Friday, December 27, 2013

International Giving Week 2013 - Target Corporation

As a part of the International Giving Week 2013, Target Corporation, India, hosted several competitions that saw a number of schools and NGOs participate. The events included Quiz, Rangoli, Painting and Spell Bee. Being one of our partners and a company that strongly champions child’s rights, the Dream School Foundation, was excited to be a part of this special day.  Here’s a low-down on a day that saw some spectacular results.


Right from the preliminary round, our students were in the lead. Comprising of three rounds, our performance was unmatched from the word go. Kevin Jesse, Manjunath, Vanitha and Musab worked together as a synchronized team and answered almost all questions that were directed to them. In one of the rounds, as the Quiz Master was reading out the question, like a bolt of lightening, Kevin shouted out the answer even before the question was completed. The awestruck audience applauded his speed and knowledge. The other teams did a commendable job in giving our students stiff competition, but in the end, we emerged victorious and bagged the FIRST place. 

                                                           SPELL BEE

In the last few years, the International Spelling Bee Competition has seen Indian kids bag the coveted top prize. In an effort to continue the proud trend, students of the Dream School Foundation practiced hard and spared no effort in lapping up infinite words of the dictionary. Though the all-girls team, didn't place in the top three, our performance was commendable and we hope to better our skills and emerge as the Queen of a Spelling Bee competition, soon enough. 


Considered a dying art, Rangoli which has adorned the front doors of many Indian households, is still a decoration that is practiced by a few.  The Ragoli competition that required some incredible creativity saw some colourful compositions. In under thirty minutes, our team comprising of Roopa VT, Shobha Rodha and Aishwarya Barick, came up with an impromptu design and were adjudicated as the THIRD prize winners.


With textbooks that weigh a ton and homework that will keep you awake till the wee hours of the night, one really wonders where a child is to find time to practice art or music. Putting together a team of our very own M.F.Hussains and Tayeb Mehtas, ten students from the Government Urdu School and Government Tamil School, N.S. Lane, R.T.Nagar showcased their artistic acumen with some extremely colourful and picturesque paintings. Yakesh of the Government Tamil School was awarded the SECOND place which was no small feat, considering the competition was stiff and saw a large number of participants. We tip our hats to you, Yakesh. 

At the prize distribution ceremony our students received accolades and goodies from leaders of Target Corporation, India, and a snack box that left their hearts and tummies content. We congratulate the winners and thank our partner Target, for the immense support and the opportunity that you continue to share with all of us, at the Dream School Foundation. 

--Karun Gopinath

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ramanagaram - A chapter that you’d seldom learn in books

In the midst of nature, hills that towered into the clouds, fresh air, birds and beasts that dotted the landscape- it all looked like straight out of a movie. Oh! Wait! It actually is! Hosting the likes of Bachchan and Dharmendra,  for the shooting of the timeless Bollywood classic, Sholay, Ramnagaram , located about 50 kilometres outside Bangalore, was also the setting for the Dream School Foundation’s adventure outing.  Leading the expedition was Sunand Sampath who in the past, has conquered many a mountain peaks around the world, all set to capture the minds and hearts of those teeming teens from our various centers.

Setting aside, Algae, Akbar and Algebra, students were in store for lessons that you’d seldom find in school curriculum. The Antakshari competition on the bus ride brought out the competitive side of the two teams that belted out filmy numbers and even the national anthem in an attempt to outdo their rivaling team. As we took a short walk to our camp site, we were amazed by sights that one would never witness in the city of Bangalore. Nature sure smiled upon us as the weather and mood was just perfect for a full day of fun learning. Rumbling tummies found reprieve as piping hot upma, an Indian donut (the indigenous vada) and a healthy helping of kesaribath was gorged down, taking energy levels to the fullest.

Sergeant Sunand briefed the gathering on how this day was about conquering your fears, challenging yourself to achieve new goals, the importance of teamwork and how you can overcome any obstacle, no matter how big the test. Though this lesson was brief, it left an indelible mark that was to be their guiding principle in all the activities that followed. Splitting the group into two, the Rockstars and Yo! Yo! Monsters took on their first set of activities for the day. As the first group took to the Zip lining activity, 
the second contingent got ready to tackle Zummaring.

