Workshop helps unleash
Hindi students' potential

Coinciding with Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership Week, which was celebrated from 3-7 July, Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network member Kashmir Kaur organised a workshop for Wellington Hindi School children to explore leadership and the importance of learning a second language. In this article, Kashmir describes the workshop.
Hindi students sit at the floor working in a workbook together

Students work together on a joint task describing inclusiveness

The theme of the workshop was 'every child is a leader'. The event attempted to unleash Hindi students’ potential, so that they can realise that they are little ambassadors of Hindi language and multilingualism. They also learnt that they are 'leaders without a title', a role they should be most proud of.

At the event, two young and inspirational guest speakers shared their experiences of learning another language and why it’s so important to learn it while young.

Dhaxna Sothieson, a solicitor at Duncan Cotterill, and also a member of the Foundation's Leadership Network, spoke about her embrace of the Tamil language and culture through attending a local community class in Wellington, and Sasha Rasmussen, a graduate policy analyst at the Ministry of Education, talked about her experiences learning French and Russian, and why learning a language is a powerful thing. 

Children at Wellington Hindi School come from diverse cultural backgrounds, and most of them have Hindi as their mother tongue. However, because they are fully immersed in an English-medium mainstream school, and live in a predominantly English-speaking society, it becomes challenging for them to maintain their mother tongue.

In order to strengthen their connections to India and Hinduism, it is important for them and their families to embrace their cultural awareness and positive self-identity by learning their own language.

Knowing Hindi can make these children more efficient communicators and problem solvers. It can help these diaspora kids bond with their Hindi-speaking families better, and have meaningful conversations about their cultural values, religion and history. It can also increase job opportunities and create new business ventures/relations between New Zealand and India. 

Sixteen-year-old Supriti Singh, who attended the workshop, reflected that “learning or being fluent in another language creates so many opportunities and gives us a huge advantage when it comes to exploring options for a career path, for example. We not only learn a different language but the cultural practices that come with the language.”

The workshop also included exercises aimed at developing the children's teamwork and leadership skills. Younger students played ‘Leading the blindfolded’, where every child had a turn leading their blindfolded team over an obstacle path, and senior students produced drawings based on the topic of inclusiveness, doing so without talking to each other and with only one team member working on the sheet at any one time.

Students found these exercises fascinating, challenging, curious and fun. They learnt about teamwork, decision-making and problem-solving.

The main purpose behind including a leadership aspect in the workshop was to make the children realise that they are language leaders in a mostly monolingual society. I could actually see the sparks in their eyes - the realisation of their special skill and their pride in it.  

A group of Hindi students being taught by workshop coordinator

Kashmir (addressing the class) says learning Hindi helps Indian diaspora students stay connected with their culture

For the students' parents, there was a separate brainstorming session on how they could support their children to become leaders of bi or multilingualism.

They expressed their desire to work closely with schools and teachers in encouraging Hindi School students to achieve their bilingual/multilingual dream. These children will become tomorrow’s leaders - cultural ambassadors and leaders in all facets of their Kiwi life.

Kashmir Kaur, alongside her policy day job at the Ministry of Education and various other community activities, is a Masters student at Victoria University of Wellington, and a volunteer at Wellington Hindi School that her three children attend in weekends. This year the Wellington Hindi School celebrates its silver jubilee. Established by a group of parents 25 years ago with classes held in a family’s spare bedroom, the school has gone from strength to strength. The school is producing its 5-yearly magazine, Darpan, reflecting on their achievements over these 25 years.