Everyone slept well – the beds are awesome. We woke up (a few of us had to be awakened, actually) and had breakfast before heading off to Mrs. G’s mother’s school in the slums – the Molar Bund school. We were received warmly by Mrs. G’s mother, who escorted us into a classroom where she explained her incredible story about starting the school and really making a difference in these children’s lives.
We also met Shari Daniels, a kind American volunteer who works at the school. During our conversation, a knock on the door called for Shari’s attention; it was some of the boys in the equivalent of our 11th grade who have participated in a three-month English intensive program. Shari explained to us that they go to the Molar Bund School in addition to their government-run school. She went down the line asking them how many of their teachers at the government school had showed up to teach them so far – all the boys said either one or two out of their four or five teachers had come to teach them – and school has been in session for a month already. I could hardly believe what I heard. It really showed me how determined these kids are to receive an education. I’m not sure how many kids I know would willingly attend an additional three months of school, and also spend an extra four hours a day at school like these students at Molar Bund.
Shari told us the most incredible story about the teenage boys. Apparently she told the boys that if they came in to the school extra days to help paint the school, she would give them a treat at the end of the month. So the boys came in and painted, and after a month she took them out to McDonalds. They took a taxi, and Shari sat in the front. During the ride, she felt the boys reaching over her shoulders and putting their hands in front of her face. She asked what they were doing, and they explained that they had never felt air conditioning in a car before. So they turned on the heat so they could experience that as well. The boys ordered their food at McDonalds, and got an ice cream treat at the end. Walking with the boys, Shari turned around at one point and saw that the boys were gone! Naturally she panicked. She then saw them without their ice cream, and upon questioning the boys as to where their ice cream was, they said that they gave it to some little kids who were starving. The boys asked Shari if she was mad at them, and she responded saying that of course she wasn’t. I couldn’t believe that these boys worked for a month for this special treat, and in an instant, they were so selfless as to give little hungry children their ice cream on such a hot day. Shari said that these boys knew exactly what it felt like to be hungry because before being taken in to the Molar Bund School, ten years ago they were just like those little kids on the street. I have no words to explain how inspired and amazed I was by their actions. It really shows the type of people these kids are, especially after being at the Molar Bund School. Life in the slums was mind-boggling. I had never seen anything like it before. Many people live in the most makeshift of homes. Buildings are run down, and kids are using the streets for their bathrooms. Apparently the Molar Bund slum is one of the better-off slums (that sounds like an oxymoron). Other slums don’t have government-subsidized construction going on. What really brightened my day was seeing all the kids in the Molar Bund School. They had the biggest smiles on their faces and greeted us with warm “hellos” and friendly waves. They absolutely loved the attention and getting their pictures taken. We were introduced to many classes and classrooms, and teachers told the kids to perform little songs with hand gestures. Smiles spanned everyone’s faces as we watched them giving these adorable little performances. Even writing this blog right now I notice that I have a smile on my face just thinking about these children! I really can’t even describe in words how precious these kids are! We also visited the Molar Bund daycare center where we saw the even younger kids who also performed for us and smiled so brightly. When the car pulled up at the daycare, we definitely drew attention – enough attention that when we entered the daycare, around 30 kids and adults lined up against the gate to the daycare, just watching us. The attention we received surprised me. I knew that people would see us as different, but I was shocked by the focus on us.
We also took a detour to Molar Bund’s medical facility in the slum where we met with a doctor. She said that she sees an average of 60 patients per day, and her colleague also sees about 60 per day. This medical center treats the 25,000 people in Molar Bund and additional individuals in a neighboring slum – treating a grand total of 50,000 people. The doctor told us that they see around two to three positive cases of malaria each day. After our introduction to Molar Bund, we took the shuttle bus back to the hotel where we ate lunch and had a couple hours to nap or rest.
We then had our first meeting with Praneeta who will be meeting with us about every other day to answer any questions we have or explain anything we saw that we want to ask about or further understand. She gave us a lot of interesting statistics about India. To me, the most interesting thing she said was that India is like a two-sided coin: whatever is true in India, the opposite is also true.
These are some interesting facts she shared with us: - 42% of India’s population lives below the poverty line on less than $1.25/day - India is home to 25% of the world’s hungry population - India is composed of 28 states – there are more poor people in 8 of the Indian states combined than in the 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa - 43% of children under age 5 are malnourished - Approximately 500,000 female births go “missing” (feticide and infanticide); naturally, more girls are produced than boys, but due to birth selection tests (now made illegal) and feticide and infanticide, the sex ratio of girls to boys is 940 : 1000.
Tonight’s dinner was Chinese food…Indian style. I had never thought about the fact that other countries eat Indian food, too! But the Chinese food has an Indian twist to it, which was interesting. It was yummy, though!
Fun fact: it seems like in cars people have one hand on the wheel and one hand on the horn at all times. I’ve never heard so much honking in my whole life!
Friday August, 5, 2011 at 09:15AM