Some who might get dizzy by just looking at the height from where you were expected to zip line across would definitely think a million times before strapping up for the adrenaline pumping ride. Ensuring the highest safety standards was of priority, the first student was all set to take the leap of faith and traverse on to the other side. Off he went, and whoosh! Cheered by friends from terra firma, all fears were allayed and everybody waited for their chance with much eagerness. One by one, students whizzed passed and had ear to ear smiles and screams of excitement as the zipped across to the other side.

Panning across to the Zummaring arena, the Yo! Yo! Rockstars were at it like pros. Also a lesson in mountain climbing, this exercise taught one how to tackle those tricky treks the right way. Those who gave up half way were egged on by teammates to put in that extra effort and reach the top. It was this spirit that was heartening to see, as another lesson  in teamwork and team spirit was successfully being put into action.

As groups concluded both activities it was time to replenish those energy levels with a sumptuous lunch. A quick lunch break and wetting those throats that were well parched from all that cheering, the latest set of adventure enthusiasts were all set for the toughest activity of all- Rappelling.  Rappelling down a steep rock face is no child’s play, but the instructors at our camp were simply superb; encouraging words and allaying their fears, the instructors made sure all our students felt safe and protected as they took that first step off the edge. Those who had conquered their fears and completed the activity did a splendid job in   reassuring their friends that there was nothing to worry about. 

At the other end of the camp, a game of Dodge Ball was on, which involved a lot of team work and strategizing to emerge victorious. Once again, those lessons that Sunand Sir had to share were being put into practice, bringing out the best in our students. Concluding the day’s activities, the last and final activity was Tug-O-War. Split into two teams, on command, they pulled at the rope like they were hauling an elephant. The team that won was elated with joy as they hi-fived each other, content and lauding their team efforts. 

As we journeyed back, the mood was sober, as all of us soaked in each and every moment of our day. The picturesque setting, the activities and all those valuable lessons that otherwise are hard to come by. For us, this day will go down as a memorable one that will remain fresh in our minds just like the air that Ramnagaram had to offer. For us, this day will remain etched and woven deep into our hearts as a day of fun and learning in the many years to come.

--Karun Gopinath

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Our Day at Target

As students of the 8th assembled at the Dream School Foundation, R.T.Nagar Centre, the atmosphere was ripe with excitement. Gathered at least 15 minutes ahead of the time mentioned and dressed in their brightest and best,this out-of-textbook learning experience was one lesson that would stay etched forever.As we drove past the entry gate at Manyata Tech Park, peering out of our tempo traveler, our eyes scanned the multitude of glass buildings in amazement that adorned this business park. On reaching Target’s main office and entering the plush building, the students gathered in a massive meeting room that looked straight out of a movie-set.

The interaction began with Mr.Paresh, Delivery Manager at Target Corporation India, addressing the gathering and extending a warm welcome to his shy guests--but such inhibitions of shyness and coy were very short lived. A quick round of introductions by the students and volunteers,all dressed in their customary red and khaki was more than sufficient to get everybody to behave like they’d known each other for years. A brief video about Target’s work and vision showed us, with sufficient reason, why they are leaders in their work and social responsibility. From introductions to more important business- a sumptuous meal awaited us at office cafeteria that was lapped up by students and staff alike. The buffet service saw us help ourselves to generous mounds of delicious rotis, rice, curry and a whole lot of other items.

Energized and ready to go, the recreation room was our next destination. Target employees who were peacefully engaged in a game of table tennis or carom were politely asked to step aside, as students of DSF gleefully entertained themselves to these indoor games. In one corner, lay a drum set where Mr.Murali Bhatt entertained the students with a beat or two. To the surprise of many, Manoj, took to the drums and gave us a perfect rendition of some popular drum beat numbers. Divided into five groups, each team was led by two volunteers from Target, who took us on a tour of the 4th floor, which was home to those friendly faces like Shahbaz Sir and Saravanan Sir, that came each week and took various classes for students at the DSF, R.T.Nagar Centre. Explaining each matter in detail, students were told about an employee’s functions, the facilities that were essential in their operations, such as telephones, laptops, wi-fi etc.  A quick visit to Room 403 and suddenly we were privy to a live video conference! At the other end of the call were Mr.Paresh and some of the students from another group.  Rather different from other business conference calls, matters discussed included Antaakshari, which group was superior and most importantly, one of our students, in a professional tone, questioning Mr.Paresh on how his projects were shaping up-- a small role play!

