Wednesday 25 February 2015

One Step that Changed My Life

A life changing experience shared by Monalisa Paul, Gold Awardee from Sri Sarada Math Rasik Bhita
I was not particularly aware of society and the world around me other than my family. I used to stay at home most of the time. When I was in the 12th standard one of my school teachers told me about an organization named Sri Sarada Math Rasik Bhita. I took admission to learn spoken English and computers. This is where I came to know about another organization - the  IAYP (International Award For Young People). I enrolled myself with IAYP and my life took a new turn. I still remember the date, the 5th of December 2012, when I took the first step to go somewhere without my family, to make myself a strong and self reliant individual. The adventure tours made me a totally different person. IAYP gave me self confidence and the strength to become a person who could stand up for herself in this big world.

In 2014 I graduated in Geography Honours. In this year I also got a job In Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., and the thanks goes to the IAYP programme for giving me the confidence to hold my own in the interview. The other quality I developed is decision making skills.

From that very first time when I enrolled myself in the IAYP programme, right till the present, I have never looked back. It helped me to build my career and a strong character. Now I find myself a new person, not the old, shy one. I have discovered my self as a person who is full of confidence, enthusiastic and daring, ready to take on any challenge. I think this should be the attitude a woman should carry. I am very grateful to Sri Sarada Math Rasik Bhita and IAYP for changing my life.

Silver Level Adventurous Journey to Panchlingeshwar

Kartiki Maheshwari, Silver Award aspirant from The Heritage School, Kolkata sharing his Adventurous Journey experience

We all were extremely excited about the Adventurous Journey to Panchlingeshwar. We started our memorable journey to Balasore station from Howrah station by the Dhauli express. Our train left Kolkata at 6 am and we reached Balasore by 9:30 am. After reaching Balasore we were transferred to Pathaniwas by Jeep.  On reaching this beautiful place we were allotted our rooms. Introductions took place and we were briefed on the Do's and Don'ts of our trip. After a delicious lunch we started our trek to the Panchlingeshwar temple at around two pm. After seeing the five shivalingas that were enshrined inside the rocks,  we continued our trek to Kuldiho Wildlife Sanctuary. We then returned back to Pathaniwas. That very evening we had a session on rope knots. We learnt about the different types of knots such as Reef knot, Colwich, thumb knot, figure of 8 etc. We were also briefed about track signs and how they were helpful. We were also briefed about track signs and how they were helpful. Dinner was served to us at 8:30 and lights were turned off for that night by 10. 

Our next day began at 6:30 and we started with some warm up exercises and jogging. This session was followed by breakfast which was served to us at 8:30. Our trek for the 2nd day started around 9 o clock. Our trek was to Shikar Minar which is 3.5 km from Pathaniwas. We completed this trek in approximately 2 hours. During this trek we passed by a magnificent Shaal forest and also saw volcanic rocks throughout the route. The weather was definitely chilly but the trek was beautiful and memorable. We were back in the base camp by around 12:30 after which we had a challenging cooking session. After having lunch we had an unforgettable session on rock climbing and rappelling. It was a unique experience and was enjoyed by each and every one of us. That evening we had a session on the basics of camp craft which was followed by a gala camp fire night.

We were once again off to bed by 10. Next day once again we began our day with warm up exercises and some jogging. After breakfast we began our last day's trek to the Nilgiri hills. The route was admirable and had beautiful fauna. We returned to base camp at around 12:30. After an early lunch we had our last session which was on survival skills. Once again we found ourselves being transferred by jeep to Balasore station for the 4:20 Dhauli express to Kolkata. We were back in our city of joy by 8:15. This trip left us with great memories with both new and old friends. In this short trip we were taught to adapt with situations and also to manage time. We enjoyed several activities and also learned quite some things about trekking and camp craft. This trip would not have been successful if it wasn't for the continuous guidance of our teachers Kavita maam and Neil sir, our instructors Mr. Joydeep Ghosh, Mr. Shambu Nayak and Mr. Pranav Saha. This programme has taught us a great deal of things; it has helped us recognize our strengths and has made us realize our social responsibilities. We have IAYP to thank for all the great memories we were able to make in this short three-day trip.  Click for more pictures

Thursday 19 February 2015

Award Leader Training Workshop at the Award Training Centre, New Delhi

The National Award Authority organized a National Award Leader Training Workshop at the Award Training Centre, New Delhi on January 13-14, 2015.  The sessions covered the four pillars of the Award i.e. Physical Recreation, Skills, Service and Adventurous Journey, as well as the Residential Project, Volunteering and Risk Management. The training was led by Kapil Bhalla (National Director), Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager) and Pratibha Kumari Singh (Member National Training Panel).

