Thursday – A day at JSMT
I was excited to wake up Thursday, with the sound of birds chirping and mosquitoes buzzing in the background, armed with the knowledge that I would finally be able to spend some time with the girls at the JSMT School.
Kamala accompanied me to each class, one at a time, and introduced me as a visitor from the United States. The girls would all stand (and not sit until given permission) but were extremely shy. Some asked questions, but many did not speak English or were not confident enough to speak up. After making the rounds, we went back into some of the classes to sit and converse with the girls. I was asked simple, yet difficult questions to answer across languages and cultures. What do you do? How do you like India? What do you think of our school? What do we need to do to succeed? What are your hopes for us? How do Americans view India? How do you feel about us?
It was challenging and interesting to have time with these special girls. I have no idea what it’s like to live in the conditions that most of these girls go home to each day. Alternatively, the majority of these girls have never left this small village and have no real sense of where I am from. I really enjoyed speaking with them, most of all seeing their big smiles and the hope in their eyes. This school has not only changed their life, but the lives of their family members as well.
We returned to the house for lunch and met another visitor to the school — a man who came for the day to give a seminar on management. After eating with him and learning more about his work, we walked over to the school to sit in on his lecture. It was two and half-hours long and in Hindi. While it was challenging to stand the heat in the small room, which was packed with over 150 people, the concepts he was teaching were interesting and important. I was impressed with the discipline the girls showed by sitting still on the ground for over two hours.
After the talk we stood outside and waved goodbye to the girls as they headed home. They were so full of energy, passion and excitement. Their serious classroom faces turned to big grins as they hooked arms and skipped out of school. I couldn’t help but think that students in the U.S. would learn so much more if only they appreciated the chance to go to school as much as these girls.
Monday and Tuesday – Day 8 and 9
After spending a lovely weekend in Rajasthan with Digvijay’s aunt, uncle and cousin, I traveled back to Delhi. I did the inevitable on Monday – I went to see the Taj Mahal. The trip over to Agra was a good three-hour drive from Delhi and the surrounding areas were hectic and full of tourist traps. However, once through the entrance, the craziness found outside of the gates subsided. As I turned through the main gateway, the Taj was in clear view. It looked a bit like a mirage, so large and looming, the sky full of thick smog blending in with the impressive white marble structure. It took my breath away.
On Tuesday I woke up to head back to the airport and board a plane to Varanasi – arguably the oldest civilized city in the world. I was generously invited to visit the girls school of another SeeYourImpact partner, JSM Trust, which was founded and still run by Gopal and Kamala Singh and is located about 45 kilometers outside of the city. When I arrived in Varanasi, a well-dressed slender man (who turned out to be the English teacher at the school) held a sign that was colored in bright pink letters. It said, “Miss Jemie from Seattle.”
The 45-kilometer ride to the village took nearly an hour and a half on a tiny road with unbelievable traffic. Oncoming trucks, cars, rickshaws, bikes, bulls, buffalo, goats, children, and mothers with babies on motorcycles filled all sides of the small and bumpy road. We passed through poor village after poor village, until finally turning off the road to reach a large, white house in the middle of a field. A tiny, poverty stricken village surrounded the home. The JSMT school is built in the same style and stood side by side with the house. It was quite an impressive sight.
I was presented with flowers around my neck and a ceremonial red dot between my eyebrows. Members of the house staff folded their hands at their chest and offered me a respectful “Namaste.” After a nap and a delicious homemade and homegrown lunch, Kamala took me on a stroll through the nearby village. As we walked, the locals were very curious about the stranger in the little town. They stopped to chat with Kamala and to show their respect by touching each of her feet. I was blown away by the incredible responsibility that Kamala and her husband have taken on here – their presence, their generosity, and mostly their focus on girls education has already created profound change in the area. Each day presents new challenges for their selfless mission, as there is simply an unimaginable amount of need.
We returned to the school to read and rest some more. The house had electricity only because Kamala and her husband had installed it, but it had no Internet access and no television. Coming from a lifestyle so overwhelmed by technology, it was challenging for me to sit still and not be distracted in all of the ways I am so accustomed. The evening consisted of sitting quietly at the kitchen table for hours, learning more about Kalama, meeting people from the village, and enjoying another elaborately home cooked meal.