Returning to the recreation room, this time with a different agenda, groups sat together and were engaged in a thrilling quiz. As reward for the right answer, chocolates were distributed. A quick count showed that though only about 15 questions were asked, there were at least 60 chocolates in possession-- a telling sign of the giving nature of Target’s employees. The next team building game was ‘Make the Mummy’, where groups of eight, along with their team leaders were to drape one student in newspaper and replicate a mummy in the shortest time. At the end of the event, some mummy’s didn’t quite turn out as they were expected to be--some resembled a robot, others a rock star. At the end of the event there was indeed a moral--working as a team is essential in achieving success.

As the day’s events came to a close, and it was time to bid adieu, students had their special messages penned on cardboard sheets, to be framed and that will go up on the walls of Target for posterity. As part of another generous gesture by Target, they handed us bright red school bags to take home as a souvenir.

On our return journey, the mood was sober. Not because students were tired or exhausted, but for them, this meant the end of an experience of a lifetime.  As I randomly asked who would like to work in Target? The answer was evident-- they didn’t raise just one hand, but both hands shot up, symbolizing how much an experience like this had influenced their thoughts positively.

Rizwana says it was a day she’ll never forget. “I have never experienced anything like this before, so this is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. I cannot wait to meet with all of them at Target and re-live this entire happy memory”
Rahul who impressed everybody with his dance moves and hand stands has a standing ovation to offer to everybody at Target. “From Kavya Didi and every other friendly volunteer, and each moment at Target, to me was joyful.” He also added, “next year too, we’ll go to Target only. Why go anywhere else?”

In conclusion, as we sum up this day, just like Target’s logo, this day sure did strike the bull’s eye of each child’s heart.

-- Karun Gopinath

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Young Achievers

Eyes twinkling with excitement and proud smiles across their faces, they shyly displayed their awards. Hanumantha S and Lingaraju L, our TenPlus students, have been awarded the Kannada Madhyama Prashasthi, by the Kannada Abhivriddhi Pradhikara of the State Government, for securing the highest marks in SSLC at the taluk level. This award is given to exceptional students from Kannada medium schools. Lingaraju stood first, while Hanumantha was a close second.

Their association with Dream School Foundation goes way back to their seventh standard, when they were inducted into the DSF HeadStart programme. Now pursuing their first year Pre-University from MES P.U College, these ex-students of Bapu High School have known each other since school. Though competitors, as they posed for the photos, their camaraderie was clearly visible.'There was always a healthy competition between the two, as one tried to outscore the other', says Mrs. Bhagya, a teacher at DSF.  

Enthusiastic and lively, Hanumantha, has a strong penchant for learning. Coming from a family where his father is a labourer and mother a house maid, he was faced with many challenges in pursuing his schooling. His curiosity and keen desire to study, were evident right from when he was in middle school.  ‘He would insist on being a part of the classes conducted for the seventh standard, even though he was still studying in the fifth. Numerous attempts to convince him that the classes were more advanced, were futile.  He would stand by the door and observe everything that was taught. After a few days, he took me by surprise, when he started answering questions which even the seventh standard students couldn't!’, fondly recalls Mrs. Bhagya. Ask him his goal and he quickly replies, ‘I want to become an engineer!’

From a similar background, Lingaraju belongs to a family of five. His father is a labourer and mother works as a house maid. Diligent and focused, Lingaraju, is a good example of an ideal student.  ‘His dedication towards studies was evident, as he unfailingly attended classes every day, even though he had to travel quite a distance’, Mrs. Bhagya says. 'Quiet in the class, he absorbs everything and is much disciplined’, she adds. On being questioned about his future goal, ‘I want to become an engineer’, he says with a smile.