The workshop was attended by eleven participants from the Future Hope School, Kolkata; Sat Paul Mittal School, Ludhiana; Mayor World School, Jalandhar; Ramagya School, Noida and Inside Passage, Dehra Dun.   Click for pictures

Adventurous Journey Trip to Panchalingeshwar

A report from Divisha Jaiswal and Vedika Karnani from Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata
It was with much enthusiasm and spirit that Modern High School for Girls IAYP unit set out for the Panchalingeshwar Camp in the afternoon of 19th January, 2015. There were 65 participants in all, divided in two spacious buses, with four Award Leaders and six Field Officers of IAYP.  For most of us, this was our first I.A.Y.P trip. It was thus not very surprising that the excitement levels in the bus bordered on mild chaos.

After a 7 hour long bus journey which nearly convinced us that the journey did NOT in fact matter more than the destination, we arrived at our lodging; an inn called Panthasala.  After snacks was a session with Chandan Sir, the IAYP Programme Manager.

The next morning was the official beginning to our trip. At 6:15 a.m., we headed out for a round of jogging and exercise. Later, we were divided into our rope-line groups in which we would do all our activities. After a (very) hearty breakfast, we headed out to begin our activities- linear traversing, rappelling, tent pitching and rock climbing, with the Award Leaders actively participating in each exciting (scary) activity.  Ropes 1 and 2 also trekked to Khemkut dam (3.5 km away) after lunch, while the remaining ropes did self-cooking to provide the snacks for when we returned. The dam was a sight to behold, what with a submerged temple and hunting tower, built in the age of the Nanda rulers. After returning, we had some time to rest and another session with Chandan Sir. While discussing the day's events, he told us that this day was not only about what we did, but it was about what we learnt. That was the primary objective- to learn, and not just do. Suffice to say, at the end of the day, we weren't just tired, we were on the verge of perpetual collapse.

The third day began much like the second, only with many aching muscles and joints to add to the glorious morning. After breakfast, we headed out for the remaining activities, along with single lined bridge, Burma Bridge, knot class and the spider web. We learnt important things that would help us in the future, for situations which we might unexpectedly encounter. After snacks we got ready for Camp Night, which even in the absence of a campfire, was no less enchanting. We all sang, danced and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Courtesy of soft drinks. Ahem.

The next and final morning of our short trip, we trekked 8 kilometres to see the Panchalingeshwar temple. After a total of 311 steps and a walk through the forest, we finally reached our destination. But this time, the journey was indeed what mattered more, and what we shall carry with us. Along the way, we learnt the precautions and the important things we must know when we enter a forest. After a quick breakfast at the temple we headed back to camp to pack and leave for Kolkata.

We left Panchalingeshwar with memories and valuable lessons that would stay with us for a life time and a half.  Be it jumping off a small cliff, praying to all gods in existence, or climbing rocks like mountain goats, or starting a fire by burning a foot long leaf to cook pasta.  Be it sharing a room with (lazy) friends or sessions with Chandan sir. We learnt to be independent, self- sufficient, to conquer our fears and be stronger. Here we discovered a side of us we didn't know existed, stretched our limits, exceeded them and set new ones, only to break them later. We truly rediscovered ourselves on this journey.

Thanks to all the Field Officers and Award Leaders who accompanied us, this became the most fulfilling time of our lives. We were in it for the fun, but what we got back was so much more. Thus, it was with hearts heavier than our hearty breakfasts, that we boarded our buses to leave for Kolkata, with the echo of the mountains still ringing clear in our hearts.

Oh, and most importantly, we found the answer to a very difficult question; a question which has been a favourite of every teacher in existence. The question being - "So if your friend jumps off a cliff, will you also jump off a cliff?”

