Saturday, March 26, 2011

LEAD embarks upon a project in a Tribal Village

Hello friends,
I guess, this thrilling subject line itself would have pumped up the adrenalin levels of most of us.... :-)) Yes; I am really proud & glad to say that LEAD has now also started working with one of the tribal villages of Maharshatra....
 To give you all a small background as to what it really took for LEAD to take a plunge into such a completely different domain, let me share with you some of my personal stuff... 

In the additional capacity as the Program Officer of the NSS unit of my college, I had to organize 7-day residential rural camps for my team of students. I really couldn't make out at that time (in Jan 2010) as to what was influencing me so much to select this particular village, after visiting various villages, for the camp site. However, I now realize after our second camp in Jan 2011 at the same place, that there was something destined to happen..... Here we got an opportunity to witness & experience an altogether different life in one of the tribal areas Lavadi. This small village is situated about 10-12 kms away from Badlapur (after Kalyan towards Karjat)
There is so much that I can go on & on about our wonderful observations, heart-warming experiences and unforgettable learnings during this stay...But I worry that will perhaps distract us from the main point now.. So I am just attaching the reports written by my students and some of the snaps of these camps... You may have a glance at them....

Apart from a not-so-well equipped, poorly built, & ill-managed Anganwadi in this village, there is also a zilla-parishad-run primary school that attracts about 25 students with 2 teachers to manage the 4 classes (class-1 to class-4) in 2 classrooms... (Shocked?? Then let me tell you that last year, only 'a single teacher' used to handle all the classes in just one classroom!) There is also a privately run ashramshala that supports about 300 kids hailing from this and primarily from the nearby villages for their class-1 to class-7 education..  After 7th std. these students have to leave the hostel for their respective villages, Students from this Lavadi village then travel about 2-3 kms, by bus, cycle or walk, to the nearby village Boradpada, for their higher schooling. And I was pleasantly surprised to find 'many' students 'taking efforts' for completing their secondary education, even girls. And this was one of the major reasons I started zeroing my efforts on these elder children (while my students made all the possible efforts to make education more fun & interesting for the younger children and support the primary school teachers while guiding the weaker students and regularizing the not-so-regular children)  Guiding & Motivating the secondary school children was my primary concern, so that they don't drop out from the educational system, after having traveled their journey so far. Their English was very poor & hence I took these language sessions for them daily for 7-days and it was such a great pleasure for me teaching them and knowing more about them, What kept me driving was their keen interest to learn, their regularity, good response, obedience, and punctuality. (something a teacher yearns for from his students)

This bond had grown to such a level that it wetted most of the eyes when we had to leave the village after 7 days.. They wanted me to stay for some more days..."Hope you will not forget us.... Do come back soon"...All this was really making more difficult for me to leave them....It was then, that a Dream was born... LEAD will take up this task ahead... to do something for these children who desperately need such motivation/guidance... I could see so much of potential, hard-work, dedication, sincerity, and innocence in this teenage group...Little bit of mentoring and they too can shine!!  Soon, I shared my experiences & dreams with one of our volunteers Sunita who stays in Ambernath (near Badlapur).. It was so kind of her (& equally surprising for me) to see her agree to such an altogether different & challenging task, almost immediately... Sunita is a software engineer and travels by train and then ST bus on weekends for more than an hour to reach this village for these elder students, esp. girls... She started with the English lessons that I couldn't complete during my tenure. But soon the need for much more & much better was felt and our efforts began...
Considering the various requirements, we decided to support these children with the following stuff immediately-
1)    Computer - Strangely, there is no computer education provided to the students in these zilla parishad run schools even at the SSC level. The purpose of this donation was two fold - Computer education to the senior students and secondly this modern tool would serve as an excellent educational aid in the hands of the primary school teachers. Pair of computer speakers too was provided so as to enable the more effective Audio/Visual mode of teaching/learning rather than the rampant and traditional chalk n talk methods. Besides this tool also possesses immense power to pull back some of the irregular children into the classrooms.
2)   Thanks to one of our senior-most supporters/well-wishers Prof.Mani for providing the Protinex powder packets to LEAD. This food material was provided for enhancing the nutrition levels of the younger children. This stuff was handed over to the Anganwadi teacher of this village who took the responsibility of providing the powder to them daily. (in the same way as its being done at LEAD's Airoli centre) The Anganwadi currently attracts @ 15-20 children (3-6yrs) from the village. The count is much below the desired one. And the main reason spotted out being the negligence on the part of their parents.. but then we could also perceive the gradually decreased levels of enthusiasm in this senior aged Anganwadi teacher....

Providing these protein powders was an attempt to supplement the nutrition levels of at least those kids who turn-up to the Anganwadi regularly and then even pull in more kids with the combined efforts of Anganwadi teacher (we expect the teacher to now go & speak to the parents of these irregular children about the kind of nutrition that their kids will be getting if they send them to the pre-primary school)
3)   Zillions of Thanks to one of our dearest volunteers/supporters/well- wishers Vinita who along with one of her friends arranged some of the most beautiful toys, puppets and other wonderful educational aids for the primary school children and their as to make education an enjoying process/journey for them.. These tools and methodologies will go a long way in building up the interest among the younger student community.. LEAD's challenge would now be to ensure that these resources do get utilized the way they are supposed to be with the help of its volunteers & training of the primary school teachers and the elder students of the village... And let me tell you that Vinita is all set & highly charged up to play this extremely imp. role in this area....

(I wonder how extremely difficult it would have been to transport all these material to this village, had Vinita not pulled out her car for this event.. .Also Thanks to her driver Kailash for making our longggggggggg journey a safe and pleasant one)... Also Thanks to our volunteer Kailash for helping get the protein powder tins from Chembur (Prof.Mani) to our center (Airoli), a day before, after his office hours.
Coming to the marvelous experiences & amazing responses that we witnessed during the distribution of these items, I think I should better leave this space wordless as the photos captured by Vinita will do a much better job..... (Yes, she is also a Photographer!!)...  She has really made my job easy, by tagging these photos with detailed captions ;-))
Check out for this fun-brigade here:

However our main goal is no longer about just the plain academic development of these kids. We, now, earnestly wish to open up the minds of these elder students esp girls. These girls don't get much stake in the major decision making processes in their families esp pertaining to their marriage, education, child-birth, etc We have observed these girls getting married at a very early stage (one of the girls was made to quit her studies after 12th and take up the role of wife & mother when she is really neither physically nor emotionally ready for this)...Also these girls are too shy with low self-confidence to speak out their views/opinions openly in public,..
There are many girls in this village. Some of them have dropped out of the school due to lack of encouragement/support and don't wish to continue further. They now surely run the high risk of getting married at this early age. We need to step in fast & stop this....
So not just teach them but our mission now is to educate and empower these adolescent girls and ensure their increased participation in decision making that affects them.

Thanks to my recent week-long stay and the efforts put in by my team of students over there,  I can safely claim that quite a good rapport has been developed with these children, primary school teachers, Sarpanch, Gram-sevak and even some of the parents/ villagers now... LEAD has to now leverage upon this relationships and take an another imp step forward for the development of these children....& hence the village..

Much more exciting news coming up from this corner in a couple of days... I now sign it off for Vinita & Sunita for the subsequent set of reports.... Till then, Keep watching this space.,, ;-))  

Thanks & Regards

Rupesh S Gesota
LEAD Foundation

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop"..... Mother Teresa

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