Project Muskurahat India 2009
CWB will travel to India in December 2009 to work and clown with children and adults affected by HIV/AIDS, street children and children with limited access to education from tribal areas in the state of Maharashtra.
Project Muskurahat – India
Volunteers: Gulshirin Dubash (CWB-USA, Project Manager – India), Malin Ohrn (CWB-Sweden), Helga Rosenfeldt-Olsen (CWB-USA)
Clowns Without Border’s Project Muskurahat (India) traveled to India in December 2009 to work and clown with three different populations. First the group will focus on children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. India has 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS. India is the country with the second highest incidence of HIV in the world, having an estimated 220,000 children infected by HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that 55,000 to 60,000 children are born every year to mothers who are HIV positive. Without treatment, these newborns stand an estimated 30% chance of becoming infected during the mother’s pregnancy, labor or through breastfeeding after six months. There is effective treatment available, but this is not reaching all women and children who need it. Project Muskurahat aims to work with grass roots NGOs in both rural and urban areas where HIV/AIDS care and amenities are not as widely available to this demographic.
The group also worked with children who live on the streets and children of migrant workers: With an estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations (2001 Census), for instance, India has the largest number of child laborers under the age of 14 in the world. Today there are several ngos that work with these high-risk children in order to bring to them or send them to schools or day care facilities where they are out of harm’s way.
The group also worked with children living in tribal areas and within tribal populations: According to a recent survey/census, there are approximately 70 tribals in the state of Maharashtra (where Mumbai is situated). These tribe, being nomadic, have limited access to education for their children and themselves with regard to a traditional education but also to do with sanitation, hygiene, disease prevention and jobs.
The Project will hold performances and workshops for these different communities.
Week 1: work with CCDT– in Mumbai area
So many hours we have spent in this car. With colours, traffic and lives – thousands of lives passing by. With the sounds of millions of horns – going through the wild chaotic city Mumbai. Navigating back and forth on the highway between five imaginary lanes of Rickshaws, people, motorcycles, slow trucks, cars, buses and cows. We spent at least 27 hours in that car those five first days of shows around the Mumbai area…
- Many great moments shared in that car.
- Many thoughts thought.
- Much laughter.
- Many moments of silence – from reflection – from experiencing the lives of the people we laugh with in the moments of the show.
Khandivalli – Center for boys!
One of the days we did a show in Khandivalli – a few hours outside of Mumbai. After a long drive we arrived at a small center, on the top of some mountains. This is the home of about 20 boys. They move out there when they are older, from the city center we visited earlier in the week. It was beautiful and so peaceful out here, after all the slum areas. We went for a walk with some of the boys and saw a waterfall. The boys were great, they played a lot along during the show. Afterwards they showed us a coreography – with so much enthusiasm and energy that one could not help just laughing with them.
We have just finished a show, I am sweaty and itchy – as I scratch my arm I see the colour of my skin appearing from layers and layers of dust and dirt. Before this show, which was for slumkids in the Andheri area, we went and peed in a woman’s kitchen – just there in the middle of the floor – and she was honored that we peed in there. We stayed with Gulshirins family – and this day it is Friday – so we have time to clean the clothes before we leave for a week i n Pune. Caitu – the great woman who does our laundry is shocked: “Which century did you guys wash your clothes in” is the only thing she can say while the black water is pouring out of the washing machine…
Week 2: work with Deep Griha – Pune
City of Child
We went out to City of Child – a home for destitute women and children – enabling them to focus on the future. We came to this beautiful peaceful center, some of the boys were running around – curious. We went to a couple of schools in the area – where the boys also goes. After the last show I walked home with a couple of the boys. It was great to spend time with them. In the evening we were introduced to the Indian (very violent) game KABADI. And what a game – I am not sure I remember the rules, but I remember: RUNNING, grabbing people. I remember having to cross a line and suddenly you are surrounded by 15 crazy kids – and you have to scream Kabadi all the time – Oh what an evening!
The Christmas present
We did a show on the last Friday before the children went off on Christmas holiday (Deep Griha is a christian organisation, so they have a holiday around Christmas). The teacher at the school had prepared a little celebration, and after the show the kids got some sweets and a little present: stickers, a pencil or erasers. Some of the boys went in the bus with us to be dropped of somewhere around the area. The joy over receiving these presents were amazing the observe in the bus, they would sit and watch each others present, switch around, and switch back again so they all tried to own the different things. I was really baffled, made one think about how Christmas can be at home…
Week 3: work with Quest-Thane
One day we took the car out to Thane district. It was a long drive, but beautiful once we came out of Mumbai chaos! We drove through small small roads that just kept unfolding unfolding deeper and deeper into the forest area. We went to visit Quest in Sonale Village where we did three shows for seven different schools. Quest works with tribal kids. When we would pass people on the way they would just stop in the middle of an activity – and stand there with an open mouth and see these weird people in clown make up drive by. It is interesting to see the difference between these village kids – where the slum kids are in our faces, screaming the whole time, fighting to get to touch us – these kids were so calm, and a little afraid of these huge white giants. Nitin – who started Quest 3 years ago told us about how living in the nature, with the nature, make the children more calm beings.
Check out Malin’s blog
The principal local partners are: Quest India, Deep Griha and Mobile Creches.
For further information, please contact Gulshirin Dubash (Project Manager) at email@example.com
Check out an article published on January 12, 2009 in the Indian Express. On A Laugh Riot