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.