Janwar Castle needs a Bamboo House

The children in Janwar Castle have never seen a skateboarding instructor – nevertheless they’ve made it within five month to skateboarding champions. Just look at the pictures.

Now we want to move on and add a bamboo house for further actvities to our learning environment – and we need it before winter sets in. Therefore we decided to run this foto campaign. Vicky Roy, whom I know for many years now, is a well-known and established Indian photographer. The pictures he takes of children always reflect a very special atmosphere and ambiente … same holds true for his pics from Janwar, the village where our skatepark is located. He connects with the rural and he connects with the kids. I am very happy that Vicky Roy is supporting us and gives us these pictures for free for this specific campaign.

Thank you Vicky Roy!

His work has traveled around the world and his photographs are meanwhile a good investment.

We only fixed a minimum price for each picture which covers printing and shipping – otherwise the price is really up to you! Please help us to make this bamboo house become reality!

A sandbox.

I am currently involved in a couple of projects which I’d consider being sandbox projects. Not sandbox in a way that these projects aren’t mature or professional. No. When I say sandbox I mean it in it’s very original way.

You set-up a wooden frame, put sand in it – and make it accessible.
You don’t define any outcome, it’s an open process.
No projects are pre-defined.
You just provide and facilitate the set-up.
And let the things which are going to happen emerge.
Maybe you adjust a bit here and here.
Some little nudges at the frameset … But that’s it.

sandbox

Maybe an expression which comes close to it is Tim o’Reilly’s usage of the word platform. When Tim speaks about government as a platform he is e.g. talking about open data provided by the government – free of use for anyone. Citizen, companies, institutions – everyone can use the data the way they want it and the way they need it – within a clearly defined frame (legal, technical, economical, social). This way government doesn’t have to think about all the thousands and thousands of possibilities the data could be used – it simply will be used when there is a problem for which it provides a solution. This way government fosters innovation and participation. It enables others to built on government’s work and by doing so its impact is multiplied. Things emerge. Just like inside a sandbox.

Besides the sandbox that I’ve created by my own – Janwar Castle, the first learning camp with a skateboarding park in its core in rural India – I am working on three completely different sandbox projects. One is an open data project in Delhi, aiming to set-up an open data platform which provides realiable data about the air quality in India’s capital. It’s said that it is among the worst in the world, if not the worst. It’s planned as a joint venture of citizenery, companies (Indian and Chinese – and this before Modi went there;-) and government. The data will be provided for free and anyone is invited to make the best out of it – whether it is to build applications, to change habits or whether it is to pass appropriate laws.

The second one is Mindkiss – a different way to present and deal with art. I’ve just written about it here. It’s basically a new modell for art and culture – an open process during which certain projects evolve.

And the third one is the sandbox Kumbhathon – one of my favourites;-) I’ve been following this endevour since its beginning at inkTALKS in Kochin two and a half years ago and I participated actively in the last workshop held in Nashik in January 2015. I was mentoring the students. For me this is a very interesting platform for many reasons:

  • It aims to find solutions for a real world problem: How to handle a city and deal with the issue that 30 million people come in.
  • It brings together various stakeholders: city officilas, companies (local and multi-nationals), external institutions, citizens and students from all over India.
  • It’s an open process within a given frame.
  • The MIT Media Lab brings in new methods to innovate and to co-create solutions.

In this sense the Kumbhathon is truly a sandbox out of which many things will emerge. We’ve already seen new applications and products solving Kumha Mela problems (housing, mapping, infrastructure); I am sure we will see more. The people involved are embracing this new way of solution finding – so it will last and stay in Nashik. Meaning there is an impact on this level as well. And – for me the most important thing – the locals and more than anyone else the local youth has understood, that they themselves can deal and handle the upcoming problems and provide adequate solutions. The process so far was all about enabling, encouraging and co-creating for Kumbha Mela.

As a long term outcome I expect this process to become a role model for an innovation center with multiple  stakeholders committed to solve social problems. So it’s not so much about running very specific projects; it is much more about how to drive innovation and how to find solutions for existing problems in a collaborative way.

And it makes me very happy and shows a lot of respect for our work in Panna that Ramesh Raskar, one of the initiators of the Kumbhathon and professor at the MIT Media Lab asked me to set-up a “little Panna-Park” (a small Janwar Castle) during Kumbha Mela.

