A book in the making by Ulrike Reinhard / For children 11-15

Hier geht zu der deutschen Fassung des Textes.

Theme / Short Introduction

“Be A Voice, Not An Echo!” is a how-to-do-book for young readers (11-15 years old) for becoming a voice and leading an active, fullfilling life and serving the common good rather than floating with the mainstream and remaining average. If you would have the chance to change your status for the better AND serve the greater community – who wouldn’t do it? To do so requires people to be confident, aware and open. No matter where they are. Everyone has the potential to be a voice, it just needs to be unleashed, developed and groomed.

The stories in this book are real stories. They played out in an environment where no one would have expected them to shine. But here they are. Engaging stories around skateboarding in a small village in rural India which tackle the topics below in the various chapters.

The narrative is based on a well-known project which I initiated and worked on in India for 10 years: “The Barefoot Skateboarders” and “The Rural Changemakers”. The three main characters are teenagers from this village. They are co-authors of this book. Their stories are as colourful and vibrant as India. All three of them are courageous young people with a voice in their very own way. They reach far beyond their own village community – a community where they are usually doomed to obey. They are inspiring role models for all young people around the world!

The project has received multiple awards and is internationally recognized as a gamechanger how to drive social change for the better. We’ve broken down ancient tradition of caste and gender and brought a fragmented village closer together. We’ve given this village an identity. We’ve done so by breaking the rules, avoiding the average and embracing disobedience. And therefore we succeeded in giving a voice to the YOUNGSTERS!

Chapters and Characters

The book includes 19 chapters. They are hands on and fun to explore. Each chapter is a real life story of Wani, Goonj and Sankoch, the three main characters of the book. Wani is based on a “real” girl in the Indian village where I worked. So are Goonj and Sankoch, the boys. Wani means VOICE in Hindi, Goonj means ECHO and Sankock HESITANT. The stories tackle the topics mentioned below in a way, that it becomes clear for the young reader what it means to be a VOICE and not an ECHO and what are the struggles and doubts on the way. It will include engaging dialogues between the three and there will be comics – with all the ups and downs teenage lives have to offer. It guides the reader in a fun way how to become a VOICE. Goonj, the ECHO, is not portrayed as a “looser”, he has his great moments as well – he has just taken a different approach in life.

Being or becoming a VOICE is an active choice children can take. Wani has certainly done so. The world needs both – VOICES and ECHOES. Yet if we have too many ECHOES, we might run short in creating a better future.

The chapters (>>> titles of the chapters are work in progress) are:

  • family
  • fame >>> can you order a Pizza for me?
  • school
  • with peers / friendships
  • within your community >>> in or out?
  • in nature
  • urban and rural >>> city life and village death?
  • youth parliament
  • problem solving >>> you can fix it!
  • fashion and consumption >>> what to ditch
  • Digital Well-Being >>> addiction or freedom?
  • feel good media – A safe passage through the media jungle!
  • pain (physical and mental)
  • integration
  • travels >>> Unimaginably far away!
  • sports >>> I believe I can fly!
  • competition >>> who is #1 ?
  • conflicts within myself >>> who am I? (including fears and doubts)
  • sex & drugs & rockn’ roll

Wani, the VOICE. Wani has become self-confident over the years. She is now 18 years old and a trailblazer for the girls in the village. She escaped an arranged marriage and convinced her parents to set her free – being resilient was her way forward. At times Wani can be very empathetic and thoughtful. She looks pretty and all the boys in the village admire her – often secretly. She knows how to play with this. She has the power to drive change and is leading by example. She is somehow fearless, comfortable in expressing her own opinion respectfully and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. She dropped out of school when she was 14, became a pretty cool skateboarder and with her skateboarding she became quite famous all over India. She has won multiple Indian championships and has participated in the World Championships in China. With skateboarding her interest in education came back and she finally passed her high scholl exams. Wani is a tribal girl, very authentic. She is struggling with her background and her new “role” in the village – her life is sometimes like a roller coaster.

Goonj, the ECHO. Goonj is loud, restless, unpatient and cares the most about himself. He could easily be described as me, myself & I. Sharing was not invented for him. For him life is all about looking good on his skateboard. To be the best skateboarder is all he wants, yet he doesn’t take any advise from anyone. He is very lonely on his way. He is looking up to his idols whom he copies and adores blindlessly. He wants to be like them. Goonj is 16 years old and the oldest son of his tribal parents. This comes with some obligations, which he is unable to fulfill most of the times. He wants to look like a tough guy yet he has a very soft core in a hard shell. He is shattered inside, sometimes dishonest and doesn’t know what he wants – nevertheless he is always playing cool. His opinions are twisting in the wind. He desperately wants to be a leader but he is always standing in his own way. He himself is the biggest hurdle he has to overcome. Many kids in the village look up to him because he is their best skateboarder, yet they are afraid of him because he is shouting and distancing himself from the rest. He is looking for followers, not for people on his eye-level.

Sankoch, the HESITANT. Sankoch is the little brother of Goonj and the youngest in the family. He is the brightest kid in the village and the best in English. Just like Wani he has passed his high scholl exams. His skateboarding skills are not as good as his brothers’ – yet he does fairly well on the deck. He is willing to learn and understands clearly how important it is to be a voice. Yet he is hesitant: his peers, who hardly have seen a school from the inside, are teasing him when he is focused on his studies and is supporting Wani in the village affairs. This is not what a boy in a village does!

Sankoch is also still struggling to step out of his brothers’ long shadow and to speak freely with his parents about what he wants in life and how he can achieve it. His parents never went to school, they can not read and write – yet he is asking them for advice where and what to study. Sankoch is not living up to his possibilities due to the social fabrics he is living in. He is obedient and feels deep inside that he should not obey but rather find his own way. When he is in the village his “productivity” goes down to almost zero because he is torn between his own dreams and the parents, peers and his brother. Sankoch has a wonderful smile and a good heart.


I’ve collected a set of relevant questions for each topic, questions the youngsters can reflect on and discuss among themselves or with their parents and teachers. There are available as a set! And I’ve prepared work sheets for topic centred workshops – a result of workshops which I’ve held at schools over the years. This will be added as a supplement or at the end of each chapter.

The Logo

The logo is in the style of my project in India – the tiger of the Barefoot Skateboarders and Rural Changemakers of Janwaar who finally found their voice! Let their example shine!