8 Days, 150 Years…

…Sister Pushpa and I met only 8 days ago. Today, however, we formed an incredible partnership to start a brand new 1st standard class for 15 of our slum children and fully commit to their educations until they graduate in 2022! WOW! Mathematically, that’s 150 people-years of education at the Carmel Convent School, the equivalent of more than $55,000 of scholarships.

Although some of our children are incredibly bright, they are far behind the other Carmel Convent School students of the same age. If we put them directly into regular classes, they would fall behind immediately, become discouraged, and unlikely ever catch up.

Instead, we are are creating an entirely separate class for them. However, since every classroom is in use during school hours, our students will come in as the others leave. Their school day will be from 2-5pm. Three 1st standard teachers have volunteered to stay after school. Each of them will teach for one hour in the same classrooms using the same technology as the regular students. Our students will have access to the same computers, labs, library, and resources as every other student.

With help from this separate class, members from our community, volunteer teachers, and donations from this very blog, our students will undergo an accelerated program to bring them up to speed and give them every available opportunity.

As our students become ready, they will be individually transferred into regular classes. Instruction of our separate class will grow with our students. Next year, for instance, 2nd standard teachers will teach our students at the 2nd standard level in 2nd standard classrooms. This process will continue until 2022 or until all of the students assimilate into regular classes.

In 10 years, our 15 students will be fluent in English, adept in calculus, have mastery of computers, and be on track to attending prestigious universities anywhere in the world! I have never been a part of something so fulfilling or miraculous.

It is now my responsibility to select students, obtain the commitment of families, acquire or legally request birth certificates, purchase custom-tailored uniforms, and buy shoes, books, backpacks, and supplies. Furthermore, we will be the primary “academic guardians” for all 15 children, responsible for their educational well-being and futures.

I have never doubted Sister Pushpa’s ability to make things happen but I have been amazed by the zeal and alacrity with which she has devoted energy and resources to our cause. I can hardly believe this is all occurring so rapidly and seamlessly. For me, it is a dream come true.

Again today, Sister Pushpa was teeming with inspirational one-liners and an undeniable passion to, as she puts it, “make humans better human beings.” She is certainly changing my life and, from what I can see, making better human beings out of everyone around her.

Many readers and followers have expressed interest in donating supplies or money to help our students from the slum. Your chance has finally arrived! You have been incredibly patient and I thank you. I wanted to make sure that if I took control of your hard-earned money, it would go to a truly magnificent cause where it would make the biggest impact possible and allow me to show you where your money went. This is the cause I have been waiting for.

With donations from this blog, we hope to provide all 15 students with every opportunity to not just succeed but thrive. Keep an eye out for Donation buttons like these all around the site:

Donate with WePay

Clicking any of these buttons will take you to a site where you can see more about the cause including some examples of what your money can buy. If you decide to donate, there is a simple, secure way to donate via credit or debit card.

If you would rather donate by check, we can accept those too! We have an account set up for the Squalor to Scholar Program at Bank of America.

Make your check payable to:

Bank of America
6501 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85250
NOTE: For Credit to Account #4570 2450 0663

On behalf of these amazing children, thank you! There are many more updates to come soon.

Dig Deeper; Look Around…

…The community is really taking notice of the multiple initiatives we have underway. Today, as I passed the Carmel Convent School, two recent graduates whom I have met before asked to join me on my way to the slum school. “Of course!” was my response. They began to walk with me immediately. Amazingly, both of the young men have been students at the Carmel Convent School since kindergarten yet have never been into the slum right next to it.

–Joyson (left) and Ruben (right)–

In India, schools operate on what they call a 10 + 2 (“ten plus two”) schedule. Essentially, all students study the same subjects from standards one through ten (what we would call 1st through 10th grade). After 10th standard, students take the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) Exam. Their performance on this 3.5 hour exam determines what types of educational opportunities and career paths they will be allowed to pursue. Needless to say, it is an incredibly important test and hurdle! By about age 16, students have to know what career they want to pursue and have the work ethic to get them there.

Once students graduate from 10th standard, they enter 11th and 12th standards (the +2 part) in their respective tracks. However, in our vicinity, only a few schools offer the +2 curriculum. Competition to enter these programs after 10th standard is very tight, especially for the medical or technical tracks.

Both of these 16 year-old men have been raised in Catholic families and are very religious. Joyson aspires to become a doctor and Ruben wants to become an officer in the Indian Army. Both will be taking the CBSE Exam in a few weeks and have vowed to help our slum school and multiple programs once the exam is over.

Inspired by growing labor support from many of the locals, I was curious to see what else we could accomplish without spending any money. I decided to tackle the dilapidated bookshelf and desk in the back corner of the school to see if I could find anything that would be useful.

With gloved hands and mask, I rummaged through the rat droppings and dust in the poorly ventilated room for a few hours. Mamta helped for a while, then Shri, and then Madhu. I found an unused shelf accumulating dust and insects in an adjoining building. We cleaned and organized every resource by subject, grade level, condition, and usefulness. I couldn’t believe how many things were being wasted.

Other volunteers have been complaining that the kids didn’t have any crayons or chalk, that they didn’t have any notebooks or workbooks, and that they had no materials for creativity. VOILA!

What a lesson I learned! Before you go spending tons of money and throwing supplies at people, dig a little deeper first. And, once you think you have dug far enough, keep digging. This has all been right under my nose for two and a half months!

This afternoon, students were writing with brand new pencils in their brand new notebooks reading brand new stories that have all been donated by previous volunteers but were thrown into a pile and never seen again.

–A perfect room used by a government official once-a-month–

Now on a mission, I had adjoining rooms unlocked so I could see what were inside them. One was full of junk–well, what appeared to be junk. I will get to it soon. The other was a perfectly maintained office for a government social worker who, from what I understand, comes to sit here once every month or two. Instead of sitting vacant 98% of the time, it is now a classroom for women who come to learn sewing, English, and arts and crafts.

–Sarswati riding with Gudiya outside of our school–