By Jagpreet Sandhu , Chandigarh : Who can ever think of transforming the lives of slum children from rag pickers to educated professionals by just selling old newspapers and performing theatre shows.
Zulfikar Khan, the President of Theatre Age group took an initiative in the year 1992 to help, educate and raise the life of needy and poor children by nurturing their talent through formal, vocational and theatre training. “Theatre build up a sense of confidence in the slum children which motivated them to study and come up with their talent “ says Zulfikar.
Talking about the initial days Zulfikar told, how he and his group faced challenges regarding funds and other resources but then in 2003 he came up with the idea of collecting and selling old newspapers from a rag picker student. Since then the group is run only on the basis of old newspaper sales which brings funds for slum children. At present the expenditure of about 52 slum children is run in the group by collecting and selling newspapers , which includes not only the school fee of these children but also daily need items from head to toe.
The Theatre Age group has not only taught the slum children the art of theatre and education but has also feed them with the disciplines of life. Performing theatre shows on social issues like female foeticide, aids, de-addiction, the students of this theatre group have learned a new way of life and are now shining with their own individual identity in the society.
Veer Pal, a student of first batch of this group has now achieved his aim of life as he is working with a news channel as make up artist Chandigarh. Veer Pal in 1992 before holding the hands of Zulfikar, used to work as a boot polish boy on the streets of Chandigarh. Zulfikar Khan then asked Veer Pal and many of his colleagues to stop doing work and join him as an artist of theatre group. “The children were good in studies and in plays as they just needed some support to come out from the dark side of their life. The children who have grown up, have started their own groups and are conducting theatre workshops on their own or are in a well settled condition like Veer pal”, said Zulfikar.
The Theatre Group even today helps its children to get admission in various schools. About 16 students from this group are studying medical and non-medical streams whereas many others are doing other professional courses.
The group takes newspapers as public donation instead of any monetary help. These newspapers are donated by its 1200 members and then further sold for revenue purposes. Presently operating from Government High School sector 24, Chandigarh, the President of this group wishes is to have a better accommodation or better place for the children so that he can help more children lightning up their future.