// Year 15 // Issue 10// 10 July 2022  Oasis Periodical (Newsletter-Cum-Magazine) 

Oasis Kashmir Festival 2022: Part IV

Kashmir- The Paradise of Seekers Too!
Oasis Central Team Members at Oasis Kashmir Festival 2022
For the first time in the last 33 years of Oasis history, almost the entire central core team of Oasis facilitators camped at one place for 21 days, influencing more than 1000 youths and engaging more than 100 adults from the School Education fraternity.  

Many of us from this team of 18 facilitators also included first-time visitors to this region. Here we share glimpses of hearty reflections on this memorable Kashmir experience…
In Giving, We Receive…that’s Kashmir! 

When an Oasis within Oasis is born…
Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast,
hami asto hamin asto hamin ast.

If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here….
(Poet Amir Khusrau on Kashmir)

This is what our eyes try to correlate when we descend as first-timers (or regulars) in this heavenly Valley. 

Paradise is always the snow-laden mountains and the virgin natural terrains. A haven for Indian tourists rushing in for a respite from hot dusty summers. 
As I realise now, this seems to be the biggest flaw in the way we have tried to see or even portray Kashmir so far. 

This May 2022, for the central team of Oasis from Gujarat & rest of India visiting Kashmir, these 21 days of Oasis Kashmir Festival project, were bereft of any sightseeing trips. 
That’s when the real essence of Kashmir emerged in front of us - when we witnessed beauty in the hearts of the people here. Most importantly the extraordinary committed and unconditional support of the brave core team of Principals and their teachers in Kashmir.
In an atmosphere rigged with volatile news-fed rumours, fear of uncertainties, travel safety, parental concerns, negligible staff in many regions such as Kupwara, high academic pressures and administrative constraints, each Kashmiri volunteer went out of their way to GIVE. College youths travelled long distances to conduct camps, while teachers sincerely worked overnight for preparations even after a full day of work at school. Principals rallied around to fill in the gaps created by their participation. Our core team of H.O.I.s pitched in 24x7 support to resolve the dynamic nature of challenges that would surface every now and then. 
The secret: In Giving, all were actually Receiving more. This heightened sense of selfless giving bonded all of us and also infected peers and more schools to join in. Strangers turned family, hierarchies dissolved, differences added charm and it didn’t take long for distances to melt into a beautiful unified community.  Goodbyes were filled with heartening scenes of teary hugs on the concluding days. 
An oasis within Oasis. If this experience of Love is not real jannat at Kashmir, what else could be! 

 ~ Sheeba               
If one heart transforms, it influences many...

21 days in Kashmir! I am so grateful that life gave me such a wonderful gift to work with Kashmiri children and influence so many lives. 
The whole credit goes to the teachers and principals of Kashmir, whose efforts were beyond imagination. Everything was the expression of their love for children. I realized - If one heart transforms, it influences many hearts around positively.

The people of Kashmir are very welcoming, helping, humble,  grateful, loving, respectful and have a beautiful heart.
The youths of Kashmir are very positive, and enthusiastic and carry fire to do something good for society and to create a better world. Our responsibility is to just give them chance, to accept and love them.
 ~ Aatmaja Soni
"I'm beautiful"  

When I got the opportunity to conduct life education programs for children, I felt grateful as destiny allowed me to spread my love here.  
A girl in our camp always wore a sweater. When asked, with tearful eyes, facing down, shivering and fists tightly closed, she shared that she is criticized for her thin body frame. So, she wears a sweater, always. On the last day of camp, she stood on a chair, removed the sweater and proudly spoke - "I'm beautiful." 
At that moment I realized more powerfully the need for girl-women empowerment and character education programs in Kashmir and rest of  India.
 ~ Avadhi Shah
I saw Passion, Enthusiasm to Learn & Love for Life

Through this festival, I realized that the youths of Kashmir are no different from the youths of Gujarat or Kerala. They have similar inner strengths and potential. The same passion, enthusiasm to learn and love for life are also in them.

Children would not stop expressing their gratitude for the camp on the last day. Not only the children but the facilitator and teachers, who conducted the camp, also were transformed.
All the stories of transformation touched our hearts. One teacher shared that for ensuring an excellent Life Camp, we must conduct Life Camp for teachers first.
 Dinkal Gayakwad
Real Paradise of Open Hearts and Minds

For Kashmir Valley, the public perception is that it is a conflict-ridden region, which no doubt it is. However, spending 3 weeks there trying to heal and help  Kashmiri students, we experienced that this region is perhaps the most sincerity-rich in India, per square feet of geographical area: thirsty for knowledge and love, and hungry for growth opportunities. Here we found larger ratios of the population with hearts and minds wide open to learn and evolve- that was a real paradise for us. 
~ Sanjiv Shah
Most memorable experience in my 30 years of Social Work

It was highly inspiring to witness that years of uncertainties in education and daily life have failed to take away the faith of teenage girls in the Goodness of life and human relationships. The camp helped to unleash their potential. 
Each one of us experienced an environment where Humanity was the supreme religion.
All teachers were so helpful, mature, hardworking and empathetic; each teacher played an incredible role to make this camp a “Child Centric Camp” in its true sense.
~ Dr Neha Vakharia

I have changed, for better

It helps us to be better people when we go to a new place, and understand people, their culture, their beliefs, and their life. I got a similar beautiful opportunity in Kashmir. And I am changed, for the better.

