The First Milestone…

Just wanted to begin by thanking all of you for contributing towards our Project and for sharing the link with your friends. Due to your support and generosity we have been able to raise Rs. 47,000 ($940) so far. We need to raise Rs. 1 Lac more ($ 2000). This is the first month of our fundraising and we have reached the first milestone raising nearly 30% of our fundraising target. We have two and a half months more to reach our target…it’s a long way off but we’re very hopeful that we’ll make it.

Thank you all for your support and good wishes!

Project 'To Infinity and Beyond'

Project 'To Infinity and Beyond'

We’ve been approaching various corporate houses, individuals and organizations for support and fund raising. In this process, we’ve been forced to reevaluate our project, its significance and impact from various standpoints while answering concerns and queries. I understand that people feel its more worthwhile investing/donating towards development of infrastructure in any project. Maybe because it is something that stays and is visible. A lot of people have asked us as to why we’re not raising money for a computer lab, a potable water tank or maybe toilets. (our school doesn’t haven’t have functional/usable toilets). Our answer and the rationale behind this project remains the same;

You can change everything around a child and may still not be able to maximize academic impact. We believe that this art-integrated curriculum would be able to instill a sense of intrinsic motivation in each child. If we can make this desire to achieve come from within, then we’re talking something solid.

THAT is visible and I can assure you, it stays. :)

I had written a post about one of my lowest level kids Pranay this year. This child has never responded to anything in class. He still struggles to read, write, understand and process instructions. I was really sad about leaving next year with Pranay still in this state. There are a lot of factors that are contributing to Pranay’s lack of interest in the classroom, some of them so disturbing that I don’t even have the appetite to discuss them here. Anyway, so Pranay chose to be in the dance club beginning of this academic year. His behaviour was so disruptive that I almost decided to pull him out on a couple of occasions but somehow I didn’t. Many many dance clubs later, I entered the dance club last month and saw this kid in the center of a dance formation swaying to the beats of  a tamil song. And he was dancing so well! I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

Pranay at an Art Club

Their dance instructor for the musical told me that he’s fantastic and she’s incorporating a couple of free style steps that Pranay has been showing her. Pranay has never been in the centre of anything. Never. But now, he is and he’s a leading a dance with 5 other dancers. This is doing something for him. With little support at home and little success in the classroom, this child is now applying what he’s learning about the power of practicing to academics. If he can improve in dance, he can improve in math. He’s finally good — No, EXCELLENT– at something and this new found success has given him a new drive to overcome what is difficult. Thinking back to my own education, I can’t imagine not having a creative outlet. For these kids, it’s a luxury — unsupported by administration and not quite understood by all parents.

This is what this project was all about : to unlock a hidden confidence and passion in my children by providing outside opportunities for them to experience the arts.

An incident that took place last month has strengthened my conviction about this project and why it absolutely HAS to happen. Last month, as I was getting out of school one day, I saw a bunch of young goons dragging a 10th std boy of our school, by the collar. There was a crowd around them and it seemed like some sort of a gang war. I couldn’t just pass by. They weren’t my children but they were still from my school. I parked my bike and asked those boys to leave. Very reluctantly and after giving me an icy stare, they left. They did not speak back….well, atleast that time they didn’t.

I got their answer the next day. After the school and extra classes got over, I was heading towards bike and from a distance I could make out that something was wrong. My bike had been vandalized. Stones had been thrust into the ignition, there was no way I could even put my keys in. It was in a bad shape. There was no one around. I had the hardest time finding a mechanic at that time in the day. I went in an auto rickshaw from one garage to another, no one was ready to come back that far. But everyone had the same comment to offfer including the rickshaw guy;

Madam, Tumhi tithe ka park keli gadi? Tya school la jhopadpatti che mula yetat.

They all said the same thing. It was apparently my mistake to have parked in front of a school attended by children from the slums. We finally got one mechanic and he got to work. While we were standing there, the auto rickshaw guy and the mechanic started talking about this school had really useless children who are so vain. They are into all sorts of wrong things and do stuff like this (vandalizing vehicles) just for fun. They spoke about how they are at the most going become drivers for some call centre.

That phrase stuck with me “jopadpatti che mula” (slum kids). It’s a funny thing that even these auto rickshaw drivers come from almost the same low-income communities and despite that they have such low expectations from these children. People have set the bar really low for these kids and “people” here includes their parents, their educators and they themselves.

And that is the reason why we’re inviting 20 schools in and around Vishrantwadi to come and watch this musical on 24th March, just to make everyone wake up the potential of children. Just children, not from a high/mid or low income group….just the potential of children. Every child is capable of something spectacular, they just need the opportunity.

Somewhere in our minds, as a Nation, we have accepted certain things about these children ….what they are capable of and who they can become.

And these children will remain a LOST CAUSE unless WE choose to REVERSE  it.

If each of us contributes even Rs. 100 (less than $ 2) we will be able to deeply impact the lives of these children.

Help us turn the boat! :) This christmas be the person who helps a child realise his potential.

Donate and Help : http://toinfinityandbeyond2012.weebly.com/donate-and-help.html

Spread the word : http://www.facebook.com/pages/To-Infinity-and-Beyond/124370171010615?sk=wall

If you have any concerns/queries, please contact me at chaitra.murlidhar2010@teachforindia.org.

Merry Christmas!

Thanks!

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2 thoughts on “The First Milestone…

  1. Congratulations on all you are achieving. What a fantastic account – in every way! Obviously, what is most striking is Pranay’s success as a dancer, and that one success may change his life. It reminds me a little of many years ago when I was a teacher and I had one student who was considered “slow”. I realized that he would never learn to speak English well because speech, in itself, was difficult for him so I concentrated on his reading and written English. When he got first place, I could see what a difference this had made in the way he saw himself.

    As for “slum kids”, they make up the larger amount of kids in this world, not just in India. What are we supposed to do with them? Give up on them because they were born in poverty or work with them to rise above it? That said, in my book, there’s a part where I mention that I know that I will rise above being working poor but that most of my co-workers are stuck in that category for life. Shocking but true, and if it happens here in the U.S., it must be ten times worse in India.

    Keep up the good work. Your reward is in the results of your hard work.

    • Wow…. you’ve been an educator too? You’ve had a very interesting career graph, Penelope.
      I always felt that your comments came from a well-informed/empathetic place. I know why now… :)

      I guess, stories of triumph of these children, they themselves standing as successful examples to their community can and will be powerful tools to transform mindsets.

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