This workshop was led by two sisters and Vibha volunteers, Anjana and Ananya Murali, who became passionate about the issue after facing personal hardships as immigrants to a new country. When the Murali sisters started school in the United States, they didn’t have any friends because they were the only students of color in their community. Instead of resorting to violence or blame, they realized that the differential treatment they faced was due to cultural ignorance and decided to raise awareness about Indian culture through educational booths at the annual community fair. After that experience, the Murali sisters realized the hardships that children face in pursuing an education when they have to worry about the social troubles of bullying and discrimination.
Students from elementary, middle school and high school attended sessions on strategies to combat bullying, learned peace songs, created visual representations of kindness on peace bandanas, and learned how to relieve their stress through yoga and meditation.
The day started with learning deep-breathing exercises and yoga poses, the students discussed stressors in their lives and the best ways to overcome them. The students quickly realized that not all stressors (i.e.mothers disrupting their sleep by waking them up for school) could be eliminated, but the way they responded to the stress could be altered.
During the anti-bullying sessions, the students engaged in role-playing by acting as “bullies,” “victims,” and “bystanders” in order to figure out the best ways to be helpful bystanders and stand up for what they believe is right. After hearing about the sisters’ story of discrimination many of the students also came forward with their own stories of bullying or discrimination, and were able to give moral support to each other. Meanwhile, during the bandana making sessions, where kids were allowed to articulate their impression of peace and love on white bandanas, the younger kids were especially able to shine as they used their creativity and artistic skills to express their ideas of spreading peace and positivity (i.e. creating homes for pets without a home and smiling at everyone they meet).
Finally, the students learned a peace song composed by the Murali sisters. The song, “Life is a Rainbow”is a composition honoring two prominent leaders who practice non-violence. The lyrics to this song are inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the tune is set to Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite song “Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram.” While learning the song, the students analyzed the lyrics for messages about important non-violent conflict resolution tactics such as “fight hatred with love and peace,” “fight with your words and not with your fists” and “life is a rainbow full of colors, do not distinguish between just two colors.” After learning the song, some of the students took their own musical spin on the song lyrics and expressed their talents by rapping the words of peace. To conclude the day, all of the students and volunteers sang the peace song together, leaving the classroom with reverberating messages of peace and positivity.
We received very positive feedback from ONG and since the Milwaukee AC has usually been in fundraising mode, it was very rewarding to directly interact with kids and give back. We will socialize with our local donors who are more eager to see direct impact to the Milwaukee community, in addition to back in India.