This past month I took advantage of the Fellowship “exposure visit” and made the train journey to Jaipur to meet with fellow education Fellow, Stephanie Dorman, at her NGO—Digantar. Jaipur—The Pink City(and shades thereof)—is where my first India adventure began 3 years ago at the Nischay/Neerja Modi School (see this archival blog for stories from that experience: “http://www.johninjaipur.blogspot.com”>www.johninjaipur.blogspot.com). During my 3 day bide I had the opportunity to accompany Stephanie on a visit to one of three Digantar schools where she introduced a new English curriculum she developed as part of her fellowship project. I observed many similarities between APV School and Digantar: music, poetry recitation, peer teaching, independent learning activities, and teachers with a passion for teaching. These were all inspiring signs and I left feeling that APV and Digantar could mutually benefit from future collaborations.
The following day I joined another Fellow, Joey Stromberg, on a visit to Jawahar Nagar, where he teaches a bi-weekly English class to kids from the slum. Despite the torrid heat of mid-day Jaipur, the kids displayed a high level of enthusiasm and participation. Although there were many bright students with considerable potential to do very well if given the right educational opportunities, Joey said very few (if any) would proceed beyond 8th grade. The lack of family support and pressure to earn money are simply too immense.
The challenges faced by slum kids in Jawahar Nagar are very similar to those faced by students in another Jaipur school where I taught 3 years ago—Nischay—a school that offers free education/uniforms/meals to girls below the poverty line. When I was there in 2008 the school went up to grade 10, with only a handful of girls in the upper classes. Now the school goes up to grade 12 and the number of students has doubled. There is also a new computer lab and sewing/craft room. These were all very inspiring signs! I arrived in time for the final day of classes, which was also the annual “bicycle give-away”. It was an exciting reunion made more exciting by the fact that we could finally share a meaningful conversation due to substantial improvements in my Hindi and their English. Our time together concluded with a Mehendi session and, just like old times, a Salsa/Merengue dance lesson.
|Dancing with Nischay Girls|
~ I started a bi-weekly English/Computer class for APV Alum students during their summer break. Fun!
~I got a urinary tract infection. Not fun!
~I was invited to give a TEDx Talk on Holistic Education in Orissa. Awesome!
~The TEDx event has been postponed indefinitely because a lead organizer ran away with the sponsorship money. Not Awesome!
Finally, here’s a song I recorded (with a little help from The Bunny Rabbits) for the Kids Music duo, The Okee Dokee Brothers, in honor of their trip down the Mississippi River in my home state of Minnesota (http://mississippialbum.blogspot.com).