A New Generation of Coders….The Better India

Filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan is using PCs and online tutorials to create a new generation of coders in India’s largest slum, Dharavi.

The skyline of Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, is dotted with scores of buildings that soar towards the sky in a display of ambition as unbridled as that of its residents. These towering skyscrapers dwarf the stout structures of Dharavi, located at the heart of the city.

Spread over 500 acres, this slum is home to countless migrant workers who made their way to Mumbai in search of a better life. Filled chock-a-block with shanties, Dharavi offers its residents little by way of quality living.

Over the last two and a half years, however, a digital revolution has been sweeping through the narrow by-lanes of this slum, as its children discover the world of PCs, all thanks to filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan.

FROM DOCUMENTING LIFE TO CHANGING IT
Nawneet Ranjan
“For me, Dharavi is a mini-India. People from across the country live there, and it is a truly dynamic community,” said 36-year-old Ranjan.

In 2012, Ranjan set out to capture the life of this community in his documentary, Dharavi Diary.

“The documentary was well received but the community did not benefit from it as much as I had hoped,” recalled Ranjan.

In 2014, driven by a desire to make a difference in the lives of the residents of Dharavi, Ranjan quit his job in the US and moved to Mumbai.

A NEW YEAR AND A NEW BEGINNING

“I was a professor at an arts university in San Francisco. During my time there, I designed a course called ‘Stories for Change,’ where I used storytelling, theatre and technology to make learning more fun and engaging,” he said.
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Ranjan decided to put his rich teaching experience to use in Dharavi:

“While making Dharavi Diary, I realised that the people here were extremely driven, despite the fact that the environment they were living in was not particularly conducive to their growth. I discovered that the only things they lacked were resources and guidance.”
The Slum Innovation Project was Ranjan’s way of bridging this gap.

The Project engages children through an afterschool programme that adopts a hands-on approach to learning and lays particular emphasis on contextual learning. Open to children from the ages of 6 to 18, the Project is meant to complement formal education and create awareness about social issues.

“Our methodology not only ensures that learning is interactive and fun, but that the process of learning leads to the development of problem solving skills and critical thinking. This, in turn, leads to the creation of change-makers at the grassroots level who are willing to look at the bigger picture and tackle community problems using technology,” Ranjan elaborated.
In January 2014, Ranjan set up a one-room centre in Dharavi to teach children English, science, mathematics and arts. He started with 15 students.

Within a month, the increasing importance of PCs in all aspects of life pushed him to introduce the subject in the centre: “Computers offer students unlimited access to information; they are an essential element of learning. Knowledge of how to operate a PC is also perceived as a sign of progress,” he explained.

“The children would also talk about how they would often see people on TV using computers and how, every time they passed a store selling electronic items, they would press their faces against the window, staring at the items and wondering if they would ever get to use them,” Ranjan said. “These heartrending stories made me more determined to introduce them to PCs.”
Four PCs were then installed at the centre and computer classes began in earnest, with one hour every day dedicated to the subject.

“I started by teaching them MS Word and MS Powerpoint as I believe these are important tools that help people present their ideas to the world more effectively,” Ranjan explained.
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The spread and reach of mobile phones also spurred Ranjan to begin sessions in coding: “I saw that every household had a mobile phone and felt that it was an untapped resource that had the potential to solve community problems.”

Ranjan used his own experience as well as online tutorials to teach children coding during three-hour long sessions conducted over weekends.

In just six months, the classes began to show results.

A NEW GENERATION OF CODERS

“I divided the children into groups of four and asked them to come up with a list of problems they faced. The groups then voted on these problems and decided to work on tackling the problems that had the most votes,” Ranjan explained.

The first app developed by the children was the Women Fight Back app. Created by 12-14 year old kids, the app is a women’s safety app equipped with a distress alarm, location mapping and emergency SMS alerts that can inform the user’s contacts if she is in danger or in need of help.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, children trained by Ranjan have developed more than eight apps to tackle a range of social problems. These include apps that address child labour, domestic violence, education of the girl child, and women’s health and wellbeing.

“The children have even been successful in engaging the community in solving these problems,” Ranjan said.

