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November 2008 Newsletter

From India to California
"Why are you taking this common girl, this girl who hardly speaks English, to America?" spat the jealous Indian Continental Airlines official, looking Sarita up and down. She scowled disdainfully at her simple salwar suit, standing out in stark contrast to the background of wealthy Indians travelers dripping in designer treads and jewelry. Those were the people who should have the expensive and coveted opportunity to go to America. NOT these two girls from the village.

And this was just one of many roadblocks placed in front of Sarita Chaudhary (pictured left) and Kumkum Chauhan, two young students from our school, as they embarked on an incredible journey 8,000 miles west of their dusty villages to visit the top private schools in America. Every year, several girls from the school are selected to spend time at sister schools in the US. The goal is to help prepare them for leadership and teaching positions within Pardada Pardadi when they return. Kumkum and Sarita were selected for this trip because of their leadership skills, their excellent grades and attendance.

They returned to India with new ambitions in life. Sarita decided she wanted to become a heart doctor, and Kumkum wants to go to college and become an English teacher.
The trip received a lot of media attention. Read an article from Good Times in Santa Cruz here. You can also watch a video from NBC in Salinas here.

 



School Events in October and November
Annual Day: Tumbling, singing, dancing and performances - that was the scene for the biggest event of the year: Annual Day. The weather was sunny and pleasant, and guests from India and abroad were greeted by hundreds of students and presented with a busy schedule of events, tours of the school and a delicious lunch. Suzanne Schwartz of New York City was very impressed with the school. "I have worked as a volunteer for schools in Delhi, but I was surprised by how large Pardada Pardadi Girls Vocational School was, yet it was much more organized and the students were intelligent and fun to be with."

The chief guest, Andrew Horne, the South Asia head of Xerox, and his wife, distributed prizes to the top students in the school. These include girls with the best grades and with maximum attendance. Dave Prager, of New York, most enjoyed the reception he received when he first arrived. "We were each assigned a student as our guide. My guide spoke English, and she gave me a tour of the school. The students were unfazed by our attention and were very confident."

Diwali: the biggest Hindu festival of the year, fell on October 28th. The students decorated the school with rangoli and lit up diyas and feasted on some yummy sweets.

 



PPES is Growing -- a lot of Projects in Progress
Rags to Pads Project: A project to provide low-cost sanitary pads to students and female staff, as well as create employment opportunities for women in a region that has almost none. The machine for manufacturing pads has been purchased and is in transit to the school. Meanwhile, construction began in early January on a room for production of the pads, packaging, storage of the raw materials and the finished packets. Besides helping in installation and operation, training will be given to four graduates of the school by the company providing the machine to ensure that this soon becomes an income generation activity.

Toilet Project: A project to prevent open defecation by building toilets, bringing health, sanitation, and dignity to students of Pardada Pardadi Girls Vocational School, their family, and their neighbors. Six toilets were completed at the end of 2008 in the villages Dugrow and Shanjapur, and construction is under way to finish an additional 54.

Residence Complex Construction: Begun in order to recruit better qualified and experienced teachers by providing good accommodation in an area of India where none exist, as well as providing space for volunteers to stay. Construction began on the three-story building on December 20th. Some funds have been raised, but we still need more for completion. Interesting in supporting this project? You can do so here.

*Pictured: A laborer working on the construction of the Rags to Pads buildling.

 



Volunteers Update
Recently, we've had the honor of having two volunteers at the school. Elissa, of New York, came 4 months ago to shoot footage for a documentary, and is also teaching English and compiled profiles for our students which record information students and their family. As she prepares to go home, Elissa reflected on her time at PPES, "As I wrap up my projects, I realize I'm learning more from the girls who I had originally come to teach."

Jacobi Wade (pictured), of Florida, came for 6 weeks and in between teaching English, she organized a library in which students can check out books to take home. Basic hindi books are very popular, as well as Dr. Seuss books because they use very simple words and the illustrations help you understand the meaning of the words (for example, you see that a cat is indeed "in the hat").

If you would like to help stock up our library with books or other educational materials, please contact Jenny Steeves at jenny@pardadapardadi.org.

 



Peace Quilt Project
Rikki Asher, a Queens College art education professor, visited our school in 2007 and started a Peace Quilt project, where she led a workshop to help our students sew a quilt on the theme of peace, to be exchanged with a quilt made by students in a struggling South Bronx neighborhood.

"As the world grows smaller and communication ever faster, it is vitally important for global understanding to go hand in hand with globalization," says Professor Asher. "The Peace Quilt project, initiated in New York and taken to northern India, demonstrates understanding and empathy in a way that no business arrangement ever could. They rose to the challenge of creating works that communicate the essence of their lives through art."

Professor Asher returned to India this year to present the quilts from the Bronx school - which now hang just inside the entrance of PPGVS. Our school contributed one quilt made by students, and another made by 19 teachers. These will join other quilts on permanent exhibition at the Bronx school, but will be on display at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum from December 15 through January 15, 2009. Admission is free, so stop by if you are in the area. You can get more information here.

 



A Mela in Delhi!
On Saturday, October 11th, we held a benefit mela event in Delhi. It was a unique opportunity for us to sell our home-furnishing items, as well as get out the word about what we do. We were joined by over thirty exclusive and export quality vendors, so it was a big shopping opportunity for all the invitees. Many thanks to Ellen Schwartz for hosting and organizing.

On this day, we were raising money specifically for our Residence Complex project. Though there is no shortage of eager students for our school, PPES is struggling to find well-trained teachers. Because of the poverty and lack of good education in this district, it's necessary to recruit teachers from outside Bulandshahr. But because the villages nearby the school do not offer any rental accommodation, the girls are missing out on the opportunity to get the best possible education.

The school is located in a remote part of Bulandshahar with the nearest hotel located two hours away. When volunteers or visitors come, they stay at Sam Singh's (President/Founder of PPES) home. Since he can accommodate only two people at a time, so there is a tremendous need to find additional housing. Click here to contribute. Many thanks to Sherry Fuchs and Ernst & Young for their contributions.

 



A Visit by Axis Bank Foundation
We were recently visited by Mr. MV.Subramanian and Ms. Shubhanjali Roye from Axis Bank Foundation. Impressed by our work, they have decided to renew their commitment to PPES and sponsor students for a second year, and have even increased their support to a total of three hundred students.

We are thankful for their support, and encouraged by their continued commitment towards rural girl child education.

 



A Video Introduction to PPES
We have a beautiful video on PPES created by Rohit Gandhi, and it was just recently updated with narration by our volunteer, Elissa Desani.

You can watch it here.