Unsung Heroines

Being a maushi (“aunt,” or, the generic term for the cleaning women/before-school supervisors/kitchen manager/pre-school aides at AIC) at the Education Outreach Centre is certainly not the most…glamorous job imaginable.  

Paru maushi, supervising

Cleaning the centre multiple times a day, food prep and service, maintenance work, hauling water, bathing unruly children, combing lice out of said unruly children’s hair, taking out the trash, washing an endless stream of school uniforms by hand – the AIC maushis are truly the backbone of the program’s day-to-day functioning. 

Laundry, never-ending laundry
Hauling water from the underground tank
Swati maushi

Claudia, Education Program Director, had been looking for an opportunity to show them a little appreciation, and when she heard that a full-scale replica of the Taj Mahal was coming to Pune and would be on display not far from the Education Centre, she decided that a maushi excursion was in order.  

In front of the Taj replica

Having rarely been outside of Yerwada, and certainly never to a world heritage site, seeing the Taj Mahal replica was a rare treat for the group! 

Admiring the details
With Claudia didi

Thank you, Pinchu, Anju, Paru, Rekha, Swati, Chhaya and Sarika maushis for all that you do at AIC!

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. 


Starting off on the right foot

Six-year-old Arjun, one of our new students in the AIC Education Outreach Program, is having an eventful start to the new school year… 

Arjun (in red) and his new friends at the AIC Education Outreach Centre

Arjun’s parents are masala (spice) sellers from the Waghri community, earning about 2,000 rupees ($40) per month to support him and his four older siblings.  Last year, his oldest brother Umesh was the only one in his family who was granted admission into the AIC Education Outreach Program, due to limited space.  Umesh worked hard as a 10th standard student, and, with the guidance and support of his teachers at AIC, has now graduated from secondary school and moved on to college (11th standard).  This spring, his four younger siblings, including Arjun, were excited to be offered spots in the Education Outreach Program as well.

Arjun

Shortly after his admission into the program, it quickly became apparent that Arjun has a problem with his right eye, and after some initial medical investigation, we scheduled a cataract surgery to correct the condition.  As is often the case in these particular slum communities, Arjun had never previously attended school at the time of his enrollment in the Education Outreach Program.  This means that in the span of three months, he started school for the first time (1st standard, English-medium), began attending the AIC Education Outreach Program for daily meals and tutoring, and – last but definitely not least – will be having cataract surgery later this week!  

It has truly been a busy three months for this little guy, and we can’t wait to see how he continues to grow and develop once his eyesight improves and he settles into his new school and tutoring routine!

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.