Life Skills: Making a difference in the life of HIV positive children

Oct 2015 Urmila Chanam & Jayanth Kumar Photo credit: Lavina Cardoza

“Chinnara Chilipili had a Clay Game where the nice plate I made with my hands out of the clay given to me was destroyed by the facilitator. I experienced anger and hurt but learnt from this exercise never to cause hurt to others. Empathy was my lesson.”

– Nalini, 15, Belgaum, Participant of Chinnara Chilipili Workshop

Chinnara Chilipili, in Kannada literally means chirping children. A unique workshop by this name from the USAID HIV/AIDS Orphans and Vulnerable Children Social Protection Project is being conducted among children infected or affected with HIV/AIDS where through games and fun-filled activities, children are given the forum and environment to begin to express their problems and acquire life skills.

The World Health Organization defines the 10 life skills as that which the younger generation needs to be educated upon for achieving mental and physical health and attaining social harmony and tolerance thus building an organised, acceptable and beneficial lifestyle for everyone.

Chinnara Chilipili workshops train children affected by AIDS on these 10 life skills that include empathy, stress management, effective communication, self-awareness, building healthy relationships, problem solving, creative thinking, critical thinking, emotion management and decision making.

On ground, these life skill trainings help participating children change their lives by shifting their paradigm on their HIV status, stigma and discrimination, their life aspirations, health and overall well-being by 360 degree turn.

For 15 year old Nalini from Belgaum district, Karnataka, attending the Chinnara Chilipili camp in Nippani was an interesting life changing episode. An orphan who is HIV positive, she lives with her younger sister and grandfather and goes to a Government High School. She recollects the death of both her parents to HIV/AIDS and shares how life has never been easy for either her or her family.

The breath of change come into her life in the form of new things she has picked up during the Chinnara Chilipili workshop. She exclaims, “The 10 life skills we learnt at the workshop taught me how to treat others and behave around people and the right way to live in the society.”

Nalini talks about the Clay game played during the workshop at length and shares how it served to make her sensitive to other’s pain and hurt and helped her develop empathy for others.

This exercise involves giving all the children some clay and have them mold it into different objects of their liking. The children spend time and effort to make different items. Few children make animal figurines while others make utensils and toys. Nalini recounts how she made a plate out of the clay she was handed. The facilitator then destroys these objects of their hard labor. The children are asked to express about the feelings they are experiencing on seeing their clay objects being destroyed by turns. At the conclusion of this exercise children are explained how important it is to understand our behavior that may cause pain to others, to develop empathy and not cause hurt to others around us.

In this way, this unique workshop teaches children who are HIV positive, the different life skills in a demonstrative manner that causes them to not forget them and equip them with lessons that would enable them to live a quality life.

Like Nalini who says that she can see the progress in herself so clearly, where she is able to talk confidently in front of her peer group, identify right from wrong, deliberate upon her plans on education after completing class 10th, utilize her time effectively to being a help to her grandfather, many children are experiencing a shift in the quality of their life too; 54 such Chinnara Chilipili camps have been conducted by the project in the 16 districts of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu training a total of 1798 children out of which 882 were males and 916 were females.

A difference is being made through games and fun activities.