The answer after this Camp my friends, is yes. For we evidently did.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Helping to preserve our heritage!

It is a commitment of a different kind. When the bronze aspirants of Heritage Girls School, Udaipur visited the 10th century monument that was literally a stone's throw away from the school during the course of a walk, one of us just mentioned that it would be wonderful if we  could come there more often. The Principal suggested that we adopt the place and the idea took flight!

Adopting a monument is not a difficult process. We wrote to the local office of the Archeological Survey of India and waited. A month later the letter arrived. Yes, it can be done, said Mr P.S. Sriraman, the ASI officer. Correspondence flew back and forth and it was decided the monument would be ours on the 26th of January!

Though it was originally dedicated to  Lord Vishnu, the Saas-Bahu temple at Eklingji, Udaipur is not functional as a temple anymore. However, it  is worth visiting for its sheer architectural beauty. Experts like Dr Rajshekhar Vyas, who was present at the adoption ceremony, tell us that this is one of those rare places where the stories of both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are featured on the stone frescoes. Like many of our precious legacies, this too has been ravaged by plunderers, but whatever is left, is worth saving.

The care and nurture that we plan for the monument has already begun. The Community Service Society went about cleaning the premises on the morning of the 26th of January. The History Society will now prepare brochures containing the popular lore associated with the place to distribute to the tourists visiting the place.

There is a lot about history, archeology, architecture to be learnt from here. It is an exciting prospect!   Click for more pictures

Adventurous Journey camp to Shimla

Fifty-two Award aspirants (Bronze and Silver) from The Sanskaar Valley School, Bhopal (M.P) accompanied by five mentors went to Shimla (Shogi Camp) in H.P from 16th October 2014 to 22nd October 2014. Here is a report about the Adventurous Journey from Atul Chamoli (Award Leader).

The day was the 16th of October -  when a restless bunch travelled to the capital on the Shatabdi and then on to Shimla. To break the monotony the students challenged the musical skills of the teachers in a game Antakshari...only to be defeated!

The Mall Road was a delight for those who planned to shop and also for those who planned to dance to the tune of lilting Himachali music. While Maggi and momos were the gastronomic winners, even special occasions like a friends' birthday were taken care of at Kasauli.

The natural wealth of the British Summer capital impressed us all from the plains. The tall coniferous, mesmerizing heights, challenging climbs left the students spellbound.

The adventure sports began with disciplining and punctuality. An early morning warm up was a starter to each day. Mid-mornings were scheduled for adventure sports like rappelling, mountain climbing, flying fox and rope tasks. The students tested their strength in a game of 'Tug of War' between the boarders and the day boarders! The true spirit of sportsmanship was realized thereafter when the Sanskarians celebrated both their defeat and success together!

The 'trek at night' was an amazing experience embellished with ghost stories en route  as the unpolluted clear sky with twinkling stars left us all mesmerized. Holding hands and guiding each other naturally bonded the students who needed no formal training for team building! Back to the camp was the 'Me Time' when the students spent quality time together without a schedule to follow. It was appreciable to notice how the aspect of punctuality was taken care of and without the intervention from teachers the students retired to their cottages at the time scheduled.

And then for some more fun the next day, when we visited the church in Kasauli where we indulged in religious gratification with rosaries and candles. The 'Phulkaris' of Chandigarh in vibrant shades emptied our pockets and so did the junk jewellery!

It was time to get back home and adventure our way through the 'Swarnjayanti Vishakhapatnam' early next morning from Delhi with pleasurable memories to cherish and dreams to realize!   Click for pictures.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Award Leader Orientation Workshop at Welham Boys' School, Dehra Dun

The National Award Authority organised a one-day Award Leader Orientation workshop at the Welham Boys' School, Dehra Dun on 30th January 2015.  The training sessions covered the four pillars of the Award i.e. Physical Recreation, Skills, Service and Adventurous Journey. Other topics like Residential Project, Award Branding and Safety issues were conducted by National Director Kapil Bhalla and Bivujit Mukhoty, Programme Manager.  Priyank Kumar Gupta, Head IT & ORB delivered a session on Online Record Book. The workshop was attended by 38 participants from the host school.  Click for pictures

Adventurous Journey to Rishikesh

Parth Athley, Bronze level participant from Billabong High International School, Bhopal, shares his experience of his Adventurous Journey which was organised from 10th - 15th January 2015.

