Education
 India
Project #10150

Education for 100 street children in India

by Ashraya Initiative for Children, Inc.
Vetted
Pre-primary student and parent literacy activity
Pre-primary student and parent literacy activity

On September 8th, 2016, we celebrated International Literacy Day at AIC!

The lead up to ILD 2016 was a very exciting book collection project wherein AIC supporters and donors from near and far sent books via AIC's Amazon.in wishlist during the two weeks prior to International Literacy Day. The books had been carefully selected and requested by AIC teachers, counseling staff, and volunteer librarians, and the children were absolutely beside themselves with excitement watching the packages trickle in and helping to unwrap their new reading materials.

On International Literacy Day itself, the AIC Education Centre was abuzz from early morning until evening with games and excitement. Early in the morning, the head teacher for the pre-primary school, Barnali, was the perfect host for the occasion. She conducted games and fun activities with the children and their parents, and also took the opportunity to educate the parents about the importance of their own ongoing education and development as parents, while also urging them to learn to read and write alongside their children and encourage others in the community to embrace literacy and education as well.

The activities were geared toward facilitating positive parent-child interactions through matching games related to literacy (letter matching, small words, phonics, etc), music, dancing, and storytelling. A number of fathers attended the program and actively participated in the games, which was a truly heartening development and the children loved having some special time with the dads, who too often play a minimal role in the parenting process.

Teacher Utkarsha hosted the second phase of events (Standards 1-7), which combined attendance awards and more parent-student activities. A particularly memorable moment was when parents were invited to stand up in front of the audience and share their dreams and aspirations for their children's futures. Pilots, and scientists, and teachers, oh my! The parents have high hopes for their children, as well as the faith that with AIC's support and guidance along the way, their children will have bright futures and the skills to achieve their ambitions.

Every child at AIC left with a new book that day, plus yummy treats and prizes for participating in the events. A fun end to a very meaningful day!

Distributing books to students
Distributing books to students
Checking out the book rack and book table
Checking out the book rack and book table
Enjoying the books!
Enjoying the books!
Good turnout from community men as well
Good turnout from community men as well
Parents shared their aspirations for their child
Parents shared their aspirations for their child

Links:

Part of AIC
Part of AIC's standard 10 crew

...and the AIC kids have done us proud!

Earlier this month, AIC students and staff logged into an online portal with breathless anticipation to check the results of standard 10 board exams. For those unfamiliar with the Indian education system, board exams are secondary school completion exams that are taken after grade 10. The scores from these exams are extremely important in determining eligibility for junior college, university, and other higher education opportunities, hence we take them pretty seriously here at AIC.  

AIC's first student took the 10th standard board exams in 2009 and subsequently became the first member of the Waghri community to have completed secondary school. Since 2009, over 30 more AIC children have taken and passed their 10th standard board exams!

This year was our biggest test yet, however, with a total of 21 Residential and Education Program children appearing for the standard 10 board exams. Of these 13 girls and 8 boys, many are struggling with extremely challenging circumstances. Two of the girls are former child brides (one widowed, one fled her husband); one had given birth to her second child less than two months prior to the start of exams. Another student's father broke his back resulting in paralysis shortly before exams started. Another student had just barely hung in school all year (having already had a disrupted education and dropping out previously) as her family is not supportive of education and community members scorn educated girls. Still another student's mother fought breast cancer this year and this student was forced to miss many days of school because her father is deceased and she had to stay by her mother's side in the hospital instead of attending school. These are the day-to-day realities that AIC's students go home to at night, and AIC staff work valiently alongside them to provide the support necessary to give them a fighting chance at success.

Hence it was with some trepidation that the staff and students logged in to check the results of the exams, but we soon realized that we didn't need to be worried: 20 of our 21 students passed their exams and are now secondary school graduates! Most impressively, too, this year's group achieved the three highest scores in AIC's history.

We are so proud of these hardworking students, and of our dedicated teaching and counseling staff who went above and beyond to ensure their success. Finally, these achievements wouldn't have been possible without the support of so many generous donors and well-wishers, and for that we thank YOU as well. We look forward to sharing more updates about our new high school graduates' upcoming college and employment journeys in the days to come!