Today I had the honor of taking the Delhi metro for an hour-long ride to the northern part of the city. I met up with a wonderful Pratham employee who did a great job of making sure I didn’t get lost. We exited the metro in the middle of a large slum community and weaved our way through the streets on our way to a public girls school in the middle of the slum. The girls swarmed around me, excited by the new visitor, and the principal scolded me for not speaking any Hindi.
Pratham works directly with the government to supplement its programs. We visited the library program, where one Pratham teacher is given supplies and works in the government school to teach 40 children per class for 8 classes each day. Wow! I’m exhausted just thinking about that! After spending some time with the young girls, we headed back out.
Our next stop was at the home of a Pratham teacher. She volunteered to use her home as her classroom so that Pratham did not incur any additional costs. We climbed up the stairs of her tiny home to find a group of about 15 small boys gathered around and writing words on chalkboards. It was really an unbelievable sight. After they realized I wasn’t scary, the young boys were very excited to share their artwork with me.
We took off onto the craziness of the street, made it to the metro and collapsed into the seat for the ride back to the heart of the city. I have so much unfaltering respect for our partner organizations and for the men and women working hard in the field each day – it’s quite a daunting and exhausting task.
Next stop – Jaipur!
On my final day in Mumbai, Natasha and I were fortunate enough to visit another SeeYourImpact partner, Aseema. This was a great opportunity because, while focused on education, they differ greatly from Sahaara. Aseema takes over poorly run government schools and brings in its own teachers, materials and methodologies that are proven to greatly improve the quality of education the children are receiving. The school we visited was very impressive, and the children were beautiful, bright-eyed and hopeful.
The next morning in Delhi, Natasha and I met with members of Pratham India. Two beautiful, strong, smart and driven women greeted us. We had a wonderful meeting learning more about the new programs Pratham is implementing and working out the details of our partnership. The scale and scope of the work they are doing — to give everyone access to eduction — goes unmatched anywhere else in the sector. Their cost-effective model allows them to reach millions of children, women and needy adults each year.
Afterwards, Natasha and I went to lunch at a Himalayan restaurant called “Jeti” and I enjoyed my first Thali – basically a sampling of many different vegetarian options. It was delicious and spicy and left me completely stuffed. Natasha took off for the airport to get home to her two beautiful sons back in Mumbai, and I went for a stroll around.
Mumbai Day 3 – A visit with Sahaara Charitable Society
I’ve been in Mumbai for three days now and I’m completely in awe of this crazy city. There is so much going on and such an immense amount of people everywhere. I finally had the pleasure of meeting Natasha, SeeYourImpact’s Director of International Operations, and spent a productive day working with her on Monday.
Today I was fortunate enough to have a site visit with our partner Sahaara Charitable Society (SCS) (sahaara.seeyourimpact.org). The opportunity to see the work of such an amazing organization is so rare, and I certainly loved every minute. Susanna from SCS met me at my hotel and we shared a ride on a rickshaw to her office.
After quite an adventure on the streets of Mumbai and a quick chat with the founder of SCS, we continued our trek to the largest slum in Asia. Once there, I followed Susanna closely as we walked down the street, swiftly turned down an even narrower walkway, and darted into a tiny room full of about 20 children no more than 5 years old. They all stood eagerly to greet me and said “hello teacher” – most of them had huge smiles and reached out to shake my hand, but two of them sat on the floor in tears, terrified by my presence in this small room.
I watched the children do their counting and an adorable little boy sang, “I’m a little teapot” just for me. A crowd of people formed around the door of this small room to see the “visitor.” I sat and talked to the children, although most are just learning English and my questions had to be translated. I even taught them how to say “Seattle” which was just about the cutest thing I’d ever seen. Finally, the kids grew restless and we set them free to color.
Speaking to the director of this project, I began to better understand the challenges facing this slum. It’s not that SCS can’t take on more kids, she tells me, but that many parents won’t send their kids to school because they need them to work. If the kids are older, they may choose not to go to school because the media often convinces them they can skip school to become a movie star instead. Finally, many of the kids here face insurmountable challenges outside of the classroom and will most certainly drop out. Lack of nutrition, care, clothing and safety are the main concerns for these tiny, endearing faces.
