“Who am I”: Leadership Workshop with VILP Girls in India

Much has happened in the Verizon Innovative Learning Program (VILP) in last two months, including a few initial milestones. The teachers’ workshop was completed in Chennai, and 200 girls have been selected for the program. The girls were chosen based on their motivations and interest in the program and their economic and educational vulnerability. It surely is a matter of pride and responsibility for these girls as they embark on their journey with us. We are very excited!

April was a busy month for the VILP team. We organized two events to present program details to our stakeholders, which included the Verizon team, school principals, teachers, selected students, parents, government departments, educators, and NGOs. The Verizon volunteers, who will mentor the girls in coming months, met with some of the girls and began planning the mentoring process. It was a joyous moment for all involved to see everything coming together and moving forward with such positive energy.

Right now, I am on my flight back from Chennai after concluding the first leadership workshop for 20 girls at TVR Girls Higher Secondary School, Avvai Home. The workshop was held the day after summer vacation, but teachers were delighted to unlock the schools for us. We moved heavy chairs and desks to make space on the classroom floor. We brought bed sheets from the school hostel and a pot of drinking water to beat the 104-degree heat. Very soon the room was chirping with students giggling and shying away, hand in hand with their friends—some naughty looking, some confident, some quiet, and some very talkative.

The workshop began on a spiritual note with a school prayer. Soon the girls submerged themselves in “who am I” sessions with various games and exercises for self-exploration. These activities challenged their assumptions, showed them different points of view, and taught them to solve problems by thinking creatively. On the final day, sessions focused on skill building, team building, and communication. Group dynamics were interesting to observe and facilitate as the girls transitioned from “who am I” sessions to “from me to we.” The girls were visibly more vocal, participative, reflective, and inquisitive by the end of the workshop. The action-packed two days ended with a reflective discussion about their goals, passions, achievements, challenges, and support. They promised to keep journals and to work on at least one barrier in their personal lives during summer vacation.

The VILP team will conduct similar workshops with the other 180 girls in the next two months. We hope these experiences will be just as inspiring.