After a fun adventure in Delhi, Barbara and I headed north to Dehradun. There, I would be finding out my next project for the week. We arrived and then traveled by car up some hills and eventually to a town called Purkal.
Here, we met Mr. Swamy, a 75 year old LEGEND of a man who runs a non proft school, The Purkal Youth Development Society and is most likely the most interesting person I've met ever in my life. The school is for all of the children in the local area... but it isn't just any school. One thing I've noticed, especially at the school I've been teaching at, is that imagination and creativity are not strongly incorporated into the curriculum in India, which breaks my heart because those were always the classes I enjoyed the most. But here, the children have PE class (RELAY RACES!) and music and art classes! There are posters on the wall and birthday charts. If I didn't know any better, I'd think I was at a top-notch school in the States. It was really exciting to listen to Mr. Swamy talk about the school, the programs they use and how he's been successful.
To make things even better, his wife, Mrs. Swamy, runs a non-profit called Stree Shakti, an all women society that helps poor women in the community make a life for themselves. Basically, Mrs. Swamy and a couple of others teach these women to sew the most beautiful quilts, bags, pillow cases etc. and then sell them around India at exhibitions. The society has been wildly successful and the women are now making as much and in some cases, more than their male counterparts. In addition, the society promotes having fun and community and the women get all sorts of great benefits like a daily meal, transportation to and from work, free pre-school for their little ones, eye, teeth and general check-ups... EVERYTHING! So my project here is to grammar and spell check (a guilty pleasure) the annual report of Stree Shakti and then help format and design the report placing photos with the text using Microsoft Publisher. Obviously, this has been way too much fun for me. I'm a huge advocate for helping people learn a skill in order to make a life for themselves (instead of just throwing money at people) and I'm learning so much about this organization that I'm now determined to get a company interested in buying from them from the United States. If you have any ideas, PLEASE email me. I know, first hand, that these beautiful crafts are not only flawlessly made but fair trade as well. I have a few ideas of my own but I'd love to hear yours!
The women working hard!
My days here have been quite wonderful, spending my mornings and lunch with Mr. Swamy, discussing the world, traveling, education and of course, food...another perk is getting to hang out with his "doggie fellows" (HOW CUTE is it that he refers to his dogs as that?) and then the rest of my days are spent frantically working on the annual report with my new best friend, Manjeet. Evenings are spent drinking tea and watching the sun set over the foothills of the Himalayas, reading or chatting online (with my WAY better internet) to friends and family back in the States. No complaints here... I LOVE it!