When I landed in India early yesterday morning, I couldn’t believe that it had been a whole eleven months since I last left. I got into the village around 9:00 AM and within the first hour I saw Usha. She looked at me, started smiling and let out this quiet, but excited “Ah!” noise.
I met Usha last year when she was at our neighbor’s house washing dishes. I was automatically drawn to this young, skinny girl washing dishes while her employer’s daughter who is around Usha’s age sat just a few feet away doing school work.
Usha, her sisters, and mother do work around people’s homes in our village while her father works as a laborer. As mentioned in my blog posts last year, she has never attended school and neither have her sisters. Her oldest sister who still lives in the village has been married since she was 13 years old. In a couple of years, most likely by the time she is my age, she will be living with her husband’s family.
As Usha sat washing dishes, I sat next to her and updated her on my life while she updated me on hers. When I met her last year I was always the one inquiring about the details of her life. However, this time she was the one asking me questions about my life.
During the time I spent with her during my past visit, a friendship was formed. It has become a bond tied together by the different lives we live.
I brought out my laptop and showed her a map of where I lived in London and where I traveled during my time abroad. I then showed her where the United States is located and some pictures of my life there.
A little while later we left for Mamta School. As I got out of the car, I saw a little familiar figure standing in front of the steps looking at me and smiling. It was Nathji- one of Mamta School’s students who is an orphan that was born with part of his arm missing. As I walked past the rooms, I saw the same familiar faces I got to know so well during my previous visit. I also spotted a few unfamiliar faces as well. We had sixty students enrolled at the start of this school year, but currently have 48 children. Many of the children return home and never come back.
We stayed for a couple of hours and I familiarized myself with some of the new students and teachers. Among the new students, I met Palak, Rahul, Jaydeep, Maypal, Sailesh, Smit, and Rajudan. Since Mamta School does not go to the high school level, there were 18 older students missing so I was unable to meet the new ones.
Maypal, the newest and youngest addition to the Mamta School family
For the past two years, we have been supporting children with special needs, but have also been trying to find ways to bring education to young girls who are unable to attend school. Although the government provides funding, free education, and books to the families, they still do not go to school. Last year I mentioned giving scholarships to the girls, but slowly found that the government provides a large amount of funding towards the education of the poorer families. However, many of the teachers do not teach well and just go to make money.
I wanted to start something for girls like Usha because in two years, like her sister, her family will be arranging for her marriage. At least twice a month I would like to keep an educational session that enables to learn about sanitation, nutrition, and hygiene. As they get older and have their kids, my hope is that they apply these teachings into their life own families.
I met with Prakashbhai Kalal, a teacher from the neighboring village who was born and raised in a poor village in the mountains. He brought himself out of poverty and is now an English teacher in the neighboring village’s high school. Rather than using the traditional teaching methods like his colleagues, he uses his laptop, camera, and projector to engage his students. I was inspired and grateful to hear him talking about the positive effects of his teaching methods.
Prakashbhai gave me insight on ways I should go about these education sessions and I found that my only struggle would be finding someone who would be just as committed to this as we would like them to be.
In last year’s blog posts I talked a lot about the temple trustees and their lack of support for the government school. One of the first things we noticed upon our arrival to the village was the cricket field located in the front of the village. The field takes up a large amount of land that could hold two large schools. When we asked my cousin’s son why they decided to give land to build a cricket field rather than expand the school, he said he wasn’t sure. The only thing he knows is that the partner who gets paid for letting the teams play on the field is the son of the head of the village. To read more about the village temple and school, read my blog post from December 29, 2012