A new year, new school session, but the inertia caused by the loooong summer break was not easy to shake off. My mother found a perfect way to get us in the swing of things, before the busyness around school work kicked in.
She registered my sister and myself for a weekend of workshops. The Global Organisation for Divinity (G.O.D) Australia had organised a fun-filled weekend for children, pre-teens and teenagers at Dundas Community Centre, Telopea. A workshop on Mindfulness and Building Resilience on 17 Feb was followed by an Eco Art Fest program on 18 Feb. I attended the workshop as a participant and was a facilitator at the Art Fest.
Let’s start with the mindfulness workshop. I was apprehensive of the dry solemnity of the topic. The formal registration, name stickers and seating arrangement added to my unease. I felt slightly better when I saw a few familiar faces from the Life Enrichment Program, Gopakuteeram. The young adult facilitators of the Youth Group did not waste any time and we were soon on our feet playing a rather interesting game called Bip Bop Bang. It was the perfect icebreaker and soon all of us were laughing and involved. Now that we were in a receptive mode, we started conversing about our thoughts and how our thoughts play such an important role in our everyday lives, learning capacity and capabilities. Without even realising, we were discussing about positive thoughts, effect of technology, gadgets and social media on our thoughts.
We seem to be doing things on auto-pilot. It was rather scary to know how our brain slows down with information overload and no longer processes meaningful information the way it should for learning to happen.
Very cleverly and seamlessly, we were taken into the session on mindfulness. Simple breathing techniques were taught to help us reconnect with our core. I am practising these every day to become mindful and not mind full!
After the session on mindfulness, we were primed up and ready for the workshop on building resilience. This was facilitated by Dr Janani Vasudevan, Event Architect for G.O.D India for youth programs, who was visiting Australia. The workshop started on a serious note, but soon became involving when we did roleplays in pairs on everyday situations between our parents and us. The idea was to drive home the point of differentiation between responding and reacting; attempting to listen to our conscience and reduce the noise around us; and leaving excuses and making choices. This reminded me of the stereotypical situation of ‘the dog ate my homework.’ I enjoyed the contents of the workshop and was impressed by the delivery of the program by Dr Vasudevan.
The purpose of the Eco Art Fest program was to create awareness of the implications of climate change for humanity and to inspire children and youth. I am fascinated by the topic of human effect on climate change as there is so much discussion and scepticism around it. Either way we are affected by it!
I am not an arts person, so I decided to join as a facilitator for a group of younger children. Children from pre-school to Year 12 were divided into four groups. Students in various groups learnt about the damage to sea creatures due to human pollution and intervention, especially to the habitat of the Great Barrier Reef, the alarming ill-effects of deforestation and the need to plant more trees. I felt very responsible, talking to the younger audience about seasons and climate change. The timer on my phone stopped me from getting carried away. The older children discussed how every purchase, every movement and every bite we take has a carbon footprint that comes with it.
The two youngest groups tried to understand the jargon but they were itching to get to work – colouring-in and creating their collage masterpieces. I was amused by some of the colouring-in sheets and collages, whilst others were pure reflection of attention to detail and meticulous handiwork. Some of the poster art brought out the deep thinking in my younger peers. I was in awe!
The senior students presented their thoughts on climate change and the simple yet effective solutions, in the form of a rap song, drama and public speaking. All this in a preparation time of only 40 minutes. Young parliamentarians in the making, or what?!!
On the formal side of the day’s events, Dr Phil Bradley and Sameer Pandey, Councillors from Parramatta City Council, were the chief guests for this program. Both the Councillors expressed their happiness about G.O.D Australia organising such programs for children and youth and recognised the need for discussion to continue at all levels.
All participants received an eco pot with soil and seeds for them to grow at home. My sister’s plant is already 7” tall!