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Janwaar Castle is a learning camp with a skatepark at its core. It's a social experiment and the goal is to transform the village of Janwaar into a wealthier and more prosperous place.

How dreams come true

Janwaar. Five kids. Never gone more than 10 kilometers away from home without elders, confidently boarded a train that would take them 630km away from home, to the Jaipur Literature Festival. All by themselves. No elders accompanied them. They were dropped at the railway station in Khajuraho, boarded the train and knew, that I would pick them up in Jaipur. 

It all started when Puneeta Roy, of Yuva Ekta Foundation, invited kids from Janwaar Castle to the Jaipur Lit Fest’s outreach program. This year’s theme was “Freedom to Dream”. Kids from Janwaar Castle and NGOs and schools from Rajasthan were brought together to prepare a street play. Through this program, they raised awareness about the importance of one’s freedom to dream and encourage everyone to follow them.

The kids reached Jaipur at 3 am at night – still, their energy and curiosity and excitement were flying high! All they were talking about was their journey and how they met people and told them the story of Janwaar Castle. It was tough to calm them down and put them to sleep. Again, as if they didn’t sleep, they were up early morning, looking for places to skate in the hotel and surrounding areas. By breakfast at 8am, the entire hotel knew about the skateboarding kids.

Bhanu and Rijul, the program coordinators of the Yuva Ekta Foundation, were deeply happy with the Janwaar kids — “With their skateboards, they easily helped us to quickly break the ice with all the other kids.”

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Preparing for the performance at the Jaipur Literature Festival

50 kids participated in the workshop. During the workshop, they played different games to prepare them to speak up, and get rid of the stage fright and, in general, gain confidence. They listened to each other’s story and their dreams. There were some city stories and there were some village stories. A girl from higher caste in the village followed her parents’ teachings and discriminated people on the basis of caste. Having realized she was wrong, her dream is to spread this to everyone else. A city boy wanted to become an investment banker but cannot do so as his family saw it as gambling. A village boy, was prohibited to touch the glass while drinking water because he was from a lower caste. His dream was to never let this happen to anyone else.

These stories were gradually compiled and slowly a street play took shape. 

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Performing in the community, in the middle of the road

For six days, 18-23 Jan, the kids performed this street play in private schools, government schools, community streets and finally at the Jaipur Literature Festival. After their act, they discussed with the other kids their dreams. Everyone was astonished, that no matter where the kids came from, many of them shared their very personal dream and more often than not the dream was about breaking down some kind of barriers within our Indian society. It gave the performers and the audience everyone encouragement to push those boundaries and not to stand up for their dreams.

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The new family away from home

When it was time to leave Jaipur, the kids had learned so much from each other, relationships were built and friendships were made – and going away brought tears in everyone’s eyes. This two weeks experience will stay with them for all their lives and hopefully they will be the beacon of light to spread what they’ve learned in their communities and villages back home.

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