In Kankia, a remote village in Odisha’s Ganjam district, underprivileged children paint their canvas of imagination through Kal panadham, a creativity lab. The innovative venture was started by Shalini Krishnan as part of State Bank of India’s Youth For India Fellow 2014-15 programme.
Krishnan, a post-graduate from Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design, conceptualised and established Kalpanadham to provide a space for creative outlet to students and open a window of opportunities for them.
“After spending some time in this residential school started by NGO Gram Vikas, I felt the children had immense creative potential. They were so good in fine arts, sculpting, modelling, music and dance, but the school did not have a platform to nurture this talent,” says the 33-year-old, who worked in MNCs but quit to work for underprivileged communities.
“Creativity had no importance in the school apart from the children making random paintings for the board outside the principal’s office, during festivals or making greeting cards. There was no enthusiasm among teachers. Creativity and the idea that art is much larger than merely drawing or painting needed to be brought in,” says Krishnan.
Funds were an issue, but Krishnan also ran wishlist campaigns with Amazon and crowd-funded money through online campaigns for Kalpanadham. Her family, friends and ex-colleagues also pitched in. She raised Rs 2.82 lakh, which is acting as a seed fund for initial infrastructure development of Kalpanadham and for workshops, exposure trips, fulfilling material requirements, etc.
Kalpanadham is also working towards creating an ecosystem through which children can be exposed to robotics, fine arts, creating out of junk, building science concept models, etc. “I organised exposure trips and workshops to Raghurajpur Crafts Village in Puri, a wall mural painting workshop and a paper sculpture workshop by international artists. Dance and robotics workshops go a long way in shaping the children’s sensibilities,” she says.
About 15 regular and 15 irregular students use the Kalpanadham premises for activities of their interest. In monthly workshops, 30-50 students participate.
“As this endeavour is interest and passion-driven, a child’s voluntary initiative is encouraged. I try to involve as many girls in these workshops,” she says.
Krishnan feels that once the children understand the concepts of creative problem-solving as they live under constant constraints of resources and funds, their emotional, social, leadership and entrepreneurial skills can be developed. “It is imperative to have strong alternative education systems as standardised education systems have not helped bring about the required transformation,” says Krishnan, who grew up in Delhi.
She chose Odisha as her place of work to understand and experience what it’s like to be in India’s poorest state. After her exit from the programme, she expects the school community to take forward Kalpanadham’s activities.