Arjun’s update

Here he is post-surgery, rocking some very stylish protective glasses while his eye heals!  We are happy to report that he is doing quite well after a two-week hiatus from school and tutoring (straining his eye during the recovery period could have led to irreversible damage), during which he continued to receive nutritional supplementation like milk and eggs from the Education Outreach Centre. (Many of AIC’s students, like Arjun, face daily food insecurity at home, and truly suffer when the Education Centre is closed or they are unable to attend.)

Arjun’s family is extremely grateful that the surgery was successful and is finally over.  As for Arjun, well…Arjun blows bashful kisses and looks like a rockstar in his glasses.  And that’s thanks enough for us. 🙂

Happy almost-weekend from AIC!

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.

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…