On Feb 19, 2013, I visited my ancestral village after 18 years. I was there to meet my grandparents (my dad’s uncle and aunty). They are my idols. They had both taken early retirement from good jobs in cities to settle in the poor village where they have run:
- A dispensary for the ill (my grandmother is a doctor)
- A cottage industry / training setup, where they train destitute women in different vocations (like making spices, tailoring, etc.) so they can support themselves and their children.
- A school for the children (especially those that cannot afford fees).
I cannot think of many people, I personally know, that have devoted their lives to helping others.
I remember going to the village in the early 90’s, when my grandfather introduced me to the children he was tutoring at his home. That picture will stay in my heart for a long time. He was trying to educate them so they could stand up for themselves when the need arose. They are all adults now and I have no idea where they are.
As I moved through one city after another other for schooling and jobs, I and some of my relatives kept track of how things were progressing. We would donate small amounts of money that would go towards supporting the children in the form of books, a computer, a toilet, some repair work of the building, etc.
But this was my first time there after the school was officially registered (in 1999). The Krushna Chandra Shiksha Kendra has 83 students and 8 teachers. My grandfather, who is the Principal, has grown old and frail but insists on supervising day to day activities. It is difficult for him to step back and relax. I think I am like him. :))
I was sad to see the condition of the school building. A rogue storm, last year, destroyed part of the structure. Instead of proper walls separating the classrooms, they now have screens made from jute bags. Parts of the walls are missing. The roof protects them from the sun but I am not sure whether it will keep them dry during the monsoons.
I want to fix these problems during their summer holidays because once the rains arrive, no construction can take place. I have sent some money to start the work but I know I will need to send more. Some guys from a nearby Rotaract Club have offered help but I know their approval process may take months. We don’t have much time left until it starts raining. Also, they may be able to help only in phases – e.g., build a part of the wall first and then let their superiors verify before the second installment is approved. At this stage, I cannot wait any further and I cannot really expect someone to help run my school. So I am going ahead on my own.
Although I call it mine, I don’t really own the school. It is not my property. The children are not mine. But I want to help give them a better chance in life. I want them to study well and get scholarships from the government (like some of them have done in the past). I want them to learn how to love and help each other. There is a chance that these children may grow up and forget everything an unknown person has done for them. I don’t do what I do for glory. But I want them to inspire them in the same way my grandparents have inspired me.
We can change the world by changing the way we think about others.
Here are two videos from KPSK school.