One more day well spent with children; 21 children and 12 adults that included volunteers and staff, visiting Kidzania a beautiful indoor theme park in Ghatkopar – R city Mall where children can experience adult jobs. There was only one goal – let’s make this day memorable for all the children.
After months of coordinating with Pradnya, we finalized the date, followed by running around for a week for permissions, finalizing the list of children, organizing the bus, and the snacks and the food. We were, finally, all set to experience Kidzania. A big thank you to Arti didi and the Wishing Well Foundation for sponsoring the bus and the food. Dongri being a closed home, it’s a big deal to take children out of Dongri and this would not have been possible without the support and trust of the superintendent and the Child welfare committee members.
Right from the time we left the Home, the children were very excited. The questions kept coming – “what will the place be like, “what will we do there”, “how much time will it take to reach”, where, how, who?
Every volunteer was in charge of 3-4 children. Bewildered, confused, mesmerized and excited, the children stared at the gigantic space, eyes beaming with joy. Even the volunteers and the staff were excited to experience this.
The manager at Kidzania and other staff were very co-operative and helped the children understand the concept and what they’d have to do inside. They were explained what a bank is and how they will get Kidzos – Kidzania’s currency – in exchange of a cheque. They made sure every child understood the concept. Children found it difficult to communicate in English and held themselves back at first.
At first, they were a bit lost as to where to go and what to start with. They were a bit hesitant since other children were speaking in English with the Kidzania staff, but they opened up after the first activity, wanting to explore more. The children only wanted to go to places where they would earn money. They were keen on saving money. One of the children told Mamta, “I want to keep some money and give it to my parents.” He was sad to know that Kidzos were of no use in the outside world.
Children were either busy making money or spending money but whatever be the case, everyone enjoyed it to the core. There was even a time when one child lost all his money, so a few children contributed money and enabled him to do the activity of his choice.
One 12-year-old saw so many children working and asked Ashutosh, “Bhaiya, there are many children working here. They are all also performing child labour, so why is no one arresting them and putting them in Dongri?”
After participating in activities like dancing, cooking and learning about mechanical engineering, the kids were confident and motivated to learn more. It was their world and they were free to make decisions for themselves. Children experienced being dabbawalas, courier – boys, chefs, drivers, doctors, factory workers, firefighters and pilots, among others things. The children enjoyed all the activities – no job was superior or inferior – and they bonded with each other.
The children enjoyed activities that kept them moving rather than sedentary ones. Some enjoyed dancing at Shiamak Davar’s dance academy and their subsequent stage performance in front of a live audience at the Kidzania theater, while others loved getting themselves a license to drive a car. After a point, the volunteers and the staff also became children and participated.
Staff members were really happy. At the end of the day, a bond had formed between the children, staff members, and volunteers. For volunteers, it was an eye-opener to see the children in an open space where they could express themselves and raise some questions. Kidzania does give children the experience of a city and gives them a taste of financial literacy. Some volunteers were left with questions like “Should big brands, fast food and modern work culture be reinforced in these theme parks? Are we, as volunteers, making them conform or are we offering children tools that will enable them to make choices as they proceed? Should we be thinking on their behalf at all?”
All in all, for the kids what mattered the most, was a day full of fun and masti out of the four walls of the children’s home.