Newsletter June 2011

A unique birthday gift


Mr. Shashank Goel, a student of 3rd year, Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University USA, has contributed for two Ekal Vidyalayas on his 21st Birthday for the benefit of the deprived and underprivileged children. Mr. Shashank writes:

“What inspired me to contribute to Ekal is the education and empowerment of these kids who live in villages and small towns. It’s a fact that these kids have lot of potential both in education and in sports and just with a mere support that Ekal is providing them, this potential can be nourished and can lead the future of these kids to a brighter and better tomorrow. I have personally experienced kids from villages in Bihar in their adolescent ages working in shops and houses in metropolitan cities such as New Delhi. And to watch these young talents and energies going to waste just due to lack of resources is saddening. So, I hope that these young guns of our nation prosper and make name and fame for themselves so that our whole nation could pride ourselves with”.

Bharat Lok Shiksha Parishad congratulates Mr. Shashank for prosperity, health and love for humanity.

 

RICE Club’s activities for Ekal’s cause


My brother, Tarun, and I lived in China and India before moving to Florida and were exposed to poverty firsthand. India, with over 200 million illiterate people offers a daunting task. Tarun and I felt that illiteracy was the primary cause of the lack of economic mobility. While attending an Ekal Vidyalaya charity event in 2006, we were inspired to form the RICE (Removing Illiteracy by Collective Education) club which supports Ekal by contributing money to run its schools. During my vacation in Delhi two years ago, I spent time learning about the Ekal organization. I visited a camp where Acharyas (teachers) were being trained to run schools and learned about the structure of the organization. I also visited a school in Faridabad and was utterly impressed by the standard of education and the intelligence of the children. I left feeling more motivated than ever to do my best to help these children.

Activities during 2010-11
We started this year with a new goal: to grow not only our RICE Club, but to spread RICE nationally. We were given this opportunity first when Mr. Ramesh Shah invited me to speak at a high school Hindu camp in Houston, Texas where I spoke to about 55 students about the activities of RICE. After my presentation, I spent the night at the camp getting to know everyone and then got their contact information. After getting back, we informed the students how to start clubs in their own schools. Many of them were extremely interested, and one even designed the RICE logo above. So far a chapter has opened up at Palmer Trinity School in Miami, Fl (whose results I will discuss later) and a few other students are in the process of creating their own chapters.
As most of the club members are seniors, we were busy with college applications so our year started a bit slowly. However, in September, Ekal invited me to their executive meeting in Dallas, Texas. Before then, we managed to accumulate three separate private donations of one school each, and along with a presentation of RICE activities, i presented our first check of the year of $1,095 to Ekal Vidyalaya at the meeting.
After returning from the meeting, despite our busy schedules we managed to sell chick-fil-a once before the end of the semester. Due to a change in management at the chick-fil-a store, our margins on sales dropped significantly and we realized that we could no longer make much money off selling it.
Thus RICE brainstormed for new ideas and focused on being more active in our second semester. In Orlando, the weather starts to become extremely hot quite quickly, so we thought it would be a good idea to sell Italian Ice during school hours. We contacted a popular local store (Jeremiah’s Italian Ice) which agreed to supply us the product at wholesale prices. The idea was an instant success. We sold out in only a few minutes and made a profit of about $150.

RICE also decided to sponsor an event called Vibrant India. We contacted Kathy Reiber, President of the United Methodist Women Association at the Peace United Methodist Church, who agreed to set up a cultural experience at their church. On March 12, 2011, Vibrant India successfully raised $450 after creating a cultural exchange filled with Indian classical music played by local Sitar and Tabla players, Bharatanatyam dance performed by RICE members, artwork made by RICE members, an Indian lunch, and of course, a presentation about Ekal.
Furthermore, at an Ekal sponsored concert in Orlando, my father donated another $365 for one school.
In addition to our activities, the RICE Club Palmer Trinity School (PTS) Chapter started this year and is already extremely active. Led by Chapter President Yashodhara Suri, the PTS Chapter became extremely popular in the school and very quickly about 20 students joined. As it was their first year, they began by experimenting with different types of fund raising plans. Starting with a few bake sales at school, they tried garage sales, selling Starbucks at school, and even participated in an international festival where members did mehndi and sold Indian jewelry. So far, the PTS chapter through their various initiatives have accumulated a sum of $510.75.

Total contributions this year are:

Category Source Date money sent Amount Method of sending
Private Donations Vimal Narain Sep-10 $ 365.00 Presented at Dallas Executive Meeting
Roy West Sep-10 $ 365.00 Presented at Dallas Executive Meeting
Vijitha Reddy Sep-10 $ 365.00 Presented at Dallas Executive Meeting
Pradeep Mathur May-11 $ 365.00 Credit Card
School Fundraising Sales May-11 $ 166.57 Mailed Check
Vibrant India Donations May-11 $ 450.00 Mailed check from United Methodist Church
PTS Chapter Fundraising Jun-11 $ 510.75 Check will be mailed from PTS
Total Money: $2,587.32
Total Schools 7.09

Over the past 6 years, the RICE Club has contributed a total of $17,917.32 to start 49 schools and educate over 1500 children.

