By dancing and singing on mobile lorries that move across different parts of the city, the artistes, who work with Katradi, influence the lives of hundreds of marginalised communities.
Katradi is the brainchild of two social volunteers, Sangita Isvaran and Liz Haynes, who met at a youth camp in Ururkuppam a few years ago. Having worked on empathy-based transformation in 30 countries in five continents, the duo has a different vision for the marginalised sections of the society.
Addressing the needs and problems of communities like the underprivileged youth, natural disaster victims, religious/ethnic violence victims, sex workers and people with disabilities, Katradi has touched the lives of about 2000 youngsters in India and has designed a separate curriculum for each community. To bridge the gender gap between growing children and adolescents and to put an end to stereotyping, Katradi has chosen ‘Ultimate Frisbee’ as the tool!
Expounding more about how it works, Liz says, “It is just like a regular frisbee game. It’s new to kids — so no one is better at it than another. It is self-refereed so there is a built-in conflict resolution skills. There is also a unique post-game session called a Spirit Circle, in which, the kids discuss what they liked and disliked in the game. It opens up a dialogue on so many topics for us to educate them.”
In the same vein, Bharatanatyam, dance, singing and kattaikuttu (a rural theatre form) have also become vital tools.”
Adding why they are catalysts of change, the founders state, “Arts, sports and social transformation is a great combination. Some kids might like sports and some might like dance and theatre. When you offer art/dance, a lot of teen girls turn up, but not boys. If you offer sports, you’ll get a lot of boys turning up. We want activities where both boys and girls can participate together because, only by spending time together they become friends.”
When asked about the mobile lorry programme, also called as Lorry Lolakku, the founders share, “For every programme, we choose one community and make the lorry ready with art installations, photos and place ready to perform dance and music. Theatre artistes from Kanchipuram support us by performing kattaikuttu. Last year, when the team went to perform for the Korukkupet working children shelter home, we found that many young boys were affected by substance abuse. They worked in the garbage dump yards and were addicted to local drugs. Their health worsened, leaving a few of them speech impaired. Using kattaikuttu, we educated them through stories.”
Talking about the upcoming ventures, Sangita adds, “We are rolling out a three-month programme called Bridging the Gaps (BTG) Fellowship, in which, NGOs from across India can learn the course structure of BTG. We are bringing out a comic book series titled, Be Shameless. Owing to the shame involved, children don’t report sex abuse, adults don’t educate he youth on sex, and teens don’t learn about menstruation and nightfall and do not report symptoms of RTI/STI. Our comic book aims to teach Indian youth about the body, sex and sexuality without shame or fear.”