Today, leisure is often seen as a ‘spectator’ time; sitting unthinking in front of a TV screen, or listening to music on the I-Pod. In those more simple earlier times, leisure was a time of doing. The Award Programme addressed unplanned leisure time, (so easily misdirected), to be used in exciting ways. It addressed holistic development and growth. It is emphatically not a children’s programme. The Founders were very clear that this is a programme for young people. It promised no material gain, but adds a ‘quality’ that is discernable to all. The 4 Sections, which appear so simple, are carefully thought out: they add value and challenge the body, spirit, and mind. They also reflect adult choice of leisure activity.
Did you never wish you had learnt to paint? Or sing? Or open up a car engine? Well here was an opportunity to learn something new. Not in competition, but just for the sheer pleasure of it. The creative instinct in all of us lies dormant, but is easily awakened.
“No man is an Island” said a 14th century poet. We know this to be still as true. Encouraging young people to get involved with the community in which they live was an imperative. Do we teach young people to eternally blame someone else? Or shall we get down to doing what we see needs doing?
Every young person thrills to this section. Away from the restrictions of parents – doing and daring. How wonderful to accomplish something you never thought you could do!
The levels of the Award ensured perseverance – that they were not a mere flash in the pan! Anyone can undertake a one-of activity. But sticking with the job, spending time to understand it and to pick up the finer nuances, calls for perseverance. That is not a quality that comes naturally to the impatience of youth, and yes, we all understand how valuable a trait it is.
The factor that proved wonderfully inspiring and immeasurably valuable was the inclusion of adult volunteers. Never before had there been so many older people reaching out and sharing expertise, in bee keeping or astronomy, woodwork, basketry and railways, thus building bridges between the generations. Young people were being given the opportunity to interact with adults who were neither parents nor teachers. Today, no one can say how many adults, worldwide, are involved in the scheme, but hundreds of thousands would be a modest estimate.
“The Award Programme is intended to help both the young and those people who take an interest in their welfare. It is designed as an introduction to leisure time activities, a challenge to the individual to personal achievement, and as a guide to those people and organizations who are concerned about our future citizens.”
The Philosophy is neither very profound nor very complicated. It is simply this: “a civilized society depends upon the freedom, responsibility, intelligence and standard of behaviour of its individual members, and if the society is to continue to be civilized, each succeeding generation must learn to value those qualities and standards… Above all, if depends on a willingness among the younger generation to find out for themselves the factors, which contribute to freedom, responsibility, intelligence and standard of behaviour. These are all abstract concepts. The Scheme has attempted to bring them down to earth; to give individual young people the opportunity to discover these ideas for themselves through a graduated programme of experience.
Award Leaders are in a unique position to become agents of change. Most educators would agree that a well-rounded personality with a broad outlook, and understanding of the community, the country and the world, is a gem to be treasured. You are those gems, in the process of further burnishing! Will you take the heart and core of the Award to your wards?
Adults can be a “bridge between the generations”? are only teachers qualified to become Award Leaders? Or is this the simple solution? Surely there are elders and young adults in the community willing to share their experience – it could be cooking, or pottery. It could be carpentry or car mechanics. It could be to care for animals, or groom them. Will drawing those elders into the Award not constitute the most meaningful Community Service? Are you drawing on the huge pool of talent in the community? Are you building bridges?
The tradition of volunteer service is not new in India. It often gets crushed under rank commercialism. Here is an opportunity for its revival.
“If there is one thing which the experience of the Award Programme re-affirms and re-emphasizes time and again, it is the involvement of adults that is absolutely critical to its success”
What are young people entitled to expect from an Adult? Lets try to see things through a young person’s perspective. What are the Values important to young people?
Young people have the right to happiness. This is not the time to burden them with physical and mental expectations. Make their time with the Award a joyous experience. Adults in charge have to ensure that young people are protected but not mollycoddled. There is not thrill quite like the one of doing something you didn’t know you could. Let every young person experience that thrill.
Must be guided by what is in their best interest. Not the convenience of the school or Award Leader! Freedom of Choice is important. It should depend on the young person’s interests, not on a pre-determined activity that the school can provide. The Award is possibly the only area where young people can exercise Choice
Adults interacting with young people should do so with integrity and respect for the young person. Choose your Award Leaders and Adult volunteers with due care. Adults who can provide an open, positive, encouraging atmosphere, respectful of the dignity and autonomy of the young persons, are an asset.
- Participation – The Award is open to all regardless of cultural differences
- Development – Young People grow in the Award, even if they don’t recognize it
- Sustainable – The Award does not call for huge resources
- Flexible – It allows for any number of permutations / combinations. Can use local conditions to perfection
- Focus on Success – every Record Book is a story of Success and Achievement
- Reach – The format demonstrated enormous reach to young people in every walk of life
- It is a Marathon not a Sprint! It teaches young people to persevere
- It gives young people two wonderful gifts – Joy and Choice!
- It enables young people to make a real difference in their community