Rashmi is, among other things, an educator providing training to teachers in affordable private schools. She was looking for a meaningful community service opportunity for her son, Nikhil who is in high school. When she heard about Positive Strokes, the educator in her quickly flew into action and she asked if we could organize an activity for Nikhil and some of the students from the schools she worked with.
Saturday, August 29, 2015. 10 AM. 11 children, 5 educators and I gathered at the TMC. Most of the children were from Little Flower School, an Affordable Private School (APS). An APS is a private school that charges a small tuition fee which a low income family can afford. APS’ offer an alternative to government schools. Many of these students were children of auto and cab drivers in the city.
These 14 to 17 year old boys and girls came wide eyed into the TMC accompanied by their teachers. Speaking in barely audible voices, they seemed reserved and afraid to introduce themselves or answer the questions we asked them in an attempt to draw them out.
Dr. Sudhakar Varanasi, the founder of the 108 ambulance emergency response system began the interaction by speaking to the children. He told them about how they had the potential to save lives by calling an ambulance if they happened to witness an emergency anywhere – on the road or in their homes or schools.
With a little bit of encouragement and some gentle goading, they slowly opened up. Soon the orientation seemed more like a conversation with the students, discussing the benefits of using bicycles instead of motorized vehicles – better health, less pollution, less congestion and even reduced dependence on fossil fuels. While interacting with them, we got glimpses into some behaviors that were common, expected and probably even accepted by this group of road users – driving without a license, driving under the influence of alcohol etc. Unavailability of footpaths and/or not being able to use footpaths for walking came up as a major hardship.
The idea of looking for and rewarding good road behavior was quite new and appealing to them and their concerns on hearing about the reward certificates and bumper stickers were genuine. One boy said that there were many illiterate people who may not understand the value of a reward certificate signed by the Traffic Police Commissioner and by Rahul Dravid. We talked about ways to alleviate this problem through increased awareness and more program champions. We also brainstormed some other reward ideas.
These students captured about 20 good behaviors using the TMC traffic cameras. They left knowing a few new facts that they didn’t know before such as when and how to use the 108 ambulance help line, how traffic in the city has grown in the past 15 years. They also now know that there are traffic cameras capable of watching movements all over the city.
The students promised to tell others around them about what they had learned, have a school assembly to pass the message on to others in their school. They are looking forward to organizing and taking part in a Positive Strokes Junction event near their school.
Kudos to Rashmi & Nikhil – our latest Positive Strokes Champions!!