I have always been a strong believer in the power of the youth. They are just the right age. Physically able to do the ‘heavy lifting’, and mentally able to think, understand and reason, while being still idealistic. They make the most ardent followers, vociferous advocates and literally ‘diehard’ supporters of any cause they are taught to believe in. It is little wonder therefore, that leaders (good and bad) have always recruited the youth to spearhead their movement. They are the ones who can change the world. I also believe the best way for them to make a difference is by achieving their true potential. So when I heard about GoodKids, and the work they do, I jumped at the opportunity to do my bit.

“Empowering youth, using performing arts”- Now that sounds like something I can get behind, I thought. It speaks to my belief in empowering the youth, and performing arts is a fun way to engage kids. To be honest, it also sounded like something I would enjoy doing every week.

However, what really gripped me was the name GoodKids. I thought, what does being good have to do with any of this? Only later I realized that the kids they work with are  those described as naughty or difficult or any of those other negative adjectives we quickly ascribe to kids, when they won’t do what we want them to. This made the cause even dearer to me. “We believe that every youth is a good kid, waiting to discover their strengths”, their website says… this sealed it for me.

During the GoodKids Train the Trainers, I had a clearer understanding of  what they meant exactly. I realized that the kids they work with, or the “at risk” youth are not necessarily those with guns, or in gangs (or on the verge of that), they are also the bullies and the bullied, the loudest and the quietest, or the ones acting up and being rude. They all have their own reasons for such behaviour. It is just a symptom of a deeper cause, it does not define who they are.

Hearing the passion and conviction in the voices of the founders, I realized that there’s more to the programme than fun. The performing arts provide a safe and fun platform for these kids to shed their inhibitions, and find themselves. It helps build their confidence and gives them the attention that they sometimes crave. It also creates an environment where more serious issues like bullying, harassment, abuse, online safety etc. can be addressed in a non-threatening way. The anecdotes they shared with us, almost brought me to tears. Any doubts I had were immediately erased after I attended my first class as a  trainer. A bigger bunch of misfits, I had not seen… they were wonderful. As the class progressed, I could see the difference already.

I thought about my schools days and Rita and Gauri (names changed), my classmates, sitting in the corner. Messy and rude always fighting with everyone and getting into trouble in every class.  I thought about what a difference it would have made to their lives if anyone had tried to understand why they were doing what they were doing. I can’t blame the teacher who had to manage a class of 60 students, but I wonder if they ever felt that Rita and Gauri  were good kids too. I can’t help them now, so I will try my best to do what I can for the kids I am training under GoodKids. It may not be much, but for now, I’m happy to be Cikgu Tilo.