The Nirmal Bharat Yatra
was a sanitation & hygiene awareness & behavior change campaign conceptualized & implemented by WASH United & Quicksand. It travelled 2,000 kms across rural parts of 5 Indian states between 2nd October 2012 & 19th November 2012.
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The Yatra bids farewell to our choreographer Trevor
"What I was doing before was soulless. I didn't give anything back to society and I decided I wanted to do something which makes me smile.“
14 years ago Trevor Blackman began to work with children who struggle in life. Today we walk through the heat of Wardha, Madhya Pradesh, passing sacred cows who are knee-deep in garbage, trying to reach the next school in time where Trevor will teach children to dance. These are children who are not supposed to dance, but to work with their families in the fields, marry early and struggle through their lives just like their parents did. Trevor lines up his students in a dusty classroom. People are peering through the windows, shaking their heads, wondering. Trevor has begun: giving instructions, showing dance steps, joking and laughing with the children while speaking only a few words of Hindi. Somehow he communicates perfectly through a barrier of language.
Suddenly one child hits his classmate. The atmosphere changes and the boy is immediately sent out. "There is time to be funny," says Trevor, "and a time to be serious. In my classes I have to get that across." He is strict but it is necessary. "I want the best for them. I am strict because I care. They may not like me, but at least they respect me and they will trust me.“
Because of his private experiences Trevor connects fast with children who have perhaps lost perspective. In 2000 he was offered the job of running an education program for children with behaviour problems. Over two years, he worked with more than 200 children. Some died, some went to prison, but the majority found a better future than they would have had. Trevor calls those two years "a great success." In 2004, he formed "APE Media," a company he still runs. "I don't like working for people," he explains. "If you work for a council, for example, you have a lot of restrictions. With APE Media I could do things I couldn't do before. For me, it's about change and developing people, revitalizing them, thinking beyond and thinking of tomorrow. It's about having a purpose in life."
Trevor has been travelling with the Yatra for five weeks now. He says, "I think we make a difference. It gives the kids a moment to shine. It's not my thing to say, 'you have to use a toilet.' My thing is about getting them to think and consider their family and friends and take care of each other. My gran used to say, "each one, teach one, pass it on."
In the dusty classroom in Wardha, the day progresses. After half of it has passed, the time comes for Trevor to see how his new students have progressed. Everyone has to show their best. Nothing less is accepted anymore. It gets quiet. The only noise comes from 30 bare feet trampling the naked concrete, 30 hands cutting the thick air with joy. 30 eyes filled with pride at belonging to this, to Trevor, to something bigger than their usual everyday life. For most of the children this is the first time that someone has looked at them and really seen them.
Trevor leaves the Yatra tomorrow. He will return to APE Media, to running a company that employs 40 people, to being a government consultant on knife crime and running his online radio station www.breaklondon.co.uk. Doesn't he get exhausted? "No," says the man who will remain unforgettable to dozens of rural Indian school-children who have danced with him along the Yatra route. "I'm on a mission. I'm not supposed to rest yet."