On the Ground in Kerala

Jai Bhim! This year we are very excited to be launching our very own school, a Leadership Academy in Kerala. This is the creation of friends around the globe inspired to come together around a vision of social change. Friends committed to the impact of small educational projects. We dreamed it 5 years ago and now it is coming to life! It is fun thinking back to how it all began.

In December 2009 Arun Boudh and I led our first very own Jai Bhim International project in Kerala.  It was a 5-day Communicative English Retreat, and there were 15 students, all young men. The focus was on building confidence in spoken English, and we did activities that built self-confidence in the students and team, and building a very strong sense of community. There was so much energy. It was such fun. We structured the day around language presentations, with opportunity for students to practice and have conversations in English. We also did yoga, created dramas, made music. The focus was on students finding their own voice.

This was our humble beginnings. I have never worked so hard at teaching! I was completely exhausted at the end of each day, but also invigorated. I sensed so much possibility, I knew something was in motion. On our final evening we gave everyone Certificates of Completion and had a "cultural program", where we sang local folk songs. There was a power cut that night and we sat in a circle by candlelight, singing songs and playing percussion on pots and pans.

Our final activity that afternoon had been collective and individual goal-setting; short-term, mid-term and long-term. Short-term the group committed to meeting together once a month in the year ahead, to study and organize other students. Mid-term they set a goal for our retreat in one year to have 50 students, 50% young women. And long-term they envisioned having our own school in 5 years.

The team did continue to meet and to build. New friends made that year became some of the strongest, most committed members of our team in Kerala and have worked with us steadily  for the last 4 years. The team went door to door meeting with Dads in the community, asking them to send their daughters to our retreat, our "camp" as they call it. In Decmeber 2010 we have 65 students, 50% female! And this year our Academy has launched! 

There are so many aspects to this story. In the next few weeks we will be sharing how our community came together, how we started JBI 7 years ago, and the wonderful people around the world who are Jai Bhim International. 

We would love to hear from you. Have you been one of our students? Have you been on our team in India? Have you worked with Team USA supporting our students in India? Are you a student in San Francisco or elsewhere inspired by Dr. Ambedkar's example?  How has JBI affected your life? Why do you believe in our vision? We would love to hear your story. Jai Bhim International is a collection of fiends. JBI is YOU. Please stay connected with us and send me an email at dayamudra at jaibhiminternational dot org.

with gratitude, Dayamudra