So there are many reasons to look forward to the next Kumbhathon gathering in late June/ early July in Nashik!

The Janwaar Castle Summer Camp

From June 1-30, 2015 we will run our first summer camp at Janwahr Castle.

Janwaar Castle is a project of we_school and can briefly be described as a learning environment with a skateboarding park in its core. It’s located in Janwaar near Panna, a small buzzling town in Madhya Pradesh, Central India. In the village there are about 250 – 300 kids.

The summer camp is the first activity of its kind in Janwaar. Three of us – Yogesh, a local scholar from Khajuraho who speaks good English, Vivek, a Teach for India fellow, and me. We will run daily early morning sessions (until 10 am) with the kids and late afternoon sessions (6 – 7.30 pm).

The main goal of the camp is to teach the kids English – so the camp language will be English! The kids of course can answer and talk in Hindi or their local dialect.

And we’ll have guests joining us:

Laura, a friend from Bombay who is native Scottish and an excellent violinist. She will conduct music sessions and hopefully give a concert in front of the Khajuraho Temples.
Mamaji (a local tour guide, actually the best you can find in Khajuraho) will join us for Indian mythology and history sessions.
Children from Kunderpura – an Adivasi village close by – will visit us.
The Maharaj of Panna will come and tell stories of the past.

The kids will learn English in face-to-face session with Vivek, we have tablets with English learning programs, we have dictionaries, English books and we hopefully will have one or two whiteboards. Besides English learning we organize nature walks, we will build dustbins for the skatepark and pillars for two swings, we paint, play and dance and we will take the kids to Panna National Tiger Park which is close by but the kids never had a chance to go there. And of course there will be lots of skateboarding ! 

The entire endeavor is calculated with 2,30.000 INR or 3000 Euros and I do need your help !

Here is a list (things_we_need_mit) where you can see what we need and how we will spent the mn see what we need and how we will spent the money – it includes very precise donation packages such as:

– 5 English books for either 1000 INR or 1500 INR or
– 3 dictionaries for 3000 INR or
– paint and brushes (1000 – 2000 INR)
– paper (2000 INR)
– a jeep for the Tiger Safari (6500 INR) or
– costs for skateboarding teachers (5000 INR) or
– snacks, milk and fruits (from 1000 – 2800 INR) or
– transportation

1000 INR are app. 14 Euros, maybe a little less.

Just let us know what you like most to support!
100% of the money will be used for the case you mention.

Please make transfers payable to:

Account name: Ulrike Reinhard
nature: we_school summer camp / case you’d like to support
IBAN: DE63700222000071631281
BIC: FDDODEMMXXX

If you are not donating from Germany and want to avoid unnecessary banking fees please use transferwise.

Thank you!

A few weeks ago we started our first activities with the kids from Janwaar and – as you can see – the kids really enjoy it!

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Excursion to the Khajuraho Temples, at Mamaji’s organic farm

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Skateboarding sessions at Janwaar Castle, our skatepark

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And if you want to know more about our activities please visit our website or read below or send an email to

we (at) we-magazine (dot) net

Goals of Janwaar Castle

– to improve the children’s and the women’s health 
– and their standing in the community
– to bring hope and show possibilities for all the villagers and 
– to enable and guide them to solve their problems by themselves and even
– make a decent living out of it.

for the kids

– we provide many things they don’t have at school
– things they don’t even know of (like skateboarding)
– a space where all are the same (no caste and gender issues)
– we make them capable of communicating with “outsiders” (virtually and real)
– this is why learning english is so important ….

Its Impact

on an individual level

– physical fitness because of skateboarding and other sport activities (volleyball)
– exposure – learning YES, I can >>> self esteem
– health >>> extra food (fruits) on 2 days in the week
– learning new things / skills which broaden the horizon
– learning to “imagine”
– connect with foreigners 

on the village and community level

– connect the village with the outside world
– establish small businesses
– create a community culture
– clean(er) village

Girls Session at Janwahr Castle

I haven’t had enough time to write a more detailed story about our we_school skatepark – hopefully this will happen soon – but I am very happy to say that the park is in full swing;-)

Older blogpost about what this is all about you find here and here.

For now, please enjoy this short video, a random selection of fotos, showing the girls of Janwahr skateboarding. These kids didn’t know a few weeks ago what skateboarding is.

The first skatepark in rural India

Wow, what a ride so far!

