Fall 2012 – Residential Program Updates

The Residential Program has seen major changes in the past few months.  After a busy summer of regular swimming practice, wilderness and adventure sports camping, karate classes and yellow belt certification (big, big thank yous to Tabrez at Solaris pool, Idania didi and Melanie didi, and Bunny sir for sponsoring and arranging these activities for the AIC family!), it was back to school for the Residential Program kids in June.

Monsoon games

However, this back-to-school transition was different from all previous years, as the children were headed to a different school – a boarding school on the outskirts of the city, about 20 minutes from the Residential house.The decision was made to shift them to nearby boarding facilities as a temporary response to reports of government changes in residential institution licensure and registration regulations.  Although this action was pre-emptive, we feel that it was the best way to ensure minimal disruption to the children’s educations, while giving our organization the opportunity to continue to investigate proposed/pending regulation changes and pursue compliance in conjunction with independent trust registration. 

Ashwini, Jyoti, Pooja and Geeta with their new friends

Whether this arrangement will be a temporary placement or a longer-term restructuring of the Residential Program set-up is still being decided and we will continue to evaluate all possible options that are available to best meet the needs of the children.  As always, our absolute highest priorities are the security, stability, happiness and overall wellbeing of the little family known as the AIC Residential Program.

Hanging out at the new school campus


The children are adjusting well to their new school and dorms, though they miss the AIC home and family unit.  Recently back home for the 5-day Ganesh Chaturthi holiday, they were brimming with stories from their new school – moaning and groaning about bland food and early morning wake-up calls alongside tales of state level athletic competitions, cultural excursions, new friends and extracurricular activities such as horseback riding, drumming in the school band and lots more.  It has been a major change, but everyone is adapting, learning, changing and growing as we make the most of the new situation. 

Fall 2012: Education Outreach Program Updates

After summer holidays in April and May, School began again in June, and the Education Outreach Centre is as busy as ever these days, particularly as the 34 new students enrolled in the program during admissions week in April continue to adjust to their new schedule and routine.  In June, 10th standard Board exam results were announced and everyone was thrilled to learn that our little class of 10th standard Education Outreach students beat the odds with a pass rate of 100%!  This was particularly exciting for us because last year was the first year that we decided to forgo sponsoring external tutoring classes for this group, and created our own in-house 10th standard tutoring program instead.  These students have since moved on to college (11th standard) with AIC’s support.

School supplies, waiting for distribution
   
Aman, being measured for his uniform
For our pre-school, primary school and secondary school students, Education Program Director Claudia recently put new measures into place to improve student attendance and parent participation, and as a result, this month’s “perfect attendance list” is the longest it has ever been!   Our AIC teaching staff continues to fine-tune their teaching techniques with instruction and guidance from Claudia and we are grateful for the help and support of a number of local volunteers and supporters in the classrooms as well.
Parent-teacher meeting

In October, six members of the teaching staff attended the much-anticipated inspirED 2012 conference in Pune, a coming-together of visionaries, professionals, government actors and educators committed to the transformation of education in India. The conference was hosted by Teach for India and even included a featured session by Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America.  It was truly an inspirational event for the AIC teachers, who returned from the workshop invigorated and ready to bring about change in the field of education.  We can’t wait to see how they put to use what they learned in their own classrooms at AIC!

Fall 2012: Health & Community Outreach Programs Updates

In July, we shifted to a new Health and Community Outreach Centre, located in the heart of the slums of Yerwada.  Although it is slightly smaller than our previous building, the new centre’s homey atmosphere and central location within the Waghri and Sikligar communities has made it a very popular drop-in spot and attendance at AIC Health and Community Outreach Program classes and activities is higher than ever.  Mother-baby classes, tailoring classes, literacy training, self-help groups, playgroup, counseling and a myriad of other activities continue to keep Program Coordinator Rashmi and her assistant Anita very busy in the new centre.  

