EDUCATION = the passion of a teacher
I'm now in my 15th year as a principal and during this time I have always been consistently inspired and energised by these two things;
Firstly, I am always inspired by the children who I have the privilege of working alongside each and every day. Children are a joy and each precious individual is remarkable!
Secondly, I am always inspired by the teachers, my colleagues, who I work with. At my school (Claremont College, Sydney Australia) my staff team of teachers and support staff is nothing but brilliant. They are caring, hard-working, skilled, and dedicated in all they do. Most importantly, they are passionate about the learning, the safety, the wellbeing and growth of their students.
Worldwide, all teachers have complex and challenging roles. It is exhausting work. The work of a contemporary teacher is so much more than what many of us once experienced when we were students ourselves (that’s if you're older like me) ...if only the job was as easy as standing at a blackboard in front of 30 compliant children sitting at their desks.
Over the years I've had the wonderful privilege of visiting many schools around the world. One thing that all schools worldwide have in common, are passionate teachers and passionate school support staff ...they are the lifeblood of a great school. Schools ultimately are all about relationships. In all of my travels, I guess I've never been quite so blown away by a teacher I met earlier this year in a local school in Mubende, a remote part of rural Uganda, close to the Congo border. She has 206 kids in her class ...and she is still smiling!
I honour this legendary teacher
I truly think that this teacher should receive world-wide recognition. Is there an international teaching award that we can nominate her for? (and I don't even know her name).
On the day I visited this teacher's Grade 1 classroom she had 206 students present on the roll (and some kids were absent). Some of the students could not literally fit into the classroom space. This teacher told me that she loves her job ... “but it does get challenging at times” she said. You bet it would be challenging! - this teacher is a legend (and so are all the other teachers at this same school, with most classes sizes over 150 children). Here's an 18 second movie file showing the classroom. In it the kids are welcoming me. It's beautiful but check how cramped this classroom is!
click link here - 'You are Welcome'
The Project Help teachers in Northern India
At Project Help India, our seven centres employ 11 teachers and support staff.
Meet Mrs Sushila Charles who works with slum kids in Kotdwara. She is a remarkable woman and another inspiring teacher. While her personal life is not easy, she gives everything that is humanly possible to support the academic growth and to care for the vulnerable children in her class. Here is a link to her powerful and inspiring story. Sushila's Story Here
One of the reasons why we have been able to set up our seven centres is because wages and costs are comparatively very low to Australia and elsewhere. Sushila’s salary is approximately $100 a month, and with this, she supports her husband and 2 children. This is also why Project Help India relies on the generosity of others. Would you consider making an annual tax deductible donation of $1200 to cover the salary of one of our teachers? Details for making a donation can be found easily at www.projecthelpindia.co. You can message me if you would like to talk to me about how you can help OR if you have a suggestion for how we can encourage the teachers in Mubende in Uganda, and nominate them all for an award (I am serious!).
Here I am with my wife Rowena, with Sushila and her students in the Kotdwara slums. We were there in February this year (22).
Education impacts one life at a time
I could no longer count the many kids and parents who I have had the pleasure and privilege of working alongside over my many years of being an educator. I love that my job impacts lives. I am grateful for the thousands of kids who have impacted me, humbled me, and taught me so many things about myself, others, the world and God. I consider it a gift to have learnt with these kids, and to have shared our lives together, in so many ways.
It's incredible to think of the unique gift that I have also been given in being able to share my life with some very special children in Northern India. My God!! how much these remarkable kids have shaped and changed me for the better. After meeting that first bunch in 2012, I could not walk away and not do something to help. And it's amazing to think that hundreds, possibly thousands of children now, have attended a ‘Project Help India’ school. In our 3 jungle village schools, because of their remote and dangerous location, the majority of students, especially the girls, only have access to a Project Help education. Our village centres provide the one and only opportunity for the kids to be educated, nurtured and cared for in a school setting.
Many (but not all) of our students in the cities of Kotdwara and Bijnor will attend a local government school during the day. These schools are overcrowded, and provide poor and inconsistent levels of academic tuition and generally no wellbeing programs. After school our students then head straight to one of our 3 Project Help centres where they will receive 2.5 hours of tuition as well as a free healthy meal. For our students this meal is better than they would receive at home. The kids go home at around 6pm.
In the city all of our students are slum kids and each has a challenging, often desperate home life. As we hear the story of each child we get a glimpse into some heartbreaking circumstances that are impacted and compounded by the vicious cycle of poverty. We provide our students and their families with ongoing counselling, social work support, advocacy and if needed, emergency aid (for example feeding the entire family during the COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021).
Priyanshu Kumar, is 13 years old and is in Grade 7. He is from a very poor family from the Kotdwara slums. Last year his father died during the COVID pandemic. Soon after this, his younger brother also caught COVID and tragically died as well. The grief of this situation impacted Priyanshu greatly and he became incredibly lonely. The pain of missing his brother resulted in him becoming withdrawn, selective mute and socially anxious. His school grades declined and he received no support or counselling for the trauma that he was experiencing.
