The teams for the two October projects are now dealing with the final preparations as their departure draws closer. The team heading to Zimbabwe will be arriving in Harare on the 17th of October and staying until the 28th, and the India team will be in Varanasi from the 18th to the 27th; less than five weeks to go!
The India team
Pictured here is the team heading out to Varanasi. On the far left is Guy Shpak, who, for this project, is particularly focused on using his knowledge of krav maga. Devesh and his ISKF-UP colleagues offer free self-defence classes to women across the city, and so the instructors are keen to expand their knowledge of street fighting. Guy will be running a two day defence seminar for both karate instructors and students, helping to teach the Disha girls not only how to defend themselves but also how best to avoid dangerous situations in the first place. This will also be very positive for them in terms of connecting with the wider martial arts community, as at the seminar they will be working alongside other local karateka, which will give them more role models to look up to as the progress in their training.
Mary Stevens, the project co-ordinator, is second on the right. Mary has a great deal of experience in instructor training as well as personal teaching experience, and so she has a particular focus on working closely with Devesh and the assistant instructors involved with teaching the Disha girls, Amit and Pankaj. Mary played a crucial role in the January 2018 visit, after which it was agreed with AshaDiya that the girls would have two classes a week rather than one, and that the sizes of the groups would be reduced. Reports from Devesh strongly indicate that this has had a very positive impact on the girls, who, he says, are very motivated and training harder than ever. Mary is looking forward to being able to assess this change in person.
Jet Huwae (far right) will be more concerned with evaluating the impact of martial arts on the girls, especially in their daily lives. In the past, FairFight members have observed that while the girls at Disha House understand the physical benefits of karate, they often don’t have a clear idea of the psychological strength they should also be building. Jet has personal experience with martial arts acting as a tool for empowerment, and is also experienced in teaching children from difficult backgrounds and is therefore well equipped to take on this role as an evaluator.
Charlie Stevens (second on the left) is currently working with Mary to complete the creation of the syllabus she’s been working on with Devesh in order to get it printed in time to give to the girls and to the dojo during the impact visit. It is their hope that having a syllabus will give the girls a clearer idea of what it is they’re working towards, and help them understand what their martial arts journey will involve. Charlie has therefore been transcribing documents received from Devesh as well as working with a graphic artist in order to add pictures that personalise the book to the dojo in order to be able to create a complete comprehensive student guide book which will be useful not only for the girls at Disha but for other karate students too.
The Zimbabwe team
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe team are also dealing with final arrangements. Alex Whitcomb (left) has just arrived back in the Netherlands having been in Harare for the last couple of weeks sorting out preparations for the others’ visit.
The rest of the team includes a new volunteer, Gonzalo Villarrubia (right), who is a 6th Dan black belt and who aims to assess the girls’ skills. Gonzalo and Ginie (second on the left) also hope to be able to find another female martial artist suitable to help out in the sessions as a senpai to provide more role models for the girls. Moreover, they will be offering black belt training seminars and gradings in order to leave the community with more qualified instructors, as this is a crucial step towards the goal of self-sufficiency and will greatly help the project expand on a local level.
Another goal for this project is to secure more opportunities for the girls to train and compete nationally. We’re thrilled about Tinashe’s progress in competitions, but Gonzalo and Ginie aspire to help give all the girls similar chances to do well. Gonzalo in particular has a lot of experience in training students for competitions, on national and international levels, and so aims to use his knowledge to contribute to these preparations. Related to this, the team hope to encourage parents and other non-martial artists within the community to offer more support as the dojo takes on this new challenge; Ginie will be running seminars for local parents, teachers and businesses to try and bring them into the project, which is another key step towards achieving self-sufficiency. In the long term, FairFight hopes to leave Harare (and Varanasi) with a group of ambassadors of change to continue this work with less input – therefore, persuading local figures of the benefits of this project is essential.
The final member of the team is Myrthe (second on the right), who has now been to Varanasi twice as an evaluator and will be applying the skills she’s gained from this experience to review the way the girls view their training and whether it’s having an impact on their lives outside of the dojo, as FairFight hopes it will. Myrthe plans to stay a week longer than the rest of the team in order to conduct interviews as she has previously done in Varanasi and hopes she can learn a lot from the girls about what it is that karate means to them and how we can help facilitate their training and development in positive ways.
The team will also be checking in with Tinashe to see how the recently launched sustainable sanitary products project is going.
Keep an eye out for more updates coming soon!