Self- motivated and hardworking, these boys are an inspiration for many.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Field Trip - Rambus Chip Technologies

Raring to go, the students and staff of DSF’s Yeshwanthpur E&D center, trooped into a bus which arrived sharp at 9:45 am, looking forward to an exciting day ahead! DSF’s long time partner, Rambus Chip Technologies, had organized a day long trip to their office on Bannerghatta Road.

On reaching the campus, we were given a warm welcome by Mr. Murali and his team. An icebreaker session followed, with the students introducing themselves and talking about their goals and dreams. Unlike the previous batches, the students had varied goals. From doctors to sportsmen, engineers to IPS officers; their aspirations were diverse. The students’ determination to follow their own path was well appreciated by the Rambus team. When Chaithanya expressed his ambition to join the IAS and later enter politics, Mr. Murali was impressed, as, in his words, “we need young blood to rule the country.”  Following the icebreaker, the team played a few videos for the students, which left them inspired and motivated.

A couple of fun activities had been arranged for the group, the first one being a test of reflex. The students were divided into teams of two. Each team was given a scale with a meter. One in each team was asked to hold the scale while his team-mate waited in anticipation for the scale to drop. The swiftness, with which he caught hold of the scale without letting it touch the ground, was measured using the meter, reflecting his reflexes. Each student was given three chances and the first three teams were awarded chocolates.

The second activity was a test of concentration and balance. The group was provided with a paper cup, a metal measuring tape and a ball. Each student had to put the ball into the cup while balancing it along the tape. The student, who managed to put the maximum number of balls into the cup within 30 seconds, was given a prize.

The end of the activities saw broad smiles on the faces of the students, as they gleefully clutched their chocolates. As a token of their love and appreciation, the students presented the Rambus team with a special handmade card, colourfully adorned with their thumb imprints.

Starting the tour, the students were divided into groups of five, and taken to all the departments of the organization. They were exposed to the workings of the chip designing, software designing, lab testing, human resources and finance departments. They were also given a tour of the UPS and recreation rooms. The fascinated group, was explained the nature of work and functions, of each department and were encouraged to question and understand. The employees at Rambus, more than happily answered the plethora of questions that followed. As we toured the office, we were pleasantly surprised and humbled, to see DSF cards, plaque and pen stands, previously given to the Rambus team, displayed in Mr. Murali’s cabin.

An exciting and eventful morning left the students hungry- for food and more. Lunch was a delicious spread of various dishes, especially arranged for them, by the team. They had also arranged for more activities and games post lunch, ensuring that the students’energy didn’t ebb. Later, the group was also given instructions and tips, for playing table tennis and foosball, which they keenly absorbed.The team conducting the day’s activities, joined in on the fun and made it even more memorable.

End of the day saw the students drag their feet to the bus, waiting to take them home. Reluctant, to see a day filled with learning and fun, come to an end, they bid adieu to the hospitable and friendly team at Rambus.

--Meena Shankar

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In The Spirit Of GeneroCity

On a sunny day at the St. Joseph’s Indian High School grounds, preparation was in full swing as the city was all set to celebrate GeneroCity-2013, an event organized by United Way of Bengaluru. As the volunteers of the Dream School Foundation marched in with banner-spanner, coaster and poster in hand, our mission ahead was clear--- spread awareness. 

A multitude of stalls set up by a number of NGOs that varied in work from education to street children rescue, dotted the entire field; all in the hope of championing their endeavor. Right in the middle stood five wish-trees; NGOs pinned up their little wish-cards in anticipation of making their dreams and wants come true.

Our intention being telling the world what we do, we distributed mentor brochures, handy bookmarks and doled out information about our various programs. A quick quiz on education and all things related saw very few takers as some of them even scampered away seeing the word ‘quiz’ on a placard. For the general inquirer who sought information, bookmarks were given as a token of thanks for showing interest in our work. As the day progressed, on the main stage there were sprightly performances, complete with music and dance. 

