2.13.2013

Where do we have to go, but here?

It all started with a meeting months ago... and since then it has been a string of being turned away or being asked to wait for x,y,z. We were advised to go here, try there but every school was an apparent dead end. Then we were led to one private Catholic school that holds evening school for 'disadvantaged' children. But hurdles abounded. The principal was changing, exam break is coming, there were holidays, the office is only open three hours per day, the program manager is away, it went on like this for sometime until finally a break through!

Hannah and I met with the principal and then Hannah met with the program manager the following week. We explained the background of our kids, how many we planned to start bringing. We asked if there were any clothing/uniform requirements to which the answer was no; they can come in what they have. We explained that our kids have never attended school. The evening school is designed to teach basics in Hindi, Assamese and English. Basic math, writing and if the child excels they will help them prepare to sit for entrance exams into regular school. Yes, all of the waiting and running really had led us to the right place!

Sunday came and we reached out to some of the girls to explain that on Monday at 3 we would meet them to take them to school! There was a lot os squealing and excitement and sure enough the following day a couple of the girls were waiting for us when we came. We gathered them, then walked to find more children. Eventually 8 of the kids caught on and off we went walking to the evening school. They were yelling at everyone as we walked past, explaining where they were going and the looks on their faces were priceless. We arrived and walked up five flights of stairs and were met with surprise and shock.

Our kids were... different... then the others at the program. The manager gathered us and explained that our girls were too dirty, they didn't have proper manners and that they shouldn't come to school until they learn basic hygiene and discipline. Hannah reminded her that we clearly explained the background of our kids and that were told to bring as many as we could! The manager remained resistent and uncomfortable. The kids clung to us, their protectors looking up with huge eyes of disappointment  Despite us speaking in English, they could feel that they were out of place.

Fighting tears, I asked the manager a simple question

Where do we have to go, but here?

We have searched the area high and low. This program, this was designed for our kids, wasn't it? We need your help, I told her. We need you to help us give them the opportunity to learn even these basic things. It has to start somewhere, I explained and I believe that that place is here. I looked down at the girls standing so close to me and Hannah that we were practically one and thought:

"We believe in you, no matter what anyone else says. You have endless potential and I will stand here beside you until we see that potential realized."

I looked back up and asked her if they could at least attend today and from tomorrow we would find a way to clean their clothes and bodies. She hesitantly said yes and off our girls went to join in the assembly line. Proudly they stood there, peeking around to give Hannah and I huge grins. When the assembly was over, it still wasn't clear if they were welcomed to join class. We walked together to the room and at the door the girls clung to us again, man it is hard dropping your kids off on the first day! We spoke to the manager again and she apologized for making us feel, well, bad. She said the girls could go into class so we shooed them in and told them we would be back in two hours to walk them home. 

In the rickshaw ride back to the slum to drop off one boy that was too young and a baby sibling one of the girls brought, Hannah broke down. It hurts so much sometimes, to be witnessing the unimaginable struggles of these kids. It is hard to fight, it is hard to change reality. But it is not impossible. It is a huge task to demand basic rights for all children. To stand strong, but it is not just their lives we were changing it is a community. It is a slum, it is an area, it is a school. It is adults, children, men, women. It is hard, but it is not impossible. 

As we picked up the girls, it was apparent that despite of the rocky beginning  they had a good experience. So every day this week, they have been walking with Hannah to and from school. The program manager told Hannah yesterday that our sweetest little girl Avita learned how to hold a pencil yesterday. Avita was so excited she started shaking and then proceeded to color and draw for the first time. 

Avita learned how to hold a pencil, the program manager found this so significant that she shared it with Hannah. Avita learned how to hold a pencil, a dandelion seed in the wind. A flower that is starting to bloom. 


8 comments:

  1. Crying.... don't give up, you wonderful women!! <3 Ingrid

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    1. Thank you Ingrid for constant support and encouragement <3!

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  2. You are doing wonderful things for these wonderful children 
    Leena

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  3. More people need to know about these kids, so eager to learn and being held back. How sad they would be to learn many in our country don't appreciate the same opportunity to learn....

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  4. You are doing such an amazing thing. It gives me faith in the world knowing there are people like you out there making things like this happen. Keep going!

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  5. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank-you for what you are doing for our kids.

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  6. Thank u. U have been an inspiration for many. Kristine.

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