When it was time to leave and say goodbye the smiles and waves were overwhelming – I was thinking about how these little ones are no different than those I used to teach in Madrid, yet they have so much to overcome in their young lives. There were two or three children that didn’t hide their emotional scars, and at just five years old they already appeared to feel invisible to society.
We walked out of the “classroom” and back into the reality of the slum. I moved with my eyes forward, pretending to be unaffected by my surroundings, afraid to attract any more attention than I already do. Reaching the street, we hopped into another rickshaw and then took a taxi back to my hotel. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to see this partner at work – it’s certainly one I will always remember.
If you want to see more photos, go to our Facebook page!
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the 48-Hour Matching Campaign hosted by the Microsoft Alumni Foundation (MSAF); It was a huge success! More than $215,000 was raised for sixteen amazing organizations.
The campaign was announced at the MSAF’s fourth annual Celebration event, which was highlighted by the guest appearance of Mark Shriver, Vice President and Managing Director of U.S. Programs for Save the Children as well as a former politician, and Jennifer Garner, the philanthropist and actress. Shriver and Garner spoke about their personal experiences with Save the Children and urged the audience to make a difference in their local community.
Although the matching portion of the campaign is over, please continue to give so these nonprofits can continue working to make the world a better place.
SeeYourImpact is proud to partner with the Microsoft Alumni Foundation (MSAF) to present The MSAF 48-Hour Matching Campaign. This is your opportunity to support the work of sixteen amazing nonprofit organizations. While anyone can donate, gifts from Foundation members will be matched from a pool generously funded by alumni and other supporters.
This is a wonderful chance to make a difference both locally and internationally on key issues. The window to contribute closes this Wednesday, October 3rd at midnight so be sure to donate today or tomorrow! You can access the campaign from the following link: http://msaf.seeyourimpact.org/.
SeeYourImpact was also fortunate to attend the fourth annual MSAF Celebration Event, which took place last night at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. The night was headlined by actress Jennifer Garner and Save the Children Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs Mark Shriver. Three of the aforementioned nonprofits also received the prestigious Integral Fellow Award for 2012, which provides a $25,000 grant and recognition.
Stay tuned for a post later in the week about the results from The 48-Hour Matching Campaign!
All of us (Priyanka, Aparajita, and Uday) spent our summer volunteering at SeeYourImpact and we felt it was a very valuable experience. This internship is very unique as it a small office so we made a personal connection to all of the employees. After the first couple days we knew everybody’s name. We all loved the fact that not only is SeeYourImpact a non-profit organization, but it bridges the gap between the donor and the beneficiary.
While we were here, we participated in many different parts of SeeYourImpact’s operations. All of us were able to sit in on several meetings and we saw how a business runs behind the scenes. Watching the dedication it takes to make a campaign successful, such as the Pratham Readathon, we learned about the importance of spreading awareness about causes we care about. We spent a lot of time involved with the Pratham Readathon and did our part to help in its success. We contacted many Readathoners and gave them tips on how to gain more donors and thanked them for their support. We made videos and had a lot of fun doing so.
We also felt very comfortable as it was very nice knowing that all of our opinions were considered. This experience was a great one as we felt a large deal of self fulfillment helping others in developing countrie as well as here in the United States. Here are some thoughts from our time as volunteers this summer at SeeYourImpact.
My name is Uday Singh and I am heading into my senior year of high school. My volunteer experience was valuable as I experienced life in the workplace and also felt the joy of knowing that my efforts with the company were going to a worthy cause. I have a lot of family back in India near the city of Kanpur. I have visited Kanpur several times in the past and have noticed the lack of education that many of the children in the area have. This is unfortunate as education is essential especially in the early years for a child to foster their growth and creativity. Jagriti Bal Vikas Samiti (JBVS) is a partner of SeeYourImpact working for children who are not able to get admission into formal schools. A big reason children do not get a proper education is because of the lifestyles of their parents. Children of migrant workers have a tougher time keeping up in schools. Migrant workers move to the cities for eight to nine months a year, and return to their villages during the monsoons. These children are forced to move around so much that they cannot enroll in a normal school because of the constant travel. I have witnessed firsthand how many kids are not enrolled in school during a time when education should be the focal point of their life. I feel organizations like JBVS are doing a great job in providing schooling as these children would be deprived of education unless someone stepped in. It was very comforting for me seeing the impact being made on the lives of these children. SeeYourImpact is making it easier support Jagriti as seeing the stories of the children who are benefiting is very uplifting. A great story is one of eight year old Sarita who was orphaned at a very young age. She never had schooling before as being the youngest; she was expected to do all of the household chores. Luckily many donors gave Sarita tuition for school, and money for school supplies. Now she strives to be a doctor and fulfill her potential. I feel that there are many causes that we hear about, but seeing an unfortunate situation for yourself makes you see the reality of problems and that they won’t be solved without our constant efforts.
