Last week was humbling, exciting, tiring and extremely fulfilling. Our very first field workshop - with 7th and 8th grade students.
Thanks to some of the incredible fellows at Teach For India, we were able to spend 2 days at Gangotri Public School in the Seelampur district of Delhi.
Talking to their students about a range of topics including nutrition, body shaming, emotional eating and eating disorders, we
- increased our (already high) sense of responsibility towards our mission
- broadened our spectrum of thinking about EDs, who they affect, and
- improved our cultural awareness of the subject
….pushing us to think critically about how we can be a truly impactful organization.
This pilot was the first of many to come. It left us with so much food for thought and action!
But it was also doubly special because we were all together as a team for the first time since we started working on Freed!
My key learnings from this experience:
1. Interacting with children - matching their energy, understanding their motivations, and listening to the stresses they carry at such a young age - is challenging, but also extremely rewarding!
2. Listening to the stories of several children after our workshops validated our hypothesis that disordered eating and eating disorders are highly prevalent in adolescents, regardless of their gender, age, economic background, religion and/or body shape.
3. Working together as a team on this, helped create a strong alignment towards a shared vision for the organization.
Even after having shared my story several times, reliving it in front of young impressionable kids was a responsibility I took very seriously. Our team spent days preparing the content, making it relevant to the children listening to us, and curating resources for support for those who voice any concerns.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, over 15% of the total class size that attended the workshop, followed up with us after to speak about their own experiences. Of those, several kids showed strong symptoms of disordered eating and high body dissatisfaction. Speaking to them at length helped me see more clearly the extent to which eating disorders have crept into all pockets of society. My heart sank listening to some of the stories and the level of distress these kids were in every day. And this is only the few that spoke up. Several more must feel similarly and not share with anyone.
But for now, TL;DR - We are honored to have had the experience of working with these kids, and feel grateful to continue building support systems around individuals and families affected by EDs in India.
PS: If you work with, or know someone at, a school/college in India - we’d love to get an introduction and tell them more about the awareness workshops Freed is currently running!