also described how the community is benefiting. After this, Abijeet Nagpal from The Scindia School, Gwalior shared his experience of a cycling expedition from Manali to Leh through a short film.

After the entertainment presentations, National Director Kapil Bhalla addressed the audience, sharing information of the progress of the Award. He outlined future plans that have been designed to spread the Award Programme to untouched areas of the country. Kapil Bhalla also highlighted the achievements of the Gender Diversity and Empowerment Project run by IAYP India under ISPG Grant. With immense pride, Kapil Bhalla applauded the four participants with special needs from Raphael Ryder Cheshire International Centre, Dehra Dun, who received their Gold Award and recognition for their extraordinary pursuit.

In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of The International Award, a series of short films are being screened internationally, featuring interviews with Award participants and Award Leaders from around the world. Kapil Bhalla shared that the interviews of five Indian participants and Award Leaders have been selected for the 60-minute movie created by The International Award Foundation. His report was followed by a screening of the short films of the Indian participants who were nominated for the 60th Anniversary film.

The National Director's speech was followed by the Award Presentation Ceremony where the Chief Guest Mr Abbas Ali Baig handed the Gold Certificates to the participants and also honoured a select group of Award Leaders with Special, Voluntary and Outstanding Service Meritorious Certificates.

The Chief Guest in his speech congratulated all the Awardees and Award Leaders for their success. Sharing some life experiences with the audience, he mentioned how he faced challenges when he was young and how he overcome them with focus and determination.
Mr. Himmat Kalsia, Chairman, APF proposed the Vote of Thanks at the end of the ceremony.

The IAYP thank the Chief Guest, Award Holders, Award Leaders, Principals, Parents, Guardians and our Trustees for being there to make this Gold Award Ceremony a big success. For Gold Award Ceremony pictures, please click here.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

A New Experience and a New 'Bonnya'

Bonnya Soren, a Gold Award participant from Sri Sarada Math, Baladbandh, got an opportunity to explore the world outside her village for the first time during her Adventurous Journey. Here, she shares her astonishing experience with us.

I belong to a remote village in Hooghly District, West Bengal. I have never travelled anywhere outside my village before. When I came to know that I was chosen to be a part of Tumling trek as a Gold Award Participant, I was overjoyed. It was a great day for me. I was waiting for 8th June to come. Seventeen Award participants from Sri Sarada Math-Rasik Bhita and two from Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata, participated in the trek to Tumling, which was held from 8th June to 14h June 2016.

Sitting on the Dibrugarh Express, I was very excited as this was my first opportunity to see the Himalayan Ranges from close proximity. Getting down at New Jalpaigudi was a new experience altogether. We could feel the presence of the Himalayas around us. From there, we went by bus to Manebhanjan, which is a small mountain township on the border of India and Nepal, at an altitude of 7,054 ft.

At Manebhanjan our real adventure started. We had to trek a distance of approx 11 km. to reach to Tumling, a small hamlet in Nepal from where we could see the beautiful Kanchenjunga ranges. After reaching Tumling, we had our lunch and in the afternoon went walking to Tunglu Top to get acclimatized to the high altitude. That day we stayed at Tumling and the next day we started our journey towards Jaubari. We also visited Singhalila National Park on the way to Jaubari, a long village with open meadows and houses lined on either side. There we also observed mother nature so closely and faced challenges that we had never imagined and experienced before. We got ample opportunity to interact with the local village people and got to know about their cultural heritage along with the study of flora and fauna of the region for our Exploration Journey.
We reached back on 14th June early morning by Uttarbanga Express. All I can say is: a new ‘Bonnya’ came back from this trek, one who is much closer to nature and much closer to herself and her people. Click here for pictures...