What Is Your Reason

While out in the field yesterday, I was confronted with a daunting task of rallying my strength to help young people reconsider their perspectives about how life is like in their community. I was scared that I might say the wrong things or that my message might come in too strong for a group that has just started fighting for ideas that have long been taken for granted in my country or in other countries where freedom is as common as condoms bought in convenience stores.


Here was where young minds were left to fend for themselves. Bright young people who go through the trials of poverty and inability to access information that they have the right to claim; who hunger for any kind of education that they can get their hands on just so they too can change the course of their lives; who, despite their dismal living conditions, were brave enough to find means of changing the world.

As my JOSH India co-worker, Thomas, gave me the floor to share a bit of myself and my reasons for being in India, I thought about what I could possibly say that he has not said before. In a span of 30 seconds, I quickly rummaged for ideals which I can share (but not influence) as I did not want to make the same mistake I did ten years ago with my high school students who were too naïve to know better.


Since I did not know where to start, I simply introduced myself to them in a manner so unlike a teacher that they have been made to believe should be like. As opposed to a stern and formal semblance of an educator that many of them were introduced to in their schools, I thought of just keeping it light and casual. I mustered the friendliest face I can and talked to them like how a friend would talk to another friend.

I wanted them to be comfortable and at ease. I wanted them to relax and put their guards down. And when I asked them what their reasons for being there were, I assured them that they did not have to think too hard and come up with complex answers. There were no wrong answers. I told them that knowing their reasons is important. I explained that this is their motivation for coming everyday, that this will help them finish what they started, that this will aid in achieving a current goal or even more. While I was explaining the significance of reasons, I decided to share mine to encourage them but stopped when I thought that I have said too much.

As expected, when it was their turn to share, no one dared raise his or her hand; so after a minute of waiting, I gave in to the universal tactic of “involuntarily volunteering” an unwilling participant. Obviously, they were not used to being asked questions that did not require a socially-dictated answer. They were not accustomed to being encouraged to freely share answers with an immediate assurance that their honesty will not be criticized. Later on, to my relief, hands started shooting up without being threatened to be called.


Their reasons varied. Some wanted to learn English because it will help them land better jobs and give them opportunities that will not be limited to peddling in wet markets. Some wanted to learn how to use the computer which as we all know is already a way of life in this technologically-powered society. Some wanted to know about volunteerism and social work. Some wanted to simply know what life is like outside their community because they were confined there since birth.  It was surprising to know that a foreigner like me have been to more places in this state than locals like them who have lived in Delhi all their lives.

Not everyone shared their reasons but as a reminder, I told them to think hard when they go home afterwards. I told them to think about their reasons and to think about what they want to happen. Goals are powerful because it keeps people moving but knowing what they are specifically is even more powerful.

To end the talk lightly, I ended it with a game. As always, Teacher Den is always ready with a game. The rule of the game was to count from 1-10 but no one will be assigned a number. I just told them that one number should be said by one person only and every time two, three, or four people say a number in unison, we will go back to #1. The game took more time than expected but they were laughing a lot which meant that they were having fun. In the end, we were able to finish the game after they worked together and some started owning up numbers. I explained that the point of the game was to own up to those numbers and take responsibility as those numbers represented issues that they were concerned with – issues like the rape culture in India, disrespect for women, poverty, corruption, caste system, and most important of all, the deteriorating case of education in public schools.

I do not know what the extent of the results of that talk was but I hope that I was able to kindle a spark that will lead to change at some point in the future.

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  1. i know you did great, Den!