The journey started with questioning a simple childhood memory—
Why wasn’t I allowed to play with street children?
and it led this investment banker to plunge into the area of childhood development. After an extensive research lasting a few years, in 1999, Vishal Talreja co-founded Dream A Dream.
A Bengaluru-based non-profit, it focuses on empowering children from vulnerable, at-risk backgrounds with life skills that are critical to constructively engage with the world, make healthy choices and flourish. Vishal’s approach is conducting after-school sessions utilising the medium of sports and arts, and imparted by teachers who have undergone Dream A Dream’s researched and tested teacher development programme. This is further topped up by career awareness workshops. Today, its programmes are impacting the lives of over 60,000 children each year.
Dream A Dream is about empowering young people to take charge of their lives, take risks and negotiate. I began to wonder how they will be able to do that unless my facilitators believe in themselves to do the same. If my facilitators don’t have the right life skills to resolve a conflict with integrity, how can they empower these children from at-risk backgrounds to make healthy choices? And, we are talking about impacting 60,000 children every year.
So, in 2009, the realisation set in that a restructuring was required if the organisation needed to deepen its impact as well as scale. The process lasted almost 18 months. In the new Dream A Dream, this is what was different –
How did this restructuring help? Vishal says,
Since employees are living these values, they are able to role-model the same culture into a classroom session with 30 children. The relationship is no longer of authority, but one based on equal footing and negotiation, which come from a space of dignity. It’s dialogue, essentially.
In 2014, in an impact assessment on 3,081 children, the organisation found out that 78.84 percent of the children displayed positive improvements across five areas – interacting with others, overcoming difficulties and solving problems, taking initiative, managing conflict, understanding and following instructions.
Dream A Dream has now embarked on a mission to impact 2.5 lakh young people by the end of 2016. And with the right team and life-skills in place, there is little doubt about them accomplishing that.
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