Eight month ago we decided to build a skatepark with learning facilities in rural India. To be more precise: in Panna, a small buzzling town in Madhya Pradesh (MP), Central India. Even though Panna is close to Khajuraho with its world famous temples and the Panna National Park (currently 23 tigers), in the town you never ever see a tourist. Actually I’ve never seen a white person there in the last three years. It will be the first skatepark in a rural area in India. For us it’s another important milestone in implementing our ideas of the we_school-concept. It is going to be a place where children can come and skateboard and learn – in a computer lab, library and a buildathon, a room in which they can build stuff.

On Dec. 3 we will start building.

To finance this entire endevour we did an auction where we auctioned ARTBOARD – skateboards which were designed by artists all over the world. We will do another one this month – it will start November 15 and end Nov. 22 at 2 pm GMT-1!

If you don’t want to participate in our auction but still want to donate please use this bank account: we partner with skate-aid – they forward 100% of all the donations coming in and you will get a tax deductable receipt!

skate-aid e.V München
bank: Sparkasse Münsterland Ost
IBAN   DE57 400 501 50 0000 55 17 39
SWIFT   WELADED1MST

Thanks for your support!

People are often surprised when they hear this story and ask me why a skatepark and why Panna. We’ve chosen Panna because of four major reasons:

  • we are well connected there and it was easy to create a great team of highly committed people
  • land was available with connection to water and electricity
  • social infrastructure is good, meaning there are schools and children around and
  • as in almost any rural area besides cricket there are no other sports facilities.

And here again a small chapter why we think to combine learning and skateboarding is a good thing to do (by Nicola Claire):

The idea of combining fun with learning is not new, indeed, it is fundamentally the way children learn. We are taking this concept and constructing an environment which intrinsically combines an activity that is fun, but at the same time requires acquired skill, knowledge and practise, with a learning environment which provides that skill and knowledge. The young people will also have the opportunity to develop and extend their learning at a we-school hub on the same site. The young people who come to the skate-park will find everything that they need, from building their skateboard to becoming proficient users. Through the process they will learn English and maths. They will gain an understanding of force, balance and weight. They will experiment with art, colours, styles and design. They will discover body and muscle control, healthy eating and life-style choices. Above all, they will find ways to take what they have learnt back to their families and communities to support and enhance the quality of daily living.

The central figures in the local team are Shyamendra Singh aka Vini and Sanjay Tiwari aka Mantu, a local business man and the first one in Panna holding a press card. Mantu is providing the land for the skatepark and he will run its operations. Vini is a truly respected person in the area. He owns several lodges in the National Park and is highly committed to eco-friendly tourism and organic farming. For all his lodges the food is growing in the neighbouring fields – providing the local farmers a small but steady income. All food is organic – they only serve what nature has to offer. Most of his employees are locals. Many of them have been with him for many years and it’s very nice to see them “grow”.

Besides the locals we are very lucky to have Titus Dittmanns skate-aid e.V. on board – they bring in the entire expertise how to build a park. With their help we are able to raise our funds tax free and they connected us with the architect of the park (see plan and model below) and the head of construction Baumi.

Baumi, who has build several skateparks before, will lead the team of experienced skateboarders from Germany and Dehli and Bangalore in India plus local workers. I can’t wait to have all of them here early in December.

Below is a video of Shake whom I met last year in Bangalore and who also will come to help building our park! He provides some insights what is driving him to set-up skateparks

I have to say that everybody involved so far VOLUNTEERED. These guys come down here and work for 8 weeks for free!!! I only provide food and accomodation ! I think this is outstanding!

THANK YOU for that!

Here is the plan of the park:

Grundlage Pana

And here is the 3D-model:

Toilets in India

IMG_8478At the banks of Indus river in Nimmu, Ladakh

This morning I saw this tweet by Bill Gates which triggered my immediate response (and started a discussion) …

bill

… and remembered me about this text I wrote as an introduction for a longer story “Why urban and rural India should meet”:

This is almost my third year in India now. Most of my time I’ve spent in rural areas. Sometimes at first light I drive out on my motorbike across the country. Madhya Pradesh, where I live, is crisscrossed with a web of narrow, unpaved, dusty roads on which huge potholes create small mosquito-infested lakes during the monsoon season. They take me through vast forests of teak trees to small villages where it seems like time has been standing still for decades. It’s then that I see the hidden part of India. The sprawling network of lonesome roads, which only appear as thin hairlines on any map, connect some 700,000 villages throughout the whole of India many of which are not even marked on Google maps.

