By: Matthew Barwick
I arrived in Jamkhed from the UK to begin a six-month internship in videography with CRHP. My arrival coincided with that of Kate Landuyt, the founder of the CRHP Joyful Learning Preschool. With Kate staying on the CRHP campus for around three weeks, it made sense to begin my work with a short film about the preschool, tapping into her knowledge and enthusiasm for the school. I spent the next month making regular trips to Indiranagar, the neighboring slum community from which the 50 or so pupils of the preschool come. On several occasions, I accompanied Mina, the school teacher, and Kate to collect the children before bringing them to the school. The conditions of the slum were in stark contrast to the vibrant, caring environment of the school; the children were clearly so happy and at ease during their lessons.
The story of one of the pupils left a lasting impression on me and encapsulates the impact that Joyful Learning is having. Kate and Mina shared the story of a four-year-old girl named Renuka who originally came from a neighborhood outside the school’s catchment area. After her mother died, Renuka and her siblings were brought to her aunt’s house in Indiranagar. Along with the aunt’s four children of her own, she was now responsible for eight children; being an extremely poor family, living on earnings from day-to-day labor, this now put a huge strain on the family. When Kate first encountered Renuka, she was clearly ostracised from the other children, seeking shade behind a wall in 45C heat and being cared for by her six-year-old elder sister. As Renuka is a special needs child, the family made clear to Kate that she was considered an unwanted burden and received little in the way of affection or care.
After much effort, Kate and Mina convinced the family to allow Renuka to begin attending the school. Since then, Renuka’s transformation in her health, happiness and confidence has been profound. Initially presumed mute, Renuka is now making sounds, and with two healthy meals each day, a creative, loving environment, and interaction with the other children and attentive teachers, she’s now developing well. Visitors to the Joyful Learning preschool are always moved by seeing her smile, and learning how far she’s come in such a short time is a testament to the school’s success.
Renuka’s story is featured in the short film I produced about the preschool which is now online. As a filmmaker, it can be easy to distance yourself from your subject, but having been a teacher myself, it was easy to empathise with the Joyful Learning philosophy. Overall, it was really rewarding to produce the film with the children and Mina. My hope now is that the film can be used to promote the incredible work the school is doing and help raise funds to secure its continuing investment in the lives of these children.