A person who is happy does not hurt others. This was the thought behind The Summer Blossoms, a home run, social initiative to connect young children to positive experiences.
Summer Blossoms was founded by Priyasha Sharma, an engineer and designer by profession, who likes to call herself ‘a student for and of life’. A victim of sexual abuse, she also grew up in an emotionally and financially unstable home. Priyasha was looking for an answer to a daunting question – why do people hurt each other? And only after investing more than a decade in trying to understand it, did she realise the answer is ‘unhappiness within’.
And with this discovery, Summer Blossoms was born – to help lay the foundation of happiness. At its heart, Summer Blossoms hopes is an art movement that encourages communication with oneself. It is not just an art class, but attempts to do much more – to give students an environment where they can express themselves freely! In doing so it aims to create happier human beings for a better tomorrow, who will not hurt but care.
The Summer Blossoms started in Bengaluru with four children, and soon nine more followed. Most of the kids were between the age of 9-14 years from poorer families, who suffered physical and emotional abuse in their schools, localities, and even homes.
These children were prone to pick up dangerous habits. Theft was a common resort. But Summer Blossoms gave them a different world, even if for a few hours – a world where they were talking about everything from the birds and bees to rains and much more.
And they were not just talking, but also drawing, painting and creating new things – sometimes as part of an assignment, but many times just to express themselves. And all this in a completely non-judgmental environment, where there was no fear of failure or ridicule. These classes tried to do things that neither the school curriculum or their families were doing.
The Summer Blossoms’s approach is three pronged:
1. Building Technical skills: Introduction to tools and how to use them. For now the class is centers on drawing, painting and related art forms and techniques, studying various artists etc.
2. Observational Skills: Priyasha feels it is important to learn to observe – of course it helps when you are drawing or painting. But it can do much more – an observant person sees
not just the world outside, but also the world within; and this self-discovery is the starting point for life-long happiness, she says. For this purpose, students are asked to observe a wide gamut of things – patterns on leaves, songs of birds, structure of a flower, life of a honey bee, types of music.. the list is endless. They are also taken on nature walks or made to do custom activities at home for this purpose like make water holes for honey bees recently!
3. Inner Creativity: There is strong emphasis that children express themselves freely here. They are encouraged to explore and express their creative side. The conversations and exercises are also tailored to keep this objective in mind. Classes are always interesting with unexpected revelations – like one student aspired to be a ‘Don’ so that nobody could hurt him. His dream job has changed though and now he wants to be a painter.
Priyasha, with her husband Rutvid, ran these classes for one year out of a small room in their rented apartment house in Bangalore. After a year there were notable changes in the students. Kids who came to these classes with a negative bias towards other students opened up and developed a strong sense of camaraderie among each other.
One of the students, Parag (name changed) was a ten-year old bully (liked to call himself “Don”) of the street. He was involved in street violence, repeated thefts, and often bunked school. A child with a history of parental violence, Parag was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with affection. But after attending these classes, Parag started to change for the better.
From “I want to become a ‘Don'”, his ‘ambition’ changed to “I want to become a painter and paint with everyone”. For someone who was uncomfortable with a pat on the shoulders, he started to hug other students and even share his favourite food with them – potato chips which he made by the kilo!
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His confidence soared and he was able to beat box in front of a huge audience. His interest in painting increased and some of his paintings were exhibited at Chitra Kala Parishat, Bengaluru. They were hugely popular.
Another student Jessi (name changed), also 10 Years old, shed his religious bias after joining The Summer Blossoms and became friends with children from other faith – to the extent that he helped them in their studies as well. He even staged a protest at home against violent treatment towards him by his mother.
Children attending these classes also became more sensitive to their environment. Have a look at a 7 piece art installation completed by these young students by clicking here. Priyasha is in touch with some art schools to see if such talents can be honed better.
Priyasha and Summer Blossoms are a real-life example of how a positive difference to our society can be made with such basic tools and infrastructure. All we need is a will to contribute.
Priyasha and Rutvid have shifted to Bhuj, Gujarat, their home town, where they are working to implement this initiative at a larger level. If you are interested in starting such an initiative where you live and would like to get some advice, Priyasha will be happy to guide you. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to the Summer Blossoms community by clicking here.
By Richa Khetawat