Rashmi is already dreaming of one day being able to hire an in-house doctor to treat our patients and cut costs, as well as completing the construction of a large open lecture/class hall on the first floor of the new building, funding permitting.

Lucky

This little guy (yes, Lucky is a boy – Sikligar males don’t cut their hair, so the boys wear small buns on the tops of their heads!) has such a hard, hard life and family situation.  He may not be particularly lucky as far as his home life is concerned, but Lucky and his siblings are among the most resilient kids we’ve seen so far in our Education Outreach Program, and they deserve a shot at a better life!  We’d love for someone to reach out and show him a little love through sponsorship. 


Happy Teachers’ Day!

Today, September 5th, was Teachers’ Day in India, so we wanted to take a minute to celebrate the hard-working staff (teachers, caregivers, social workers and support staff alike) at the AIC Education Outreach Centre.  We are fortunate to have a group of truly dedicated men and women working together day in and day out to help us provide high quality educational opportunities to the children in the Education Outreach Program.

 

Thank you all – we couldn’t do it without you!

Sponsor us!

As you may know, AIC has a sponsorship program through which Education Outreach Program children’s expenses can be sponsored.   
Several people have mentioned that they would love to know a little more about the children available for sponsorship.  Since (sadly) not everyone can just pop into our Education Outreach Centre to spend time with our awesome kiddos firsthand, we have decided to feature a new child every week in the hopes that one day all of our students will be supported by sponsors.

So whether you are interested in sponsoring or are just stopping by the blog to catch up on current happenings at AIC, I hope that you enjoy meeting some of the unique little personalities that we are proud to call AIC students.  

First up this week: spunky, affectionate Anjali! (click on image to enlarge) 
To sponsor one of the many children like Anjali who benefit from the Ashraya Initiative for Children Education Outreach Program, please e-mail us or sign up online! 

The start of a new school year at AIC

It’s that time of year again!  After a 2 month break from school (mid-April through mid-June), all of the children at the Education Outreach Centre are now back in school.  To ensure that they didn’t forget everything they learned last year (and since so many kids rely on AIC for their meals and medical treatment), we only gave them a 2 week holiday at the Centre. So despite the fact that school was on break until mid-June, the AIC Education Outreach kids spent the month of May attending their daily tutoring classes. 

Newly admitted student
New admissions to the Education Outreach Program took place over a week in April and included the following new additions to the program: 16 nursery students, 2 children into the kindergarten program, 4 English-medium children in upper standards (1st standard and above) and 12 Marathi-medium students in upper standards (1st standard and above).  All in all, 34 new students were admitted to the program through the April admissions process.  


While it is hard to leave so many names on the waiting list, we at AIC have to be realistic about our ability to offer the highest quality of education and care to those in our Education Outreach Program, and must make admissions decisions based on that ultimate goal.  Furthermore, even though we moved into a new (bigger) building just one year ago, space continues to be a limiting factor for the program, and classes run non-stop from 7am until 8pm every day to maximize our use of the facilities! 

Poonam at the “painting party”
Before classes started again in May, On-Site Director Claudia held a “painting party” at the Education Outreach Program, and the classrooms were completely scrubbed from top to bottom and repainted in bright, cheerful colors.  We are so grateful that many local supporters and friends of AIC (as well as the Residential Program children) came and devoted their entire day to the painting party – the end result is great!  It is quite a fresh, welcome change from the whitewashed walls that we had been living with since last year when we moved in.  In addition, the nursery classroom walls were partially tiled to allow for easier clean-up, and many necessary repairs and improvements were made to the facilities over this short 2 week break from classes.  Thank you to all who helped with the painting and improvements!

Home visits to confirm new students’ admissions

With more than a month of tutoring and preparatory studies under their belts, the AIC students were excited to go back to school in the middle of June.  They have received all of their school supplies and books and are now being outfitted for new uniforms, school bags and everything else that they need to get off to the best possible start to the new year.  