I learned a lot while working in a team. I was able to witness the impact of Oasis Environment on Kashmir youths. It reaped fantastic results.
~ Pallavi Raulji

A precious realization! Pay it forward..

As a facilitator of Friendship Camp for young boys at Sogam, Kupwara, I closely witnessed suffocation in youths, issues of addiction and their suffering due to lack of opportunities. They rarely experienced love & friendship.

It made me grateful for my life knowing how comfortable life I have, the freedom in the environment around me and my caring friends at Oasis ... I have so many opportunities to grow at this age!
It made me realize my responsibility toward these youths. I need to pay forward the same environment of love & respect to every youngster around. My conviction about this dream has strengthened. 
Shailesh Agrawal
Education of Heart healed all..

Power-pack bunch of heartwarming experiences with teachers, principles, school heads, staff, students, (even local co-travellers during daily shuttle to school at Kupwara). Warm-hearted, welcoming people.

Teachers were honest about their struggles in the education setup. Saw their hearts melting and absorbing the Education Of Heart approach of Oasis. I think it was a healing experience for teachers too, not just students. 
~ Jolly Madhra
It was an experience of lifetime

As I discoloured my mind and became open-hearted, I could see the real Kashmir – loving, caring, humble and open-minded people. Every interaction with them stunned me about their deep sense of care and concern for others.

The young generation is equally bright, curious, intelligent and sensitive and very much want to be part of the mainstream world. What they need and deserve is – Opportunities, plenty.  
~ Mehul Panchal

Hats off, Oasis Kashmir team! 

It was an exhilarating experience to be a part of such a wonderful celebration! The new Kashmir team had really worked hard and reached across most of the districts.

Seeing the content and satisfaction on the faces of the participating principals, teachers and students were really heart-warming! Hats off to the whole team of Oasis Kashmir for this grand celebration of 2022!
~ Preeti Nair
It was really very unique and exciting experience!

As a facilitator and one of the team leaders of life camps at Kupwara, it was a really very unique and exciting experience. The local teachers in my team were really wonderful people.
The students of my Life Camp were quite open and ready to participate though being from an interior rural area. Despite all adversities and a lack of opportunities in their surroundings, they were able to dream big and share.

~ Megha Naik
More than teaching them, I learned

I thought it to be very tough but it was really a joy to take camp for Kashmir students and was happy that I could give them something.
What touched me the most was that despite all difficulties, lack of infrastructure and teachers, hilly roads and lack of resources, children attend school with lots of zeal. The more I listened to them, the more I realize that I need to learn from them. At this young age the pain they carry within and still keep on smiling is something I will never forget.  
~ Binit Shah

Made me more Grateful and Humble person 

The girls in my camp were spirited and much confident. The trainee teachers had lots of love for children.

One very introvert student in my camp confronted me and asked me to share my life experiences. I liked that conversation the most. Life sharing of students was inspiring and made me feel a more grateful and humble person.

~ Shraddha Vyas
Youths are strong-willed, determined and bright

I was very excited when I first heard about camps in Kashmir.
My experience with the Friendship camp was fun, challenging and educative too. 

Amid the ongoing social and political disturbances around, the youths are strong-willed, determined and bright to chase their dreams. They have excellent reasoning power and zeal to excel. 
~ Neeta  Sanghvi
Transformation from Negativity to Positivity

The experience of Oasis Life Camp for students at Kupwara school was an entirely different experience for me. Many believed that ‘We have no future because we have no opportunities’.

One of the participants shared – “We were living in negativity so far. Nobody has talked positively with us nor given us positivity. But today, we feel we can do anything in our life.” These words made it all worthwhile.
~ Hardi Parmar
So much trust for a stranger in so little time!

The hosts where I stayed were very caring and loving to me. I was amazed by the trust they showed to a stranger like me whom they barely knew.

Youths were eager to be independent and were ready to work very hard - no job was small for them. I really liked this spirit of dignity of labour in them. Many wanted to earn money so that they could help others. I felt so respectful about the youths of Kashmir and was satisfied to see them growing confident in camps.
Vaishnavi Tapaniya

Turned out to be very beautiful experience

I think to know Kashmir one should come here and stay with the people.

They are very honest and work very hard. Wherever I stayed, I got an atmosphere of Love similar to what I have seen in Oasis. 

~ Rajnish Gamit
To Be Continued in Part V...

The Golden Hearted Core of Kashmir...
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Aatmaja SoniJolly Madhra, Sheeba Nair
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