As the event came to a close and the prize distribution was about to commence, volunteers and students of the Dream School Foundation prepared to spring a surprise on all those present. A small announcement by the Emcee had the audience turn their gaze to the centre of the venue. A flash mob! Lead by Supriya, the spirited performance had everybody’s undivided attention. Placards that read ‘Our Right to Education is Non-Negotiable’, ‘Every Child has a Right to Education’ etc spoke of the importance of education and was the underpinning of our mission at DSF. As the entire audience formed a semi-circle and cheered the enthusiastic dancers, a number of cameras captured the performance and the mood of the crowd. The show can be summed up as one that was energetic and lively.   

All in all, as we returned to our homes, we felt content for having told even if it were just a few more people, that the Right to Education is non-negotiable!

--Karun Gopinath

Friday, October 11, 2013

Remembering Gandhi

'Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one, ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth'

After a much-deserved holiday and having just completed their exams, students at the DSF R.T.Nagar Centre were in no-mood for ‘academic engagement’ ( very simple, textbooks were a strict no-no!)  Fearing physical harm, I still took the chance of asking our students to turn to page 86… in chorus, the response was a loud NO! Little did they know that they were in for a big surprise!  Veering away from the usual, a combined class of the 8th and 9th students saw an approximately 50-strong audience gather, giving us the ideal mood and timing for a talk on Gandhi. Starting off, we discussed and deliberated why Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was deserving of titles such as ‘Father of the Nation’ and the ‘Mahatma’.  Expressing eagerness and interest in knowing more, this class was one that was interactive and engaging. A documentary on the Mahatma was screened which shed more light on his nobility and impeccable discipline. At the end of this short-movie, a quiz was conducted which saw a clean-sweep by the girls. Poornima Holla, Programme Coordinator, presented each one of them with a small gift for answering correctly. 

All-in-all, with the close of this special class, each student seemed greatly influenced by the supreme sacrifice and qualities that captures the legacy of this simple man, which will bear impact on our minds and hearts, for generations to come.

--Karun Gopinath

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Salute To Our Teachers - Vivekavardhini High School

Balloons, flowers, streamers and a colourful banner with loads of heartfelt messages; the teachers  of Vivekavardhini High School couldn’t have asked for more. The excitement of Teacher’s Day was palpable. This is one day of the year that children get to express their adulation and gratitude for their teachers, and as expected, the students spared no effort in making their teachers feel special and appreciated. The teachers were honoured with flowers and beautiful idols of Lord Ganesh, as a token of their love. They had an elaborate program planned, which included songs dance and speeches. 


Mimicry of the teachers by one of the students had everyone in splits. The act not just showcased the girl’s talent but it also made one realize how impressionable and observant children are of their teachers. Children learn best by observation and teachers carry the huge responsibility of setting a good example. The teachers at VVHS are well aware of this fact, as Mrs. Selvi, a teacher there, very eloquently said, “ It is the responsibility of a teacher to not just provide academic knowledge but to instill good habits in children and mold them so that they grow up to be good human beings.” 

Mrs. Latha, the Head Mistress aspired to be a teacher from her childhood days, and being here is now a dream come true. Though she is very happy to be in this profession,   she does not reflect the same sentiment towards the provisions of the RTE Act. “Promoting students irrespective of whether they are deserving or not, has made children lax and less motivated, posing a huge challenge for teachers.” Parents and students alike seem to have lost any value for education. While people are complaining of lack of good teachers, it is time we think in terms of providing committed teachers like these with systems and provision which will complement their efforts. 

--Meena Shankar

A Thoughtful Thank You- Government School, Rajajinagar 2nd Block

At the 2nd block Government School, Rajajinagar, dances, speeches and mimicry were the order of the day as students entertained their teachers with their innumerable talents. The balloon bursting competition amongst teachers saw Mr. Prakash, set a new local record by bursting a total of 17 balloons in under two minutes. With such speed and precision, he went about decimating his competition earning new found respect from his otherwise already-in-awe students. Bringing to an end the day’s celebrations, students nibbled on their cupcakes as teachers spoke in high praise of the Dream School Foundation and its commitment towards excellence. 