Watching the new nursery students settle slowly into the AIC school routine, and the older kids covering their books and preparing for another school year like old pros, we feel confident that these children are on their way to brighter futures and look forward to the day when we will be helping them explore their college options and post-graduate opportunities as well. 

Happy to be back at the Education Centre!

Five

“In the nighttime, the sun has to go back to his country and the moon comes in the sky.  And then tomorrow, the moon goes back to his different country and the sun will come out again!”


5-year olds are great. 

Dry spell

Water is a precious, precious thing.  

Especially when we’re in the middle of a shortage. 

This (hauling pots and buckets of water out of our almost-empty underground tank) has been our sole method of water acquisition for the last couple days. 

Fingers crossed for the water to come today…

GlobalGiving Open Challenge

AIC is participating in the GlobalGiving Open Challenge this month!  The goal is to raise a minimum of $4,000 from 50 unique donors in 30 days.  If we are successful in doing so, we will secure a place as a permanent partner to be featured on GlobalGiving’s website.

We are off to a great start – the challenge started just over 2 days ago and we have already raised over $1,000 in donations from more than 20 unique donors!  Now we have to keep the momentum going so that we can achieve our goal.  In addition, donations raised through the GlobalGiving Open Challenge will count toward our other ongoing fundraising challenge – the possibility of matching funds up to $80,000 in 2012! 

Tomorrow, April 4th, is a “Bonus Day” in the GlobalGiving Open Challenge – donations will be matched at a rate of 15%.  So please, if you haven’t already, consider donating to our featured project, and don’t forget to spread the word!

Give Now

Hopping on the bandwagon

The Hunger Games mania has made its way to AIC:
 Having only one of each of the books of the trilogy to share among so many kids (and adults) makes for interesting reading logistics…
 …also, interesting mealtime conversations about rebellion and dystopian societies. 
Thank you, Amber didi, for the books!

(Ok, ok, the picture of Poonam was staged – she is one of the only Residential Program kids not currently reading The Hunger Games.  But given the way her reading has taken off, I’m sure it won’t be long until she is clamoring for her turn too!)

Gudhi Padwa

Happy Gudhi Padwa!  We’re celebrating the Marathi new year here in Pune today.  The Outreach Centres are closed, so after an early morning puja and the hanging of the gudhi at the Residential Program, everyone is enjoying a bit of down time.  (Unfortunately, as exams are fast approaching, down time also includes study time…but we’ll take what we can get.)

the gudhi
Sonali, participating in the puja
Breaking the coconut – before
Breaking the coconut – after

Rahul

Sheela

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, children do not stay in school.  10-year old Sheela is one such child. AIC has enrolled her in school multiple times in the past 5 years, but she has never stayed in school for more than a few months.  She comes by the Education Outreach Centre most days to drop off her younger siblings, as she is the oldest of five children.  Although her parents have been pressured into educating their younger children, Sheela is the oldest daughter, the one whose life is sacrificed so that she can watch her siblings, do all of the housework (cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, fetching water, etc) and go out to beg on the streets to feed the family.  Many Waghri families are starting to show a real interest in education for their children, but Sheela’s parents have been among the most challenging to convince. As a result, amid her parents’ alcoholism, frequent domestic disputes (after which Sheela’s mother leaves the family for weeks at a time), refusal to consider their family planning options and general lack of interest in education, this bright, articulate child’s future is being squandered. 
Sheela (bottom left) on her first day of school in 2007

Sheela is eager to go to school and has asked if she can be enrolled in school (for the third?/fourth? time) again in June.  And so we will have to begin the cycle – trying to convince the parents, getting the proper documentation, enrolling Sheela, and then doing everything in our power to ensure that she can continue to attend school – all over again. 

Sheela yesterday with her younger sister, Komal
 

It would be easy to give up and write Sheela’s case off as hopeless.  But as she peers through the window into Claudia didi’s office at the Education Centre, eyeing stacks of school supplies and books, and chatters excitedly with other children from her community who are now attending school, it is clear that we can’t give up just yet.