Chhavi Khandelwal, Co-founded Saturday Art Class with Manasi Mehan a few years ago to allow low income communities through a variety of holistic and value-based modern art curriculums. Manasi was working with Teach for India at the time and realized that the little 8-year-olds she was teaching had so much creativity but no outlet to channelize it. It was one random day when she was talking to a student of hers about what a day in his life looked like and she was rather surprised to hear what he said.
The child wakes up at 5am every morning, where he goes to his uncle’s Pani Puri stall to help him make Pani. Post which he goes back home and helps his sister get ready for school. He goes to school after that (and often falls asleep in class because he’s woken up so early in the morning). It doesn’t end here, he then goes back home, finishes his homework and then goes to the Pani Puri stall to help his uncle again. By the time he’s done with all this, it’s 11PM. He then goes to his other uncle’s shop and helps him wind up and goes back home at 1AM and the cycle continues, every single day. This is the story of just one child. But there were many more, where children spoke about their fathers who were alcoholics and would come home and beat their mothers up. It’s hard to imagine that what sounds so unbelievable to us is actually the reality for such little children.
Image used is for representation only. She does not represent the above mentioned incidents.
With this, they realized that this became normal for children. They were so away from basic life lessons like sharing, team work or even gender equality because of the conditions they were living in. And, because they were such small children, there had to be a different way of inculcating these things into them without making it boring or complicated. That’s when Chhavi joined in as an Art teacher, whilst studying for architecture in her 5th year. Given that art is a universal language, the girls were sure to make a difference. And that is what led to the birth of Saturday Art Class.
“A few months in, Manasi & I had a small exhibition of the work done by our students. We thought it’ll be a small event, but that really was our turning point. More than 300 people showed up. By this time, I’d finished college and had already started working as an architect and Manasi was about to sign her offer for a job. However, in that same month, we had at least 4-5 Government schools reach out to us saying that they’d like for us to teach there as well and people reaching out to us saying that they wanted to volunteer with us. That’s when we realized that there is a need for this and if we really want to make a difference, this was our chance. So I quit my job, Manasi didn’t sign the letter, and we came together to give Saturday Art Class the vision we had and the opportunity the children needed. As of last year, we were present at 13 centres with over 4,500 students, and we only see the number massively grow, this year,” says Chhavi.
Chhavi Khandelwal (on the left), Manasi Mehan (on the right)
They currently work as a Non-Profit organization and started out with donations from people who believed in the idea. Soon after, they started a Ketto campaign and raised substantial money through that.
Chhavi signs of by saying,” Our aim is to make our classes an Art medium, and equip our students with necessary life skills that no school will ever teach them!”
All we’ll say – It only takes 4 hands, 2 brains and a lot of selflessness to make a difference to this world.
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