I stumbled in the dark, my feet sliding on gravel, my hand trying to grab anything at my side, but finding only fragile grass. My back was killing me. Having overestimated the number of jackets I would need to fend off the cold, I had over-packed, and I was now paying the price as my rucksack dug into my shoulders and strained my back muscles. I peered ahead, aided by the dim light of the torches of my group mates, and took another step.

It was an hour past midnight. My group of 28 fellow students and 4 adults (read assessors) were walking down a rough path, cut into the mountain and barely wide enough for two men abreast, carrying our packs on our shoulders. To my one side were jagged rocks and grass growing between them; to my other side was pitch black darkness. In the distance, I could hear the rumbling of the mighty river Ganges, infinite gallons of water rushing past.

We were near Rishikesh, headed to camp at the banks of the Ganges. We had intended to arrive by late evening, but first our train from Bhopal had been delayed by a few hours, and then the bus ride from Delhi had taken almost 11 hours. Although it was late, most of us were well-rested, having spent part of the bus ride in deep slumber. We had had a lot of fun, singing songs and playing dumb charades and other games all night in the train, and all day in the bus.

After what felt like a long trek downhill, racing against time, we reached the bottom, miraculously without any casualties. After depositing our bags near the row of tents, we were shown around the camp. It was amazing. A covered dining area-cum-meeting hall was situated closest to the river, and apart from the camp, near the row of functional toilets, was a volleyball net. We promptly gathered for a delicious meal of paneer and egg curry. After satiating our hunger, we divided ourselves into groups and headed to our respective tents for a good night's sleep.

The next day, there was a palpable feeling of excitement rippling in the air. We were going river rafting.  Many of us were amateurs at it, while others, including me, had prior experience. There were four rafts to hold us, and we formed groups of eight. One raft contained all boys, while other groups were mixed: seven students and one teacher escort.

The rafting was physically taxing, but nonetheless incredibly fun. First, each group spent nearly an hour in relatively calm water learning the ropes: how to hold the paddle, proper sitting posture, basic paddling skills, etc. Then began the real adventure. We rafted through six rapids, the first of which was Good Morning, while others were called Crossfire, Black Money, Three Blind Mice etc. Some were Grade III rapids, meaning we encountered huge waves and a few rocks we had to navigate through. Thankfully, none of us slipped off the boat. However, we did seize the opportunity to jump into the river whenever we reached calm waters between the rapids.

In the evening, when we returned to camp, we had several games of volleyball, fully utilizing the last vestiges of light until the stars became visible. The night sky was absolutely brilliant. I could actually see the band of stars we call the 'Milky Way', and the stars were almost ten times as numerous as would be visible in the city. A bonfire was set up, and our entire group gathered around to warm ourselves. After another delicious dinner of paneer and chicken, we retired to bed.

On the last day of our stay, we travelled to the picturesque town of Rishikesh. Although much of our time was spent trying to avoid the monkeys, our group traversed the Lakshman Jhula. We then visited historic temples dedicated to Lord Lakshman and the Goddess Ganga. An excellent meal at the famous Chotiwala restaurant quieted our growling stomachs. On reaching the Ram Jhula, we opted instead to take a boat ride across the river. Then, we departed back for camp.

We had to get up early the next day to reach Delhi in time to catch our train; instead many decided to stay awake through the night. Lounging by the bonfire, we played more games. Highlights were Ghost (each player utters a letter until a word is formed) and 12 questions (one player decides on a well-known person and others have to guess by asking questions). A couple of girls demonstrated a telepathic magic game, and the rest of us tried to crack their trick (we never did).

As I journeyed back home, my body sore and aching (in a good way) I thought how the trip had been unique and rewarding. I visited a new place, experienced a different way of life, did things I hadn't done before, grew closer to my schoolmates, and enjoyed amazing food. It was definitely a memory to last me a lifetime!