Before I've arrived in India I already knew I wanted to manage the project Girls' Club.
The first time I went to Girls' Club (just as an observer) I encountered this group of energetic teenage girls who mostly kept to themselves or traded secrets or inside jokes amongst each other. It was noticeable how self-aware they were while verbally participating in group activities. It's natural to act this way, specially throughout adolescence, while one's building their self-confidence and self-esteem. However if you add the natural cultural and linguistic barriers you have quite a few obstacles to good communication. Only with lots of time, dedication and patience can you slowly overcome these. I had almost 4 months with them. Ah, and it took me at least 2 months to feel comfortable in India.
One of the main goals of Girls' Club is to create a platform where the girls can freely express themselves, their interests, joys, concerns and fears. It is supposed to be a place to share experiences, learn and understand what it is like to be a girl in India.
I developed the idea of making a personal journal since it can work as such a platform. It can be used freely and the girls can dare express anything they want. Importantly, it gives them the confirmation that they have the right to their privacy and to their secrets. That they should invest in listening to their own voices. Besides, I had never done a (note)book from scratch. I was sighted to learn about it.
In one of my trips to Dharamshala I've notice this printer/stationary shop and went right in. After introducing myself and my intention of learning how to bind and make a notebook, I've agreed with the shop owner I would buy the raw materials for at least 10 notebooks if he agreed to teach me how to make them. That closed the deal.
On my first day I went alone and was received by a very peaceful and relaxed team. I had to wait until they were ready to bind books which took a couple of hours. Throughout that morning they were just performing other tasks. They let me help them in some of them - e.g. organize the pages of some books. Simultaneously I did a lot of waiting and learned about how patient I can be. I also grew respect for the work of these men. It is beautiful and so fulfilling to make something yourself…and not just buy it done by some machine.
The girls were so happy when they learned we would be doing the journals. We divided the making of the 13 journals through 3 weeks. It was an activity difficult to coordinate specially due to the barriers mention above but it was totally worth it. The girls turned out to be really creative and put a lot of effort personalizing their diaries. Despite the raw materials being equal to everyone, in the end all diaries where different from one another.