Back from India — Ainhoa and Heather School Construction Update (Free the Children Adopt a Village)

As Ainhoa Marcos and Heather Lamb have already shared on our blog, SMART Ambassadors are building a school in Verdara, India, this month as part of the Free the Children Adopt a Village program. All of the SMART Ambassadors have returned from their inspiring, life-changing trip and here is an update about the school SMART is working to improve.

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Ainhoa shares some details about the current school and steps SMART Ambassadors began as part of Free the Children’s Adopt a Village program.

  • The Community High School was built in 1969
  • It has 300 students and four teachers
  • Attendance is 40%
  • Some students  walk 11 km every day to attend classes
  • More boys attend school as girls often have to take care of goats.
  • During the rainy season water enters in the school and kids cannot attend classes.
  • Classes are very small and 30 kids have to sit in the small classroom with no space, no window (it is hot in the class in summer and cold in winter and dripping)
  • They are hopeful for the future and the first class of the new school has been completed
  • The people in the community provided the land for the new building as they know how important education is for their community
  • Students are in school for eight hours so some of the classes sometimes have to happen outside
  • The new school design is elevated to make it cooler and provide better air flow, features natural light and a bigger blackboard
  • The new class will have electricity for three hours at a time, furniture and computer time facilitated by a computer teacher provided through the efforts of Free the Children and the government

We worked in one of the old classes and did all work of demolition so another group can come and build the new one. We also made bricks to support the new construction!

And here are some additional reflections by Heather.

Something that left a really big impression all throughout our time in India was a focus on pride, values and priorities.  No matter how much or how little the families provided, the same value systems were in place.  The parents, community members, school headmaster/teachers had the same priorities as we do – they want the best education and schooling for their children and future generations.  There is pride in what they have. Cross culturally, we might not have been able to understand the words, but these sentiments cross all boundaries.

I had an incredible and very organic discussion with the headmaster of the school (who walks 10-11 km to the school like the students do) about his priorities and the spirit that he brings to the school children.  He is very proud of the students, encourages them to strive for new accomplishments and models success.  One of his greatest joys is one of the teachers who has returned to Verdara to give back to the school as he was a student.  The community members are also very passionate about the school, education and priorities.  They want the best and understand the value of a good education.  They are struggling to find and keep teachers. One of their priorities is to figure out how to attract and keep teachers.  The new school building (the one Kelly helped with) is a great step in the right direction.  We were demolishing what will be part of the new building and toilets.

Through the work that Free the Children is doing, the community has a vested piece in the landscape, the community, the priorities.  They share in the pride of the community.  When we talk about sustainability – FTC doesn’t just come in and make changes or build, they include the community in the conversations, they understand what are the present needs of the community and they work together for a better tomorrow for everyone.

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Greg Estell during the group’s final dinner together.

Would you like us to update you about the progress of this school again soon? Let us know in the comments below.

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