Workshop gives kids creative outlet, hope

A year after a photography camp in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, organised by the New Delhi-based NGO Art for Cause, led to the discovery of 14-year-old shutterbug Lobsang Nima, 14 volunteers, including representatives from Australia, New Zealand and the US have returned in search of another prodigy.

By Ranju Dodum in Itanagar
  • Published 15.09.15
  •  
Volunteers at the start of the camp. Picture by Ranju Dodum

Itanagar, Sept. 14: A year after a photography camp in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, organised by the New Delhi-based NGO Art for Cause, led to the discovery of 14-year-old shutterbug Lobsang Nima, 14 volunteers, including representatives from Australia, New Zealand and the US have returned in search of another prodigy.

The NGO is back in town for the Tawang Autumn Camp, which began on September 5 and will end on September 18. However, this time around, it is focussing on finding talented writers amongst its participants, who range from the ages of nine to 14.

Speaking from Tawang, Irshal Ishu, the founder of Art for Cause, said aside from staff from the NGO, six volunteers from Australia, New Zealand and the US are part of the camp as mentors.

Ishu said last year's find, Lobsang, is also acting as a mentor for the children this time. "He is home and assisting in most of the practical sessions."

Lobsang is a shy kid and doesn't say much besides that he "feels good" to be involved with the workshop. Aside from photography, the camp is conducting workshops on performing art, art and craft, creative writing, art therapy, healthcare and filmmaking, introduced this year.

The workshops are being held across three schools in Tawang and the Mahabodhi Centre in Teli village, around 10km from Tawang town. The centre provides shelter, food and clothing to senior citizens and children who are either orphans or come from poor financial background.

Ishu said this year the camp's focus will be on creative writing and he hopes to publish an anthology of the children's writings soon.

One of the biggest obstacles children in the area face is the lack of creative outlets. "The kids do not have access to extracurricular activities," Ishu said and that "all that the children do is watch the sun rise and set over the horizon".

Most of the children attending the camp come from financially poor background. Ishu said many of them have to work as labourers during their vacations to help with the household expenses.

Despite the lack of avenues, the children are talented and have managed to impress the mentors.

Sudhir Mishra from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, who teaches the art and craft, said the children are "very creative" and their awareness about their culture helps their creativity.

Emma Ryan from New Zealand, who is researching the NGO's work in Tawang and is part of the volunteering team, feels that this camp will "make a huge difference in the lives of the children".

Her New Zealand compatriot Katie Reardon, who volunteered for the camp after moving to India in April this year, said she wanted to do something "more meaningful with life".

Tourism minister Pema Khandu, who is from the district, has been supportive of the initiative and has asked Ishu for "10 more Lobsangs this year".

Apart from being taken in by the scenic beauty of the place, the volunteers all appear to be taking back something from this experience. While Ryan said "people appear a lot happier than where she will be heading" after the camp concludes, Mishra said he is learning from the children as well as teaching them. For Reardon, the constant smiles on the faces of the children at the workshops "put things in perspective". She hopes to return next year.