The Summer Magic Camp 2018


The Summer Magic Camp 2018 that concluded on 29 May with great gaiety and warmth highlighted the innovative approach and dedicated service of the S3 Mentors and the nine children who worked enthusiastically even on Sundays and other holidays to fulfill their dreams.

This year was a more focused and better targeted programme that yielded more tangible results. To make the program more successful, we collaborated with Shanthi Ashram who have been in this field for many years and who form the foundation for some very interesting projects. Combined with our own innovative ideas it culminated in an exciting and meaningful programme that benefited not only the children but also provided us with the great satisfaction that we had done something really worthwhile.

English Speaking Module/Learning Hub

A major achievement was the induction of four of our staff children into the English Speaking Module or the Learning Hub at Shanthi Ashram.  Dr Vinu Aram, President, Shanthi Ashram in accepting our students opened the doors to their future. The children selected were: Harish Sivakumar; Suhitha Shanmugam; Athikarasudalai Thangatandi and Ponmani Thangatandi.

All of them completed the course successfully with Athikarasudalai coming second among 31 high achievers and qualifying for a trophy for excellent all round performance.  

Shanthi Ashram organized a graduation ceremony later during the week where all participants of the Learning Hub were given Certificates and a medal for completing the course and the outstanding students were presented with trophies.  The mothers of some of the students also attended and spoke with emotion about their experience. The chief guests were eminent people such as Ms. Jayanti Manohar, 27th Chairperson of FICCI, Coimbatore Chapter, a Rotarian and senior doctors.

Sponsor My Spellings

With the conviction that the foundation of speaking in English needs the cementing force of spellings involving vowels, double consonants, blends, diagraphs and verbs (past, present and future) the dedicated Mentors took private tuitions for an hour every day including Sundays for nearly a month. Last year’s Summer Camp saw the children running a “Sandhai” or market place with the profits going into their bank accounts. This year saw their knowledge being rewarded with cash prizes for performing well in the spelling and composition tests. The money will also be deposited into their bank accounts.

The full day of tests in 7 sessions of 45 minutes each with a break of 15 minutes and a lunch break gave them a taste of similar exams that they may have to face in future. Some of the donors volunteered to be examiners. The atmosphere was electric with the students writing away furiously, handing in their papers and reassembling for another paper.  There was suspense before the results were announced and happy faces with the receipt of awards ranging from Rs 500 to 150 depending on the marks scored.

Visit to the Gandhi Museum

Many of the present generation do not fully realize or understand the significance or the sacrifices made during our struggle for Independence. Not because they are not interested but because our schools and many parents or elders do not take the time or effort to teach them. Lives of many of the patriots remain just a name to be memorized from the history book. We attempted to bridge that gap.

Our visit to the Gandhi Museum (I did not even know of its existence) was thrilling and an eye opener. The walls of the two large halls were covered with photographs of the events in the Mahatma’s life with captions in English and Tamil explaining the incident in detail. The chronological picture story carried us right through the historical period bringing it to life. Of special interest to the children were the personal objects of Gandhiji like the bowl and plate he used in the prison etc.

The children were allowed 25 minutes to wander around and read or note down what interested them. Not immediately, but at the end of the day there was a quiz on all that they had seen or read and it was amazing to find that a large number of children answered correctly and with enthusiasm. I was surprised that they had absorbed so much of the Mahatma’s life in just browsing around the halls.

We also saw the visually impaired and people with disabilities, gainfully employed in making envelopes, phenoyl, liquid soap and agarbattis. Some of them travel long distance, changing three buses to come to work and go back to their homes where they have supportive families.  The opportunity to earn for themselves gives them a feeling of independence and self worth which is so essential in life. We and the children were inspired to see them cope with their difficulties so cheerfully.

Qualified doctors and therapists spoke to us about the dangers of addiction to liquor and the work of the de-addiction programme conducted there. All the children listened with rapt attention and asked very pertinent questions that implied that they were aware of the problem, maybe in their own family or among families of friends.  This was a highly useful session in the lives of children at a vulnerable, developing stage.