Priyanshu’s mother is a house maid and works in many homes trying to earn enough to support herself and her son. For fear for her son’s safety, she would lock him in the house after school (he also attends a government school during the day) and into the late hours of the night, whenever she could get work. This compounded the situation making Priyanshu fearful of others and refusing to speak to anyone. Priyanshu’s teacher describes the situation;
Priyanshu says that he was really sad to stay at home but he understands his mother's concerns and that's why never threw a tantrum for this and quietly obeys her. After the death of his father all the responsibilities of a family were transferred to his mother and hence he never disobeyed his mother as he understood the burden she was carrying. His mother was also worried for him getting worse but was bound by her own conditions. When she came to know about the ‘Project Help City Centre’, she contacted the Director, Mr. Amit Samuel, and the General Secretary, Mrs. Daisy Samuel, about her conditions and her misfortune. Priyanshu was given admission and at first, he was very shy and apprehensive. However, he now attends the classes enthusiastically and also is trying to mix with the other children. He comes to the tuition on time and with neat and clean clothes which shows that he is dedicated towards his studies. While he takes time to understand his work, he shows great determination to learn.
Priyanshu and his mother both are immensely thankful to Project Help India. We are all very confident that he will reach new heights.
I am so excited that after being with us for just 2 months, Priyanshu is making many friends. He is learning and making good academic progress. The consistency of school routines and the nurture and kindness of his teacher makes him feel safe. We are excited for his future and count it a privilege to educate and care for him.
I want to be known - to be understood, respected, valued and treated kindly by the people around me. Don’t you?
Living and learning together in an inclusive ‘belonging’ community is found at the heart of any good school. This is one of the things I love about education, and why I love my job ...it’s a privilege being a School Principal.
A great school values connection and relationships, embracing and celebrating the wonderful diversity that is found in the mix of all those who form part of that community. This is why I love my school! In schools we celebrate birthdays, significant achievements, national days, religious and cultural traditions, and so much more. Schools are places of excitement as we come together to learn about each other, celebrating people and the things that are individually and collectively important to us all. A school community I believe, provides us with opportunities to teach children about how our wider community can and should be. We are providing them with a powerful model packaged with the tangible experiences to learn about how our world can be ...a world we all hope and pray for.
Our seven ‘Project Help India’ schools are filled with much cultural diversity, and we value, embrace and celebrate this. Just this week it was a privilege to share the message of the Easter story with all of our students. They especially loved the egg painting. In a few weeks we will celebrate alongside our Muslim staff and the many students from the Muslim Jungle Villages and slums, who on 1st May, will finish their Ramadan season. Then later this year in October we will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, with those of Hindu, Muslims, Sikh and other faith backgrounds.
When we celebrate alongside one another we show that we value, respect and have an openness to learn and understand from each other’s stories. And as we do this, we find solidarity in the things that we have in common, the things that our world so desperately needs ...love, empathy, compassion, unity, safety, peace, acceptance and so much more.
Regardless of our race, religion or creed, let’s work and strive together for a world that we all pray and hope for …for our communities, our families and children, and for generations to come.
I want to thank the supporters of Project Help India for your generous giving - you are indeed changing the world by changing the lives of some very special kids in Northern India, through their attendance and education received at one of our schools. Don't also forget about the impact you can have by volunteering and helping out at your child's local school. They need all the support, and especially the encouragement they can get ...especially the teachers (and I reckon your principal too!)
If you liked this story, please share it on your social media. The link is here. It would really help us. Thank you.
I wish you a Happy Easter – may the hope, peace and love of Jesus be yours this Easter.
To receive an education is one of the fundamental rights of being human. We may take this for granted but unfortunately many children, especially girls and those with disabilities, have unequal, limited or no access to an education, let alone attend a school that provides access to a quality curriculum that is delivered by qualified, caring and loving teachers ...this is something that we can take very much for granted in the part of the world where I live and work (in the best school ever -ha!)
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights when published and adopted in 1948 was, and continues to be, a milestone document. For the first time, the world had a globally agreed document that marked out all humans as being free and equal, regardless of sex, colour, creed, religion or other characteristics.
Sadly, it seems that our world needs to stop and recognise this more than ever before.
At one of my passion projects Project Help India, our key priority is advocacy for the right for vulnerable (all from poor and marginalised communities) to receive an education. Here are some of the beautiful faces of the 265 children who attend our 7 small centres in Kotdwara and Bijnor in Northern India. When the kids are at school their lessons include Hindi, English, spelling, maths, art, poetry, writing, drama, games, environmental care, body parts and body safety, health, hygiene and safety. It’s also an important priority for us to celebrate the cultural and religious traditions of the unique and diverse communities that are part of. We seek to give them hope for the future, to understand that they are precious individuals, and to give them skills and understanding to be contributing citizens who will flourish in life.
If you go to the OUR SETTING page on the Project Help India website you will learn more about our schools.