|Emma and the Friday night class|
|Will's Saturday class|
One of the great things that has happened to our family in India has been the opportunity to get involved in the local community. Of course you can always donate money to any charity but giving some time every week provides a connection to real people. Over the last year Emma has been involved in an after school program that focuses on improving the English skills for children in the villages around our housing complex. India has multiple options for public and private schools, but those that are run by the government do not teach English. If the children can learn to read and write in English they will have better opportunities for employment. Just outside our neighborhood is the local school for Ramagondanahalli, it's a single story yellow building with a few rooms and a dusty play yard. There are no toilets. Kids from ages of first through eighth grade attend but in varying regularity and it's not uncommon for those around 11 or 12 to drop out to work at construction sites to help support the family.
In September the family that had been hosting the after school program moved to Australia and a new home was needed. Emma asked if we could host the school which runs from 5-6pm, Monday through Friday and then 2-3 pm on Saturday for up to 30 kids...Doug and I immediately agreed. The commitment from my end is light - provide a clean garage, put out water and cups and the teaching staff will do the rest. We now have mounted whiteboards on our garage walls, a few on easels and often times the class expands to our front porch so the kids can be grouped in different reading groups. Ms. Poornima is the program coordinator and she organizes the curriculum, complete with workbooks and lesson sheets. There is now a waiting list of high school students to volunteer one night a week! Emma still has Friday nights with 2 of her pals and William takes Saturday after he gets back from school (yes our kids have Saturday school here!). On the days I can get home on time from work, I pull up in the drive to see a ton of smiling faces and am greeted by a flurry of "Hi Ma'am" and plenty of thank yous. The kids usually show up around 4 or 430 to play with the toys we have in our garage, ask to use the restroom and visit with our dogs. While we are not really a quiet family - 30 kids in your garage and a rotating line coming into the house to check things out is a whole new level of chaos for me!
This week is Halloween and while it's not really a holiday / celebration in India, we will be giving the kids a goody bag of sweets complete with orange plastic spider rings. I will keep you posted on our class this year - the kids love getting their picture taken (Especially when I print it out) as most of them don't have recent pictures of themselves.