Breaking The Ice With Kalahandi, Odisha

by | Jan 3, 2023

Imagine this…the monsoon season has just said goodbye. You are sitting at the side of a river stream surrounded by lush green hills. As you walk around, you get to know that this river is the lifeline of people living in villages nearby. It’s called the Naagavalli River and its tributaries come from the hills around. The place is Kalahandi in Odisha.

People live here in simplest of ways. I’d never, in my wildest of dreams, thought that I’d be working here. Life is full of curveballs and adventures if you are able to seek them. As soon as I got here and began to become familiar with the place, it reminded me of Kerala, my home state. The similarities are stark, between the landscape, food and people. It left me spellbound and I felt right at home. As if my train took a U-turn while I was snoring away on the upper berth. And now, I’m back from where I started.

It’s blissful to find this comfort so far away in a place I hadn’t even thought much of, before arriving here.

What Am I Doing Here

It’s by the virtue of being an India Fellow that I’m here, working with Swasthya Swaraj. It is an organization that aims to improve the health and well-being of people from tribal communities living here in the remotest corners. One of our programmes is the Toki* Upliftment and Livelihood Self Initiative (TULSI), working towards the betterment of health and nutritional status of adolescent girls. We conduct sessions to give them the related information and equip them with skills. This, therefore, enabls them to take charge of their own health and well-being.

Also read: How Tulasi Girls In a Tribal Village of Odisha Inspired Me

The team formed girls’ clubs. Each of the clubs have a peer leader. We regularly train the leaders on various aspects, who in turn transfer their knowledge to their respective club members. I have seen a number of icebreaker activities, but it was in one of these sessions that I witnessed the true power of one.

An icebreaker is an activity that helps strangers familiarise with each other. The usage of the term became common with corporate trainings. It’s used in multiple contexts, formal and informal. These activities include games, role-plays, dancing and more. These are often done at the beginning of a session so that the participants are less hesitant to interact with each other. You can find some interesting ideas here.

Holding A Session With Adolescent Girls

Many of them have never been to school and those who have, dropped out. One of the sessions I attended, had a female trainer who took the girls through a curated module on nutrition. Everyone was attentive and participating. In between, a male team member was there to interact. As soon as he started talking, I could see the girls withdrawing and taking the role of a silent spectator. Their body language changed, and they appeared to be physically shy just by having a man around. He did an icebreaker with them when this hesitation was pointed out to him.

As the girls followed his lead, they were full of surprise. How the sound they were making was exactly like the sound of raindrops hitting the ground. You may have heard how hitting our fingers on the other palm can do the trick. Start with just one finger, then bring in the second one and go on increasing the number.

I could hear laughter from the group now. Post the activity, there was no hesitation as the male colleague continued the session. Above all, it was amazing to see this as I had never witnessed a group transforming so much after an icebreaker.

When I asked him if he had any learning, he just said that he learnt this from his Hindi teacher back in school, and it stayed with him. In conclusion, for me, it was a lesson on the importance of a facilitator to connect with their group. Making each person comfortable leads to the success of a session. Let me know about your such experiences in the comments below.

* Toki means adolescent girl in the local language

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