Saying goodbyes is one of the most difficult things one has to do in any kind of relationship. For us, another year is coming to an end and it’s time for us to say goodbye to our 10th standard batch which has been with us for the last two years. They will be going to junior college in a few months which will open up a new world for them. To celebrate this end of two years and support the students in this crucial time, we decided to take our students on a retreat to Malavali, near Lonavala to help them get ready for their life in junior college.
Thirteen out of fifteen girls managed to join us for this trip for two days and one night. We travelled in train from Mumbai to a small place near Lonavala, called Malavali. We booked a bungalow for ourselves where we spent these two days.
After reaching Malavali, we started with our first activity of ‘heart mapping’ to help our students reflect on their lives. They had to share things which were close to their hearts, their most memorable moments, and how they see themselves in the future. The girls shared about their time in ALF, their relationships with others, and how they hope to see themselves in future. This activity gave all of us a chance to take a step back and think about the choices we have made which helped us to come here in our lives. It also gave us a chance to appreciate the people that we have and the experiences we have been a part of.
We started our second session with a movie, called ‘Mean Girls’. The purpose of watching this movie was to start our conversation about the apprehensions about the girls’ lives in junior college. They shared their feelings about going to a new place, meeting new people and having new experiences. We also discussed different ways in which the girls can maintain healthy relationships with people they will interact with in their colleges.
Our next session was about ‘love and romantic relationships’. We started by sharing our definitions of love with each other and thinking about the qualities each one of us looks for in our partner and our relationships. After this, the girls analysed some cases where they differentiated healthy from unhealthy relationships. They also learnt about the importance of consent in a healthy relationship and to identify coercion. This session helped the students to start thinking about how they can make choices to choose their partners in the future so that they can help themselves and their loved ones stay safe from any kind of abuse in romantic relationships.
The last session for the first day was about sexuality. During the session, the girls asked many questions about gender and sexuality. They watched an excerpt from the movie ‘Bombay Talkies’ to talk about the gender norms being followed in our society and how to respect choices of different people regarding their identity.
During the second day, the girls were more relaxed and excited as they had a pool session planned. Before that, we had a short discussion about the issue of mental health and the stigmas attached to it in our society. The session helped them understand the problems that people with mental illness face. It opened up our conversation regarding issues related to mental illness – something which is not talked much in our societies.
Soon after, the girls could not wait to go to the pool. We spent two hours in the pool, talking, playing and making (failed) attempts to swim (none of us in the pool knew how to swim, except one of the teachers). We came back to the bungalow to have lunch after which we were ready to pack our bags and head back to Mumbai.
These two days have been memorable for us teachers, as well as the students, as it gave all of us a chance to get to know each other better. At this crucial moment, where our girls are stepping out into a new phase of their lives, they need a lot of emotional and mental support from the people around them. Transitioning from school life to junior college life can be stressful and overwhelming. We hope that the experiences from the trip and ALF will help them feel empowered to make choices to enhance their lives, and provide support to each other. We also hope that their future experiences teach them to stand on their own feet and become independent young women who make a positive impact in their own lives and the lives around them.