My favourite visit was the HOPE school in India. It was nearly an hour away from where we were staying. (Everything was at least an hour away from where we were staying. My entire visit is summed up in the words: “We drove.”).
The reason I loved it most is not because there was a greater need in the school than in other places, but rather because it’s the place we had the most contact with the children.
This is what the school looks like from the outside.
A beacon of hope amid the largest government housing project in all of Asia – 30,000 apartments filled with people who dwell in very small lodging in exchange for having a roof over their heads.
What’s regrettable, however, is that providing housing does not fix the crime levels brought on by poverty. Only education does that.
When families move out of the projects on to better conditions, the school asks them to leave their place in the school for another child. There in the back of the photo below you can see a few intrepid local kids climbing the wall to see what all the fuss was about inside. Maybe these are the future students of Hope.
When we first arrived, we were met with the entire school sitting on the playground, dressed in their finest party clothes. As honoured guests, we were shown to a head table, draped in white. Gabriel took one look at the table and the empty chairs waiting for us and said, “Seriously?”
As we watched each class stand up and sing an ESL version of various Christmas carols, I couldn’t help but be moved and was grateful for the large sunglasses which hid my tears. The tears were, in large part, due to the fact that I had only just, that morning, learned of the sudden death of my friend back in France. She’d had a miraculous recovery from her second bout of breast cancer, but died suddenly of liver failure and I was going to miss her funeral. This was my second friend to lose her life suddenly to cancer in the space of one month.
There was the life and hope of these kids set against the backdrop of death and despair. They are bathed in crime and harsh conditions. Some witness murders outside the school gates in broad daylight. And just a couple weeks before, the local police station was burned to the ground. But their singing and smiles forced my attention on the hope and not on the despair. My friend would most heartily have approved.
The children speak Tamil, and in the school they learn English. I’m not sure if they also learn the national language, Hindi. They come from Hindu backgrounds so the English and the Christmas traditions are foreign to them. However, a proper English training will give them the best chance at succeeding once they leave the school.
There was the nativity scene.
And then there was this strange-looking guy throwing candy … an event they could all get behind.
The highlight for us came when we got to pull out all the donations we had collected and lugged with us to India. (Thank you to our church in Paris and a few friends and neighbours who participated).
The kids then went inside and were given cake and candy (donated by our friend, Hisill), which our children got to distribute.
Our children loved that as much as the schoolkids did. And I loved watching them, thinking – this THIS is why we came.
At the close of our morning, I spoke with the director of the school and she said what they need are teaching supplies. I recommended using BrainQuest and Super Simple Songs, which I loved as an ESL teacher but she said the cost is prohibitive. After reflecting on this, I had an idea and I’m hoping you, my dear readers, can help.
I’ve created a wishlist of teaching supplies using Amazon India, most of which are under $10. If you are willing to contribute, a small donation on your part would make a huge difference for the school. I’ve included detailed instructions for how to do so below.
In compiling the list, I included all the BrainQuest materials (they’re not shown at the head of the list because I added them first, but I marked them as highest priority – those are the most urgent). I also included some classic children’s books. And – in full disclosure – included mine (Happy People Everywhere) since I’d offered one copy and she asked if I had any others. I had already donated them to other places in India.
If you have a good idea of what other teaching supplies (not on the list) would be helpful – CDs, books, games – and wish to purchase that instead, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment with a link. I will add it to the wishlist and you can purchase it following that. OR you may simply be able to purchase on item already on the list, select the HOPE address and add any supplementary items you’ve chosen.
If you feel more comfortable using Amazon.com and seeing everything in USD (and don’t mind paying the shipping, which might be as much as the item), let me know and I’ll give you the direct address.
Here is the link (click the large box below) and below that are the instructions. I’ve purchased a couple items from the wishlist to ensure that my instructions are detailed and easy to follow.
a) Click on the box above and it will take you to the Amazon India website, directly to the items on the wishlist for the HOPE school.
b) Log on to Amazon India with your usual logon e-mail and password that you use for your usual Amazon site.
c) Choose the item or items you wish to purchase. You’ll see the amounts are in Indian rupees. There are 68 rupees to one US dollar, which means if you purchase a book for 680 rupees, you’re buying something for $10. There are plenty of items on the list for under 200 rupees, which means you’ll only be paying a couple of dollars that will make a huge difference to the kids and teachers.
d) Most will not require shipping fees, but if it does or you’ve purchased more than one item and want to check the total of what you’re spending (beyond using a calculator), go to the currency exchange website (link here) and choose IND rupee to USD. Put the total rupee amount in the box, click enter, and it will give you how much you’re spending in US dollars.
e) When ready to purchase, you’ll see all your usual addresses from your own Amazon site and among them, you’ll see the HOPE School address. Click “Ship to this address”.
f) Your saved credit cards will be there, but since you’re shipping to a new address, you’ll be asked to verify your credit card by reentering the number.
g) Finalize the sale by clicking confirm order and the product will ship!
Thank you for your support, most sincerely.