Boys
Boys
Girls
Girls
Hard at work!
Hard at work!
Paper hats!
Paper hats!

Last week, AIC students were fortunate to have very special storytelling sessions with Arati Phadke from Story Kingdom. In Arati's words, "stories do not just develop children’s literacy, they also convey values, beliefs, attitudes and social norms. Stories help the children to connect, relate, learn, experience and transform." We at AIC are always looking for fun, engaging methods to help our children experience the world in different ways while developing core literacy and communication skills, so this was completely up our alley!

Arati decided to run two different sessions to maximize the number of children who could participate, and at each session proceeded to deftly handle large groups of excited children brimming with anticipation. Her stories included a tale about the king of the jungle and a rain drop for the pre-primary students and a Japanese folk tale as well as a story about the origin of Holi rooted in Indian mythology for the older students. Each story entailed activities and props (puppets, origami) to capture the children's attention and reinforce the story's meaning and message.

Education Program Director, Bunty, raved about how "body language, voice modulation and use of props like puppets made the sessions very interesting" and was excited that the AIC teaching staff had also gained valuable skills and tips from the sessions that they will put to use in their classrooms on a daily basis. Pre-Primary section lead teacher, Barnali, also reiterated what a great learning experience the workshops were for the teaching staff, and how storytelling is a timeless method of allowing children to learn while having fun.  

What a fun day! Thank you, Arati, for the magical stories, and thank you to all of our supporters who help us keep the AIC Education Program running so that we can continue to facilitate amazing experiences like this for our little ones.

Puppets
Puppets
Entranced by the stories
Entranced by the stories
Making hats
Making hats
Lots of happy AIC children :)
Lots of happy AIC children :)
College intern Neha practicing with the camera
College intern Neha practicing with the camera

This year, in an effort to expand our impact and provide vital exposure to a workplace environment for our ever-growing group of college students, we at AIC launched an internship initiative within our own Education Program.

This initiative, which provides a handful of paid internship opportunities available to AIC's college students, exposed the students to the fundamentals of job readiness from the get-go by requiring them to go through a formal interview process with AIC managerial staff (even though we have known these students for years - interview practice never hurts!), after which several were selected to fill the spots.

AIC students have not spent much time (if any) in formal job environments before and often do not have parents who can model the types of workplace behaviors necessary for career success. Thus the goal of the internship program is to inculcate values and behaviors such as:

  • timeliness
  • meeting expectations
  • communication skills (especially in English)
  • computer literacy skills
  • professionalism
  • following guidance and accepting feedback

Additionally, the internship provide our students with formal job experience to list on their resumes when they go on to pursue future job opportunities, which, in an extremely competitive job market like India's is of paramount importance.

Neha, one of AIC's recent junior college graduates, who is currently enrolled in the first year of her Bachelors of Commerce program at a local university, spends three hours every afternoon assisting with administrative tasks at AIC's Education Outreach Program. This includes tracking student attendance, data entry, general recordkeeping, conveying messages to parents, and providing hands-on support during special events. She has also dabbled in taking photos and helping at AIC's Mother-Baby classes.

Of her internship experience, Neha says, "I have learned so much! I am now being exposed to an English-speaking work environment and Chethana didi [Program Coordinator] taught me how to send e-mails." When asked about the difference she feels as an intern versus a student at AIC, she replied, "There is a sense of responsibility. I feel more involved. In the past, if I saw kids arguing, I would feel like, 'ok, there is nothing I can do about it.' But now I make an effort to mediate and help our kids when they have problems. It feels good to be on the other side now."

Another student, Pooja, who was one of the Education Program's first twelve girls back in 2006, assists with accounting tasks (filing, creating vouchers, etc), and provides classroom support for one of AIC's standard 5 classes. About her responsibilities, Pooja jokes, "Oh, it is fun - I am here mainly to tame Pappu [a particularly spirited child in her class]! I will do anything for AIC. It is my second home."

Not only do our students start to understand how they can take charge of the futures of their own communities, gaining vital skills and exposure while also feeling empowered to give back. They also earn a competitive monthly stipend while providing valuable support and assistance as new members of our on-site team. It's truly a win-win situation and we are so excited to continue to expand our college student intern program for students from AIC's marginalized communities as we head into 2016!