There has also been a sea-change among the children themselves.

“They are more confident now that they feel they have the power to drive change. They are thinking long term about what they want to do in life. They are dreaming again,” he said.
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The children’s response to a fire that broke out earlier this year, is proof of how far they’ve come. The fire ravaged more than 50 homes, leaving many families destitute and without the bare necessities. The young ones, with Ranjan’s help, raised money for these families through a crowdfunding campaign, to help the affected families rent a safe place to study, to purchase daily utilities and to install fire sensors in the houses in the neighbourhood.

Over the years, Ranjan’s Slum Innovation Project has grown to a two-room centre with 15 computers. Today, he trains close to 220 children.

The children’s progress has also inspired their mothers to step forward and join the digital revolution: “These are women who haven’t had any formal education. But on seeing the difference these classes have made to the lives of their children, they have expressed a desire to learn how to operate PCs too,” Ranjan said. “We are now in the process of launching a digital literacy programme for all the mothers.”

Ranjan’s success in helping the Dharavi children use technology to lead citizen initiatives and solve community problems has inspired him to extend the project to other slums across Mumbai: “Technology can empower people. Dharavi is proof of that. I now want to scale the project to reach out to more people,” he concluded.

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100 year old Indian woman wins the 100m dash!

  • Man Kaur

Man Kaur, 100, of India, competes in the 100-meter track and field event at the Americas Masters.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Man Kaur from India needed almost a minute-and-a-half to cross the finish line in the 100-meter dash, but she still picked up a gold medal Monday at the American Masters Games. That’s because the 100-year-old Kaur was the only female competitor in her age category at the competition for older athletes.

When she crossed the finish line in Vancouver, her competitors — many of them in their 70s and 80s — were there to cheer her on.

Kaur’s energy and drive to compete have become an inspiration to participants in the unique international event for athletes over 30.

MountainWings: Two Coats

Two Coats
================

A man said to the crowd…

“If you had two cars in your driveway, would you
a) either sell one and give the money to the poor, or
b) give the car to the poor?"

The crowd shouted, “Why yes! Of course we would.”

Again the man shouted, "And if you had two houses, would you
give one of them to the poor, as you cannot possibly live in two
houses at the same time?”

Again the response from the crowd was overwhelming,
"Yes" they cried.

The man shouted again, "If you had two coats, would you…"
and was interrupted by a man in the crowd who said,
"Hold on a minute, we ALL have two coats."

The man no longer continued.

Everyday in life we are the first to condemn others for having
many things while there are people in the world who have
nothing.

"Why don’t the celebs give some of their money, etc., etc.?"

However, when it comes down to it and we are being questioned,
we are the first ones to say, "Hold on, why us?"

Too often in life people don’t think before they speak.
They judge others before looking thoroughly through themselves.

Next time… Please THINK

What you do to others… you should do to yourself.
What you say to others… you should say to yourself.
What you think about others… you should think about yourself.
What you see in others… you should see in yourself.

THINK BEFORE YOU ACT!

~Submitted by MountainWings subscriber Shelly Ryan

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Life Changing Seminar By Sandeep Maheshwari

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LAST Life Changing Seminar By Sandeep Maheshwari I Dubbed in English
by Sandeep Maheshwari
"All my life, I have been a failure. A failure when I dropped out of college. A failure when I started my career. A failure when I wrote a book. A failure when my business closed down… but, a failure to others, not to myself. And, you can also turn your failures into success, just like I did!"
With love and regards, Sandeep

About Sandeep Maheshwari
Founder of ImagesBazaar, the World’s largest collection of Indian images. A World Record holder in photography, he has also received many awards and accolades in recognition of his work. To mention a few; Star Youth Achiever Award, Young Creative Entrepreneur Award and Pioneer of Tomorrow Award. He also featured on the cover of the Business World Magazine as one of the most "Promising Young Entrepreneurs of India". His thoughts have been echoed by almost all the leading magazines, newspapers and television channels such as The Times Of India, The Economic Times, Hindustan Times, India Today, CNBC-TV18, IBN7, ET Now and more.

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