At first, all youth were happy on the multi-dimensional outreach we made with season II. All credits went to social marketing effort where youth did not sleep well since April. All of them had put 100% of their time to produce, edit and promote Child Soldier film from mid August 2012 to Mid April 2013. They even skipped new year celebrations in April. What a commitment! I am lucky to be their educator. When everyone was given the opportunity to express their take away from AYV, we had real stories coming in. Each youth had developed their social capital through AYV. They got respect from peers, parents and teachers and finally from the nation for their creations. Among them was a special story of a youth touched my heart, as we had enabled change of his life from streets to a global recognition.
I saw him collaborating well within the group. Over a period he developed exceptional technical skills. For all youth he was the techie. One day, I accidentally saw him on street with an another group of boys. They looked like getting ready to do something. There were at least 20-30 boys from two schools. It was a big match day. Fun as well as gang fights were usual. I knew, a big fight to come! He was the one who was leading.
Then only I knew that he was a gang leader. I observed from distance. He did not see me. Police interfered and cleared the crowed. After a week from the incident, he came to AYV session again. That day I changed my day's topic from social issues to personal issues. I asked everyone to "Why youth fight?", Everyone expressed! The common understanding created was that gang fights were a major issue among youth in the city. After the discussion we did a graphic design exercise. "Youth TALK, Don't Fight" project idea was born that day. During next two week the youth did many creatives expressing their voices on gang fighting in the city. I think it helped Mitun to re-think the kind of life he was living.
After 3 weeks, I had a chat with Mithun on the issue. He comes from a good middle class family. At home he lacked respect from family members. Being the youngest son he had no voice. His father was a prison officer. He had been very strict and tough on him from childhood. He broke every rule at home when ever possible. He learned martial arts and developed a flair for fighting. He found streets fights as way to gain respect from peers.
I told my students creating media is the best way to earn respect. We discussed about great creators from Lianado Davinci to William Shakespeare, Stephan King to Spielberg. They all earned respect by creating something that people enjoyed.
Our AYV program was run as a drop-in program. I provided material on facebook, google group and on my creative youth blog to engage them in e learning. Some of my of sessions conducted with only 2-3 members attending. Youth stayed back due to rain, exams, family trips or some other reasons. Mithun was the only youth who never stayed back. He took part in every session and did whole lot of collaborative learning with peers. He found AYV as a place to learn and create. He learned fast and learned to lead the team. He got out from fights in streets. He started spending more time in YES AYV project. He collaborated with Mayor, officials of the city and other stakeholders in implementing YES project activities that ranged from Environmental Photography, Volunteer work, youth event media coverage and leadership adventures Soon, he became one of the most respected youth in the YES group and city circles.
One day, Mithun approched me and asked my advice as he had difficulty in Chemistry. I advised him to choose ICT for his major. He had only 7 months to prepare for high school final exam. He had difficulty in convincing his school principal, teachers and parents for changing his major to ICT from Chemistry. I helped him to be courageous and to start a meaningful conversation with his parents and teachers. He won! They permitted him to take ICT as major. Since them he became highly energized. He was doing what he liked most "Creative Media & ICT". He took the challenge to complete a 2 year ICT course with in 7 months. I was his ICT teacher. I prepared whole set of lecture notes and conducted a weekly class for four such youth. The blog I created to teach them is #1 in google ranking for keyword "AL ICT" with over 102,000 page views in an year. His quest for ICT inspired me to serve many other youth whom I even haven't met.
He worked hard and became one of my best students. He became a top leader in YES group. Everyone respected him. After his high school exams, he joined Poornima and Wajira the other two leaders in YES. The trio formed and lead the YES film crew to produce Child Soldier short film. It was their dream AYV project to win an Aspire Award before they become creative professionals.
Since then up to now, "Child Soldier" film was his life. He was such a contributor that we could not keep him out from the story to story boarding, selecting and buying cameras, making prompts and art direction. During 20 day production he headed the camera team and also acted in the main role. When editing he never left editing process. He was there live and active, day and night, living every moment of the child soldier short film making process. Now, he is on his way to become a cinematographer. Good thing was that his parents were very supportive now. They respect him in family as a grown-up boy.
His good news came after good news. He passed AL ICT and selected by Adobe to take part in AYV summit 2013. This August, he is going to Santa Clara University, USA, with his colleague who brought him to YES project. He has got a two year job in "Digital Rainbow" youth development project funded by UNDEF, Microsoft and World Bank. In Digital Rainbow project, He shall work with YES Team to help train 1000 youth in social media creation and produce 10 short films on social issues. During next two years, Shilpa Sayura Foundation shall support his education endures. The skills gained as a teen in AYV, helped him becoming an entry level, young professional who is employable. Two years in YES and AYV, helped his transformation from a street gangster to a young Cinematographer.
His shall receive training to become a AYV educator in this year and a potential board member of YES Films social enterprise to be formed by Digital Rainbow.
His and His Team's biggest achievement is Child Soldier short film. They want to initiate "YES film project" to make Child Soldier 90m movie. Their project idea now among 6 finalists of Adobe Aspire Award UNICEF Challenge. They ran a very good social marketing campaign, connecting with local, regional, national and international social networks. They were featured in news papers and national TV. They connected with people in a special way with their creation Child Soldier. They gained support of industry professionals and influencial networks. When voting ended they were leading in audience votes. Probably they would win the challenge too. Then a new story of Mithun and his team would begin!
YES and AYV has helped many youth like Mithun to find an alternative space of learning. AYV created new meaning to their talents. They were able to develop their technical, creative and media skills by creating with a purpose. They were able to showcase their talents to peers, parents and teachers. It would have not been possible in existing education system they were stuck in as failures. They went through life transforming experiences in YES and AYV. The creative process changed their life for good. Now they are on a road to the aspire, a journey started from streets, but running to the global.
What more? I am their happy AYV educator!
AYV Lead Educator/Ashoka Fellow
Shilpa Sayura Foundation