My name is Aparajita. I’m thirteen and a rising eight grader. I have been having a great time and I have learned many new things and valuable lessons. My parents have always told me how lucky I am to get an education and how important it was for life. I have visited India, and have had a firsthand experience seeing children who should have been in school, but instead are working at a young age. My family and I visit Delhi a lot and there I get the most exposure to these children. This mostly happens with children from low-income families. It is a very unfair situation that is unfortunately extremely common. I have always wanted to make a difference and help these children so they can get an education and help their families even more. SeeYourImpact works with organizations like Amar Jyoti which is based in Delhi and focuses on providing children from low-income families with the education they need. I’m so glad that SeeYourImpact could help me make a change. Even better, I could directly see who I helped, and read their story. There are many heartwarming stories including one about an eight year-old boy named Vikas. Thanks to a generous donor, Vikas can now have the opportunity to get an education and brighten his future. You can click here to read the full story. We have so much to be thankful for and even more to give if we all come together to help these children they can change their future and live a better life.
My name is Priyanka and I am 16 years old and a rising senior. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. My mother and her family came to America from Kenya with very little money, and even fewer connections. My grandfather worked as a ship chandler, and my grandmother was a door-to-door saleswoman. But all that was important to my grandparents was that my mom and her two brothers were safe, and Kenya was definitely not safe. They made the tough decision to leave Kenya for a better life in Seattle. Still today, Kenya is dangerous and education and sanitation are especially primeval. Even though half of my culture lies in Kenya, my parents will not let me visit there because of the constant danger. It seems so unfair that I cannot take a 2-week vacation to Kenya, while over 40 million people face the same danger everyday that my mom was lucky enough to flee from. But even though I have not been to Kenya, I know I have made a difference by being part of SeeYourImpact. SeeYourImpact has numerous partners that focus on advancing lives in Kenya, including the Kenya Education Project, Humanity for Children, LittleDrops Orphanage and Med25. Although Kenya is still unsafe, with efforts from charities like the ones SeeYourImpact works with, it is becoming easier for children to be able to advance and change their situation. For example, Alphonse was able to recover from both malaria and pneumonia with the help of SeeYourImpact donors (click here to learn more about Alphonse) and Faith was able to escape child marriage and FGM by attending a school sponsored by the Kenya Education Project. She is studying hard with the hope of attending secondary school (click here to read Faith’s story). These children and many others have been given opportunities that they otherwise would never have experienced without the help of SeeYourImpact.
June is National Sports America Kids Month, created to “encourage the health, well being, and self-esteem of America’s children, and help them appreciate the gift of life and respect others.” In the spirit of this vision, this month we’re focusing on people who champion “sports power” and the positive impact it can have on our country’s kids.
Chances are, at some point you’ll step up to coach. As a parent, it’s pretty much a given. Or maybe you’ll volunteer. In any case, as “coach” you hold the power to boost a kid’s confidence–or turn him off sports forever. So what’s the right thing to say? Rick Wolff, a leading expert in sports psychology and sports parenting, has some great advice. In his recent blog post, The Importance of Words: “Crucial Coaching Conversations,” Wolff offers 3 key tips for anyone in position to make a positive impact by coaching:
1. Avoid sarcastic remarks. Kids under the age of 13 don’t understand sarcastic comments. The so-called humor is lost upon them. As such, just avoid it at all costs.
