India is home to more than 225 million children ages 10 to 19 years. At Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved youth in Dehradun, India, we provide a comprehensive education designed to give our children the tools to reach their full potential as individuals and leaders. Helping our kids become productive adults requires collective action on education, health, employment, personal development and interpersonal relationships. The Adolescent Resource Centre (ARC), instituted at LDA several years ago, gives our children the tools they need for their lives outside the classroom.
ARC covers many overlapping areas of development. We discuss life skills and livelihood. The children learn decision making and relationship skills, and they spend time in personal contemplation. We share with them what kinds of changes to expect during adolescence, how our social attitudes might change during this time, and crucial information on reproductive health. We talk about nutrition, health, hygiene, what constitutes a balanced diet, and common and infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Throughout this year long process, we encourage curiosity, open discussion and problem solving.
The ARC councilors, Madhavi and Karishma, stress that confidentiality is a critically important part of ARC. Our kids and staff all live in the same community. The advantage to this is that everyone looks after everyone else. The disadvantage is that everyone knows everyone else’s business, and gossip among or about teenagers can be devastating. Many of our kids don’t ha