I have recently returned from Sarberia, West Bengal, my fourth visit to this inspiring school. When I first visited in 2008 on a building project I took this photo of one of the students in the school.
The new building in the background was the reason I was there, the Vocational Training Centre which doubles as classrooms during the school day. This girl’s thoughtful look as all around her seem distracted captured my attention.
The school has grown from 100 students in 2008 to over 300 now. The area is extremely poor and most of the parents cannot afford the small school fee, so Alindra Naskar the Principal, is always looking for ways to subsidise the school, a constant struggle.
When I was there last month I asked about this student and she posed for the photo below.
Six years on and a new building, a day boarding centre for girls, which will serve her well, and more classrooms, which are vitally needed.
This girl is one of the lucky ones, she has stayed on at the school despite lack of funds, local mistrust of why girls need to be educated, and fear for her safety as she goes to and fro from school.
All of these things we take for granted in our country; education for these children is essential if they are ever to escape the poverty trap, and yet at the same time fraught with difficulties.
Here she is in 2014, older, smarter and ever hopeful that these new buildings will enable her to reach her potential in life; the right of any child surely?
Thank you for your support!
Dr Mary Kelly is volunteering currently as an ophthalmologist with HANDS AROUND THE WORLD in Benin, West Africa (looking mainly for children with eye infections needing treatment, and children who need cataract surgery).
She has gone out with 4 others who are helping build and develop, in Affame village, an accommodation unit for orphaned children some of whom also have disabilities.
We have just received a report from Mary about her work so far, after her first 2 weeks.
She has already seen lots of people in the clinic! Many need glasses; 4 need cataract surgery soon; several need treatment for corneal ulcers, a growth called pterygium, etc.; many need antibiotic drops or tablets.
Last week Mary also did a session in the local secondary school where 26 children who said they could not see the blackboard were tested – only 4 would benefit from glasses, others mostly needing antibiotics and follow up. One youth aged 20 needs cataract surgery. (More visits are planned.)
We are now targeting support for her work through a Global Giving appeal which offers valuable 50% matched funding on donations made between Mondays 3 and 10 March. Cost of treatment is a major barrier to local people - cataract surgery (for example) costs £100!
Please help if you can. Thank you so much.
Our North Meru DCC partners have been working to assess priority needs for Athi school and the disabled children who are resident there. The focus of this initiative is to improve existing kitchen, dining and boarding facilities for the children, with a maintenance and improvement programme.
As long-standing partners of both the DCC and the school, HANDS AROUND THE WORLD is determined to support well managed and effective local initiatives. We are therefore delighted when we can work in partnership to achieve an improved standard for children attending the school.
There have been several personnel changes at the DCC in recent weeks including the departure of the programme director. Consequently the management is working to bring the new director and some other team members on board and we are seeking to build new relationships with them. This is of necessity a period of consolidation and evaluation and we hope to be able to send a fuller report shortly.
Nelly, one of the young girls at Athi School who had needed extensive bowel surgery, has happily now been told that no further operations are required; she will be kept under 6-monthly review at the Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi.
HANDS AROUND THE WORLD has recently set up the Chris Halsey Tribute Fund in memory of one of our former trustees who worked as a nurse. The fund will help other needy children access surgical or medical help which they would otherwise be unable to afford, and also help with the cost of equipment or appliances such as wheelchairs, crutches etc..
We would of course be delighted if you would like to donate to this Fund!