2. Never berate them right after a loss. After a tough game, give them some time to recuperate emotionally. Give them a pat on the back, but absolutely do not go into a detailed accounting of what they did wrong. This is not the time for that lecture. Wait until the next practice when they’ve been refreshed before going over mistakes.
3. Be brief. There’s never any need to talk for more than 3-4 minutes after any tough loss. Besides, kids will just quickly tune you out. Save your breath.
More than anything, Wolff points out, kids are looking for approval—one of the biggest motivators and gifts you can offer a younger generation.
For more of Wolff’s insights, click here to visit his site.
Up2Us’s Coach Across America (CAA) program believes that introducing sports to kids before 4th grade can help stop poverty. Two of the program’s executive directors are former soccer coaches, and wanted to bring the sport to at-risk kids in inner city Chicago–hoping its uniqueness would be a draw. As one of CAA’s coaches, Travis Moore-Murray was the perfect man for the job. Like the kids he coaches, Travis grew up in a poor Chicago neighborhood, and never played soccer in school. In fact, he never played any sports, and by high school, was on his way to becoming a statistic in the bleak cycle of poverty. His junior year, he decided to give football a try, and suddenly, everything changed. Travis’s love for the game brought a new respect for “showing up” (his catchphrase) and meeting the academic requirements for playing on his school’s team–and gave him the skills to motivate and work with his fellow teammates.
Travis has dedicated his life to giving back to a new generation of kids by coaching through CAA. He’s a perfect spokesperson for the spirit of National Sports America Kids Month (June), and took time out of his busy schedule to give us some heartfelt perspective about coaching, kids, and sports.
How do you define a good team player?
First of all, it has to be about understanding your strengths and your role on the team–what you have to offer, and how you can help each other. Not every team member is going to be able to strike the ball the hardest. Also, maintain respect for your team, and your opponents. Appreciate them, because we’re all out there together. I have some great kids that can coach as well as I do because they’re out there encouraging the other kids, being level headed. Kids who understand that you’ve got to have fun.
What makes a good coach?
Different coaches bring their own personalities to the game. I like to have fun, be silly. I put myself in the game, and I come up with weird or goofy celebrations when someone scores. Even if they’re on the opposite team! Also, you have to have an investment in the kids, understand their issues, their family life. And especially with coaching youth, it’s extremely important to have a relationship with the parents. Reach out and let them know what their child is doing, that their child is important to the team. Parents should be involved.
What’s your biggest challenge as a coach?
One of my biggest challenges is peer pressure. Because soccer is new to many of these kids, it’s not considered “cool” to play. I’ll find some of my players heading home instead of going to practice, and they’ll tell me that their older brothers or friends told them not to play. Usually, I try to reach out to those older kids and invite them to come play, coach, or just watch, and then they see how cool soccer really is. Some of them are staying up late to watch international soccer games on TV—so I have to tell them to get their sleep!
Another challenge is with parents—I have some who are really competitive and focused on skill. But we don’t separate kids based on talent—we take everyone who wants to play. Because I’m coaching 4th grade and under, I just want them to be active, running around, having fun. With soccer, almost all kids develop as they play. For us, we score when a kid has fun. And research shows if you don’t grab a kid’s interest for afterschool activities before 5th grade, they’re less likely to do them going forward. I feel like this is our only shot—so it has to be good.
Have a favorite success story to share?
Hmm, that’s hard—they change every other week! My favorite one right now: there’s one kid–he was definitely the heaviest kid on my team–whenever I tried to get him to warm up, do cardio, laps, it was always a huge struggle. He’s a really smart kid, and he’d always try to talk his way out of doing anything strenuous—like why he shouldn’t have to run because he has asthma–just trying to get him committed was a constant battle. Over the course the season, he’s become my most committed player. Now he brags about running extra laps, about how he’s making his mom buy healthier food. He just won our award for Most Improved Player, and when we made the announcement, I kind of got choked up. Afterward, he came up and gave me a hug, and I told him how proud I was. Later, his teacher told me since this kid started playing soccer his grades had gone up, he was more focused. That just made me feel so good–like I really made an impact.
Inspired by Travis’s story? You can help him continue to make his impact by giving to his CAA fundraising campaign. 100% of your gift will go directly to CAA to fund support for more coaches; in return, you’ll get a story about the coach you help. Give here!