They all received a lunch pack of vegetable Burgers from Burger King which met with an uproarious welcome as this was a treat that was not very common. Even the drive from Pachapalayam to Singanallur was full of noise and merriment. The rare treat of travelling with friends in an air-conditioned bus resulted in total unrestrained joy. For nearly 30 minutes I could not hear even one moment of silence. There were only whistles, songs, shouting and clapping –making me feel young again.

Shramdhaan at Perur

The Shanthi Ahsram facilitated a Shramdaan at Perur Temple where children from Pachapalayam and Shanthi Ashram, accompanied by S3 Covai staff and some residents were allowed to clean the premises of the Perur Temple. Armed with buckets, brooms, cloth etc there was a brisk, thorough and very enjoyable two hour session of giving the ancient temple a “facial”. It was obviously a pleasure judging by the laughter and banter among the children. The residents and staff too worked vigorously; exchanging jokes and views; thinking of what more could be done; lamenting the total lack of civic sense and pride in our own culture and at times standing mutely in awe and admiration of the beautiful sculptures. It was a matter of special pride to us that Edwin was there wielding a very long broom and clearing the cobwebs from the top. 

Some rare photos were taken inside the temple — rare because photographs are not allowed under normal circumstance. A senior volunteer from Shanthi Ashram gave us and the children an interesting account of the Ashram’s history. We then had a special darshan from just outside the Garba Graha followed by a trip to a place very close to the Temple to see the three Urns and Kalasams that are said to have a little of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi, Kamaraj and Jai Prakash Narayan. While it was exciting to see a slice of history before us, we were shocked to see the deplorable condition of the place. Set in the middle of nowhere, under a tree and wide open to vandalism stood the three cement structures painted in national colours. Forlorn and surrounded by a carpet of faded leaves, it cried out for some care and attention, in some ways reflecting the plight of our country today. 

Concluding ceremony

After some intense coaching and practice the children were ready for the Concluding ceremony.  A selection of Shanthi Ashram children participated in a very colourful and moving programme. Beginning with Sarva Dharma prayers, the evening provided entertainment and food for thought in equal measure. A powerful mime on Aids and its dangers was brilliantly enacted by the Shanthi Ashram students.

The four students who attended the Learning Hub gave their views followed by a panel discussion by all nine children on the different aspects of the Summer Camp and how it had benefitted them.

Mr. Vijayaraghavan of the Shanthi Ashram spoke about his experiences of working with Covai Care Mentors and children. Raji Subbarayan who played a major role in the collaboration spoke about the positive outcome of the camp.

Two parents expressed their gratitude for the opportunity given to the children. Adhikarasudalai deserves special mention for his flawless role as Master of Ceremonies. He conducted the proceedings with confidence, creditable indeed since it was his first exposure to a large audience.

Other notable features of the collaboration are:-

  • We are trying to get Suhitha a school topper scholarship through the Indian Poverty Solution. This will most likely come through.
  • Adhikarasudalai has been selected to be part of the MC team to celebrate Coimbatore Peace Day August 6th.
  • Eye tests have been conducted for the four children who attended the Learning Hub program. Two were prescribed glasses. The glasses were given free.
  • Sanjay and Ajay, children of a single parent, qualified for the Bal Shanthi scholarship. This will support them as the parent requested, till college. If the children do well and enroll in the Youth leadership program and contribute to society by being a volunteer, the support may continue.

The success of the Summer Camp was visible in the newly acquired confidence of the children, their eagerness to speak in English and perform in front of a big audience. Their social skills and awareness were very much improved and they looked forward to participating in future camps. They displayed keen interest in future ventures. This will hopefully kindle the aspirations of other parents so that we have more children next year.

A source of happiness was that many of our residents came forward to support the camp and this helped us to fund all the expenses and have enough left over to buy one set of uniforms for all the nine children.

We also appreciate the spontaneous and generous support from Colonel A Sridharan, VSM, Mr. Srikumar, Mr. Prajosh and the full Covai Care team. The S3 team headed by Mr. Edwin, the members in the office and outside ensured that everything went off smoothly.  

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