Teach for India

For the past two weeks, I have been volunteering with Teach for India at the Kilbil School in Janwadi, a low-income neighborhood in the city of Pune in Maharashtra. I chose to volunteer with Teach for India because I had heard and read about many of their nation-wide efforts to give an excellent education to as many children as possible and to end educational inequity in India. TFI is currently working with nearly 23,000 students across India. TFI has an extremely high impact on the schools and students it works with. Teach for India strives to change the fact that four percent of children in India never start school, that fifty-eight percent do not finish primary school, and that ninety percent do not finish school, thereby significantly limiting career options and earning capabilities.

I decided to get involved in this project because I wanted to help (in whatever small way that I could) bridge the gap between those that are already receiving a solid education and those that are not getting the education that they deserve. Teach for India has been intervening at the Kilbil School with the current sixth grade (150 students) for about five years.In my two weeks at Kilbil, I helped one of the three fellows from Teach for India teach his fifty sixth graders about writing, reading, and algebra.

Party on my last day...

Party on my last day…

The day that I started volunteering at Kilbil, the students were given the prompt for a balanced essay, “Should uniforms be compulsory at school? Why or why not?” and were also told that if the essays were good enough, they would be given to the adminstration to consider. This was a question that had never crossed the students mind, they saw no other alternative to wearing a uniform. This piece gave the students a voice, that they otherwise would not have had on this issue, as students are most frequently looked to as inferior people who can be beat, yelled at, who are meant to memorize thousands of facts without giving any true thought to them, and whose somewhat controversial thoughts are not worthy of recognition by several teachers and the adminstration (this is most definitely not the case in the TFI grade). Obviously at Friends we have quite a lot of freedom with what we wear and are able to express ourselves through our clothing, so it was interesting to me that the students were having so much trouble finding one reason that not having uniform s be complusory would be a better option for them (other than the extremely valid reason of: the cost of uniforms is too much– 800INR, -$13 a year–and places a lot of stress on the Kilbil parents). It eventually came to the girls, “We could wear pretty dresses everyday!”, but it took much longer (and many thought-provoking questions) for the boys to think of why it might be beneficial not to have uniforms at school. Not only did this piece teach the kids to open their eyes to various alternatives to their way of living, but it also opened mine. Something I thought I was against, having uniforms, could actually be beneficial (I’m not suggesting we get uniforms at Friends). Uniforms give students a sense of identity, comfort, and belonging. Having a uniform eliminates the inate concerns some kids have about what to wear each day. Having a uniform might even set up a more effective learning environment for younger students who have more trouble focusing than older students. This was just one of the many things I learned while teaching at Kilbil.

On our way to P.E. by the mountains.

On our way to P.E. by the mountains.

Teach for India has not just established a dream, but many amazing ways to achieve that dream with the help of fellows, alumni, volunteers, and alternative ways of teaching to those of the extremely traditional schools in India.

Shifa and Mohini

If you are interested in learning more about Teach for India, click here http://www.teachforindia.org/?home=2.

 

Rick’s Summer Service with the Friends’ Shelter and God’s Love We Deliver

student  dinner for Friends Shelter

This Summer, in a goal to assist in combating New York City hunger and poverty, I worked with two organizations on a few separate occasions.  On two days I worked with God’s Love We Deliver, whose mission is to transport food to unfortunate individuals who are unable to acquire it on their own. Throughout these two days I met many different people, with many different ages, all quite amiable and grateful.  One was a nice French Man whose intercom system wasn’t working so he had to walk down several flights of stairs to greet us.  Despite the inconvenience, he couldn’t have been friendlier and gladly accepted the meal. Another was a man who had been with the organization for sixteen years and lived in a building with an elegant courtyard where a pond of turtles was present in the center.  With every single person I delivered to, each one had a warm face and an expression of gratitude whenever I greeted them.  My experience with this organization brings to light the vast amount of happiness that can accompany an action as simple as a merely bringing someone a bite to eat.  In addition, many of these individuals’ apartments were located in gloomy, dated buildings.  The glee that I was met by with each person illustrates that one does not need to live a baronial lifestyle in order to be happy and content in life.

I also served with the Friends’ Shelter, an organization which provides a place to sleep and an evening meal for the homeless.  On each of the three days I served, I cooked (with my mother and house keeper) a vegetable, a main course, and a desert.   We always baked a 3-4 layer lasagna, as this was the recommended food and could easily serve however many people were going to turn up.  We cooked broccoli twice and asparagus once, each with garlic, salt, and other seasonings added.  For desert, we prepared a chocolate cake with vanilla icing twice and brownies once.  We then delivered the food to the shelter (also known as the common room) where 10-12 made up beds were set up for anyone who wished to spend the night.The only people present at the time were the individuals who volunteered to stay for the night and make sure everything went as planned.  The individuals who used the facility would appear later in the night.  They were very thankful to receive the meal and wished us a goodnight.

This summer I feel as if I have contributed in combating the issue of city-wide hunger and have gained a newfound comprehension of how to make an impact.  I now also understand that small acts of kindness can go a long way in benefiting someone’s life.  With this knowledge I have the ability to continue to make strides in assisting to resolve the problem of hunger not just within the community but on a global scale as well. I encourage others to sign up and bring a meal to the Friends Shelter. Sign up HERE.

Liv’s Summer Service Reflection

This summer I went to Argentina with Putney Student Travel. The program I participated in, Language Learning: Argentina, focuses on Spanish language immersion and has a service component as well. For two weeks out of the month long trip our group stayed in a small village called Villa de Las Rosas in the countryside of Cordoba and spent a lot of time working in the community. In total, our group completed sixty hours of community service in Villa de Las Rosas. Our group volunteered at the local school where we painted sets for the community center, built benches and painted elaborate murals on one of the school’s buildings. We collaborated with the local kids (aged16-19) on designing and painting.
Working at the school was extremely gratifying and enjoyable. The kids from the town who worked with us made the experience unforgettable. When we were all either painting or building we would play music, talk, and laugh with one another. By collaborating, working towards a common goal, and serving the community we developed strong connections with the Argentine kids. Because we developed such close relationships with the Argentine kids the work we were doing felt more meaningful and we got to see the difference the work made in the community more closely. At the end of the two weeks when we had completed all of the service projects it was incredible to see how the murals and benches brought so much color and excitement to the school. More than that, the experience showed me how important it is to work together and how meaningful it can be to connect with someone, even if it is just over painting murals.

one of the sets for the community center

one of the sets for the community center

one side of the building

one side of the building

another side of the building

another side of the building

another side of the building

another side of the building

one of the benches

one of the benches