Just before sunrise the men, women and children emerge from their huts and houses – homes which are mostly just one room with no furniture, no electricity and no sanitation in which the three generations of the same family plus a goat or two sleep on the ground. They carry cans of water to wash themselves after they’ve emptied their bowels somewhere. Sometimes they’ll shit right next to the road, sometimes along the railway tracks, sometimes in the fields, and very often the kids shit on the heaps of uncollected garbage where pavements should be. Right next to the chickens, pigs, donkeys, goats and cows strolling through the garbage looking for something to eat. This mixture of rotting garbage and excrement emits an acrid nauseous smell which hangs in the air like a pall. It becomes truly excruciating when they set fire to it, which they very often do.

Sordid as this is, it’s daily reality for more than half a billion people – almost the total number of people living in the U.S. and Europe. India accounts for around 36 per cent of the world’s poor. Just recently (May 2014) the United Nations published a report stating that 600 million people in India are now living below the poverty line of $ 1.25 a day.

Bill Gates started to work on toilets six years ago, a huge competiton started to re-invent the toilet. A good thing. No doubt. And necessary. But the outcome – a nightmare! Even the New York Times – who usually acts as a Gates promoter – was astonished by the lack of “rural knowledge” this entire project bared. And this is just one example of so many toilet challenges … The question seems so obvious where isn’t there a solution yet?

Technology doesn’t seem to provide anything helpful. Too expensive to roll out in masses, too far away from the “client’s” habits, environment unfriendly and and and … Why not look at rural areas in India where it’s clean and people are aware of hygiene and cleanliness and learn from them. There are examples …

– Asia’s cleanest village is in north eastern India (Mawlynnong)
– tribals in Thudukky, Agaly, Palghat, Kerala (as I just learnt now via twitter)
– Ladakh (see photo on top) is very clean

What do they do?

It starts basically with collecting the waste. There are various ways of doing it. Collecting in bamboo or wooden dust bins directed to pits and use it as manure. Collection in big holes, and again use it as manure. Keep the natural waters clean. The shit goes separately – but is used in the same way. And washing afterwards is essential. But this is what most of the people are aware of. At least this is what I see (see my description above). They find a way by themselves … going along with their habits.

Crucial seems to be that in all these areas mentioned above the literacy rate is way above average! So it goes along with education … which once again is key.

I truly believe and this is why invest the little money I have in education that with education many of the problems can be solved. We need a kind of education which suits the people’s environments and needs, not one (Western) system for the entire world. The meaning of education has very local faces and these local colors need to be addressed. A situational approach of learning is needed which aims much more towards the collective (the villages in the cases above) than towards the individual.

Happy Birthday OUBEY and thank you for your ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD

I’ve heard about OUBEY and the MINDKISS project just before its website was launched a few years ago. I was introduced to Dagmar Woyde-Koehler – the woman “behind” MINDKISS. I immediately fell in love with the concept – it was and still is a unique way to present art outside the artificial art world;-)

And since then Dagmar and I frequently meet and discuss MINDKISS’ latest developments.

But first things first.
What am I talking about?

On its website the project is described as follows:

Persistent and uncompromising, dedicated solely to his own artistic vision – this was how OUBEY, voluntarily isolated from the public, created an unmistakable, multifaceted and incomparable oeuvre over the course of 25 years. Uninfluenced by the art business, OUBEY created over 1000 pictures with an astonishing, creative force in the greatest possible inner and external freedom.

When OUBEY started thinking about an exhibition again for the first time in a long time, he lost his life in a traffic accident in August 2004 at the age of 46.

The project MINDKISS posthumously realizes his plan, now opening a door for the first time, five years after OUBEY’s early and untimely death, to the hidden treasure he created and left behind. The book MINDKISS, the experience film OUBEY, and the web site OUBEY.com are the first steps along the way to a long-term goal. This goal consists of presenting the originals of OUBEY’s pictures permanently in an exhibition, in which the mental context in which this art was created can be understood and experienced at the same time.

And one tiny little piece within the bigger MINDKISS puzzle is this ARTBOARD. “Highly original and full of zest” is how Dagmar describes the drawing OUBEY made in 1981 which she selected as her contribution to ARTBOARD / SKATEBOARD. It’s a genuine rarity given the fact that the original work will never be put on sale. “I hope the new owner has lots of fun with this board,” she says!