Checking records
Checking records
Assisting with accounting tasks
Assisting with accounting tasks
Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork!
Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork!
Neha is so proud of her emailing skills
Neha is so proud of her emailing skills
Pre-primary storytelling activity
Pre-primary storytelling activity

International Literacy Day, according to UNESCO, is a day to celebrate and promote literacy, a “basic human right and fundamental building block for learning as well as a personal empowerment tool.”

As the underlying themes that underpin our work are the education, cultivation, and empowerment of the next generation of Waghri and Sikligar community members, this occasion is quite significant for us here at AIC. It celebrates the importance of one of the main efforts we undertake in our Education Program – to provide our children with the literacy skills they will need to advance throughout their lives, in order to break the cycles of poverty and marginalization, and to lead their communities by being the first educated members of their families.

In true AIC fashion, we decided to celebrate International Literacy Day with gusto, and our on-site celebration morphed into International Literacy Week. As such, we orchestrated activities and events over the course of the week leading up to International Literacy Day on September 8th.

The packed schedule of events that week included:

  • For our youngest students (playgroup and pre-primary), parent-engagement activities ranging from a letter matching game, rhymes, a discussion about assessment and achievement at AIC, and a storytelling activity wherein groups of parents and students worked together to retell and act out (with as much dramatic flair as possible!) stories in front of the entire group
  • The inauguration of literacy classes for our caregiving (maushi) staff
  • A general knowledge quiz for parent-child teams (standards 3-8) that became fiercely competitive as parents and children consulted each other and jostled to give answers
  • Art and writing activities for parents and children, wherein children taught their parents to write their own names
  • A large rally through the neighborhood and slum communities, wherein our students carried signs and shouted pro-literacy slogans, put on a street play, and confidently answered the questions of curious bystanders and community members 
  • Films about literacy

Last but not least, in preparation for the festivities, we surveyed 60 of the Education Program children in grades nursery through Standard 3 about whether they have books in their homes (and if so, how many). Sadly, but not surprisingly, out of 60 children polled, only 4 owned a single storybook; the remaining 56 children reported having not a single book in their homes. You can imagine what this means for their literacy development at what is such a crucial stage (ages 3 – 9) for these milestones.

This new information reinforces our understanding of how important the children’s hands-on access to high-quality literacy resources is during their time at the AIC Education Centre every day. It also renews our desire to establish a lending library and to gift books to the children at every possible opportunity (good attendance prizes, Diwali gifts, etc). Our goal is to ensure that by the end of the school year, 100% of our children will be able to proudly proclaim that they have at least a book or two to call their own, as well as access to a supply of continuously updated books and reading resources through a small lending project.

To kick off this goal and in honor of International Literacy Day this year, we published a books wishlist and were blown away by the response from our supporters. So far nearly 200 books have been purchased off our wishlist (we’ve had to continue adding new titles to keep up with the response!) and every evening our Education Program Director returns home from work to a lovely pile of packages at her door.

Overall, it's safe to say that International Literacy Day (or in our case, Week) 2015 was a tremendous success! The community response humbled and inspired us, and the energy and encouragement generated by our staff, supporters, and partners near and wide in celebration of this event has been absolutely exhilarating. The ability to read and write is a beautiful, powerful, worldview-expanding skill. Reminding ourselves that, step by step, slowly but surely, we are working to empower the next generation, allowing them to achieve the education and employment that will pull their communities out of vicious cycles of poverty and marginalization, makes our daily work feel all the more worthwhile.

Showing off her prize (a book!) for winning a game
Showing off her prize (a book!) for winning a game
Neighborhood rally to promote literacy & education
Neighborhood rally to promote literacy & education
Neighborhood rally to promote literacy & education
Neighborhood rally to promote literacy & education
General knowledge quiz contest
General knowledge quiz contest
Literacy classes for AIC
Literacy classes for AIC's caregiving staff
 

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Organization Information

Ashraya Initiative for Children, Inc.

Location: Ithaca, New York - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.ashrayainitiative.org
Project Leader:
Elizabeth Sholtys
Yerwada, Maharashtra India
$31,275 raised of $40,000 goal
 
385 donations
$8,725 to go
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