Plans for next year
Since much of the year was focused on spreading the club, we were able to only open 7 schools. However, as RICE is picking up nationally, by next year we will be able to make record profits. As I am graduating this year from school, Vice President Shreya Bansal will be taking over as President of the Lake Highland Chapter. She has learned everything about the club and will continue to grow it. As I am going to Stanford University next year, my brother and I plan on starting a new RICE chapter there.

Arjun Mathur

 

Ekal Karykarta Samman Samaroh


Ekal Nagar Mahila Samiti of Balrampur (U.P) organized Karyakarta Samman Samaroh or 16th April, 2011 at Ram Janaki Mandir, Bhagwatiganj, Balrampur. Sarees and other clothes were distributed to the Teachers and other Karyakartas. Karykartas became overwhelmed with this honour.


 

Schooling in the shadow of the Aravallis


(This is a report by Sri Gautam Vohra who is associated with a NGO promoted by the Dabur Group on their Vanyatra to Ekal Vidyalayas in Rajasthan)
 
Cheel ki bawadi (cheel as an eagle) village nestles or lurks rather, in the shadow of the Aravallis in Alwar district of Rajasthan. It is a neglected, out-of-the way hamlet, devoid of basic amenities.
   
The journey to it was relatively smooth sailing since Sri Vijay Sethi, Executive Committee Member, EVFI was shepherding the Sandesh (NGO of Dabur Company) team from Delhi: Sri Vijay & Gautam Vohra of the Executive council and Mohan & Prabhat, employees of the NGO.

At Alwar, we located the local team who took us to breakfast of Poha, milk-cake, kheera, tomato sandwiches and coffee. We then met with the media (print and electronic) enquiring about the purpose of the visit. We informed them that Sandesh was impressed by the Ekal Vidyalaya idea of running each school in isolated tribal and backward villages for Rs.16,000/- a year. We were keen to see if such Vidyalayas could be introduced in the Sandesh area of operation.

The one hour ride from Alwar through Rajghar Tehsil to Rajpur Bara Gram Panchayat was without incident. Once we entered the Gram Panchayat area, the roads deteriorated into a kutcha track: the Innova bounced, lurched and jerked forward at a snail’s pace.

The traditional welcome by the Rajasthani ladies buoyed our spirits. Huge colourful turbans were tied round our heads, Shiromani got a beautiful yellow chunni -- I offered to later trade my turban with her gift –- and red tikkas were put on our foreheads. Then singing the ladies led us to the school at one end of the Cheel ki bawadi on a part of a rock dominated area.

Enroute to the school, and near it, we saw goats and cows resting in shady nooks wherever available. Apart from the keekar, the area was bare of any other specie of trees.

At the school, 35-40 children sat in in rows, solemn, disciplined, and quiet. I was surprised. For at the DRAG school, the children would be up to mischief, making faces, yelling, creating a din, giving a hard time to the teacher. Not at Cheel ki Bawadi with a population of 300 (80 houses). Denial, neglect and destitution has that effect I suppose.

Kamal Kant the teacher, who is 12th pass from the village school 8 km away, started teaching the syllabus six months ago when he took over: English, maths, G.K. (samanya gyan), yoga (vyayam), prarthana (mainly guru vandana and gayatri mantra). The school is housed in the verandah of the local big farmer, which has a chappar covering.

On Kamal’s request, three sisters, skinny, serious got up and with folded hands, closed eyes recited a prayer; even as the class intoned after them. A sparrow chirped, yellow butterflies settled on the nearby keeker branch.
 
Water, the most precious commodity, was served, followed by lassi (chaas).

What impressed us was not merely the poetry declamation by Prahlad, or the song by Mamta but the recitation of the most difficult multiplication tables by the young children.
Chotu Saini recites the table of 14, Mamta of 19 without hesitation. I interrupt and ask the boy to tell me what 19 x 13 yields. He answers without pause. For light relief we have Raj recite the alphabet in English, then in Hindi. He does so with casual elan, with hands in his pocket.

No one in the DRAG school could have given such flawless, confident performances.

The classes are held between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Children work during the day: tending to the animals (bhed, bakri) or kheti.

After the children who are aged between 5 to 13 complete their Ekal schooling, they will join mainstream education, a secondary school in the nearby village. The Ekal School issues them an affidavit to say that they have attended classes upto primary level.

I notice that the ladies who had welcomed us have relaxed a bit; some have taken off their pallus. The castes represented in the village are Banjara, Rewari, Nut and Saini. Apart from subsistence farming, no jobs are available in the village except for breaking stones for construction work.

The adjoining village Khedli, with a population of 500 (60/70 houses), comprise the following castes: Bewa (SC), Mina (ST) and Gujar, Khati, (OBC). The school has 30 students, sitting in three rows, two of them dominated by girls. Again their restrained expressions and controlled behaviour strikes the visitor. Their clothes too proclaim their indigent status.

Sri Hiralal Mina, the teacher (class 12 pass), does kheti in the day time and teaches the Ekal school from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
In these remote Rajasthan hamlets, Ekal has shown the way. We drive back to Delhi, awed and subdued.


Gautam Vohra

 

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