-- Karun Gopinath

To Teachers, With Love-Government School, Jugannahalli

As we entered the premises of the Government School Jugannahalli, students were relishing their mid-day meal of hot rice and piping hot sambar. After a hearty meal, students gathered in a classroom and little Ranjita of Standard Five in true oratorical style spoke of her teachers and their care and commitment in educating them. A mimicry performance followed by a dance, depicting Lord Krishna, was well received by fellow students and teachers who saw another side to their otherwise naughty, yet talented children. 

-- Karun Gopinath

An Educated Insight- Government School ,Prakash Nagara

At the Government School, Prakash Nagara, a number of Kannada speeches, anthems and songs constituted the entertainment segment. Mimicry, and a 'Burst the Balloon' competition for the teachers, saw enthused kids cheer on. The sporting teachers were most willing to put on a show that gave much joy to their biggest fans. Teachers Ms. Gangamamma and Savitha, reiterated that it was their duty in building a foundation for these less fortunate children. The teachers strongly believed there was so much scope in value addition that goes beyond just academics- they stressed on a need to enhance computer literacy and use more information technology in the gambit of education. 

-- Karun Gopinath

A Tribute To Our Guiding Light-Government School Kethmarnahalli

As we moved on to the Government School, Kethmaranahalli, a spacious classroom splashed in bright blue was slowly filled to capacity by students in uniforms of a matching indigo.  With charts of animals, vegetables, and a whole lot of other artwork that adorned the walls, students totaling about a hundred waited for their teachers to arrive. In the interim, as Maitreyee (Founding Member of D.S.F), engaged students in conversation, to one question, with firm conviction, a student said that Teacher’s Day is celebrated as this was the day that all teachers were born.  

Head-Mistress, Miss Parimala, and associate teachers, Miss Pankaja and Miss Vishalakshiwere again praised to the skies by students. A small skit imitating their teachers had the audience in splits. In a bid to engage the teachers in a competition, each teacher was asked to blow a balloon which was to be burst only by sitting on it. At the end of two minutes the teacher with the highest count would be the winner. As the event began, with each bursting balloon, the children cheered on and celebrated just as they would during Diwali. Each balloon that burst saw a roar from kids who found it hard to contain their excitement. As the teachers cut a cake in celebration of this day, students sang Happy Birthday at the top of their lungs. A quick correction and in the same tone and rhythm, they sang Happy Teachers Day and sunk their teeth into the cupcakes that were distributed. 

Miss Vishalakshi told us of the complex matters that they deal with on a daily basis at school. Grossly understaffed, teachers find it difficult to handle these many students at a time. Parents who are drunks, drug addicts or imprisoned seem uninterested in the education of their wards, thereby making it harder for the teachers who are expected to don additional responsibility. 

-- Karun Gopinath

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Teacher's Day- A celebration of knowledge

In the shade of the sylvan canopy at the Gymkhana, the IISc Government School was busy in preparation fort his year’s Teachers Day celebrations. In the backdrop of this makeshift venue, there hung a banner with personal messages written by students, for their beloved teachers. Seated right in front, teachers of the IISc Government School were in for a treat of cheerful entertainment.

Dressed in their best and most colourful attire,students made haste to begin with the day’s celebrations. An opening speech in praise of teachers-in English and Kannada was followed by song and more tribute for their guiding lights .As Sowmiya ma’am, music instructor, member of the Dream School Foundation team played accompaniment on the harmonium for a slew of songs, one couldn’t help but notice that the teachers smiled in contentment. Though three different stanzas were sung at the same time of a particular song, nothing could deter the spirit in which celebrations ensued.

With a fitting end to the event, students sang Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram and Vande Mataram in unison.Enhancing the fun-factor, a lemon and spoon race amongst teachers saw cheering that belittled the support for our Olympic team. As teachers raced towards the finish line, students encouraged their favourite mentors which concluded in a photo-finish moment. A small cake-cutting ceremony and distribution of cupcakes to all students gave us a window of opportunity to speak with a few teachers. Overwhelmed by the children’s enthusiasm, Miss Padmini, Head-Mistress-In-Charge at the IISc Govt.School spoke of the limitless love and affection each student had to offer and that there was no reward as gratifying. 

-- Karun Gopinath