So please take your chance ….

oubey_board_large

A big THANK YOU to the OUBEY community who really helped to let OUBEY’S ARTBOARD take off today!
I assume Oubey would be more than happy to observe all this on his birthday!
Happy birthday Oubey!

Not sure what else to say …. just please keep on bidding;-)
The kids will love you for this!

The MAATI Way – ARTBOARDS/SKATEBOARDS from Local Indian Artists

MAATI (which means earth) is a small boutique in South Delhi’s trendy and hipster Hauz Khas Village. For almost two years I always passed by this shop, because from what I saw in the windows it seemed to be just another tourist trap.

But I was wrong!

One day my host in Hauz Khas introduced me to Aniruddha Saha, the guy who runs MAATI together with his wife Swati. Only then I had a closer look on what they are doing. And it turned out to be amazing;-)

Here is an interview I did with them a few month ago.

They describe themselves as follows: “MAATI promotes artists of many disciplines. In its quest for classical art forms, team MAATI travels to the remotest areas of the subcontinent in search of heirs and heroes of these art forms, who have or are in the process of foregoing their legacy of generations for lack of support in a materialistic world.”

MAATI guides and trains the artists, offers medical and educational assistance to their tribal and rural artisan families and shows them a way to make their living. What ever the artists “produce” in their studio close to Hauz Khas Village, MAATI sells online or in their boutique: hand painted T-shirts, frames, bags, jewelery … you name it!

IMG_6451
Together with Kanhaiya Prasad Singh, Mithun Ray and Aniruddha (from left to right) at their studio

So when we started the ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project I immediately went to see Aniruddha and I asked him if they would design an ARTBOARD. And they did … actually the hand painted four outstanding pieces of art – which for me are so much INDIAN. I simply love the colors and the design … but please have a look on your own!!!

They are on auction NOW!!! So please go and bid for them!

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Mithun Ray painted this motorbike ARTBOARD – it is almost 3D. You need to feel it;-)

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Kanhaiya Prasad Singh used to paint movie posters. No wonder his ARTBOARD shows various scenes from a very famous Indian Bollywood movie!

The following two ARTBOARDS were painted by Chanchal Mitral.

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chanchal_board_large

The Learning Experience – A different way to school …

This post was sent to me by Nicola Claire, who is running a school in Istanbul and advises we_school. With Nicola I share my thoughts on how to build a “matrix curriculum” for we_school. Traditional curriculum combined with “out of school” ways of learning re-integrated into it. This is her second post on the ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project.

Take a group of rural Indian children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, who have no formal schooling, and present them with a project-based learning scenario. You might expect to get at the very least blank faces, and at worst some not very polite language.

But not when the project is to build your very own skateboard!

From the get go you have their attention. And then, when you go on to explain that you have no resources to give them, and they have to go and find everything they need themselves, an excited discussion ensues.

But, first things first…

  • What exactly is a skateboard?
  • To what uses could it be put apart from skating?
  • How big/small could it be to still work?
  • How heavy does it need to be to stop it tipping constantly?
  • How big do the wheels needs to be and what happens if you put more or less than four wheels on?

By now the group is totally engaged and coming up with many more questions.
As a group they discuss and generate ways to solve the problems, and chalkstone on a wall serves for a design space. Some of the suggestions are:

  • Recycling for materials
  • Extra wheels
  • Large wheels
  • Dog powered
  • Two skateboards strapped together to provide a wide carrying platform

And many more are discussed.

After the discussion, there is the making, engaging with maths, hand-working, crafting and constructing. Before, finally, the finishing artwork, personal logo and then the testing.
The group of young people have worked their way through a project-based learning that any teacher would be happy to put their name to.

Sure, they had the guidance of a teacher, but she kept her input to a minimum, encouraging the young people to be constantly challenging themselves for answers.
The project might last anything from a week, if the group turn-up every day, to a month or more if they are only meeting together a couple of times a week.

The learning they have made is a secure lifelong learning across a range of subjects, with measurable outcomes and an end goal that is functional and fun.

Children in very different environments and circumstances require learning that is relevant to them and their lives. Often this is not building based, white western European and aimed at university entrance, but local, community based and aimed at improving their, and their communities’ lives.