Archive for March, 2011

A visitor’s perspective

Raychael Jensen, a policy analyst with Education First Consulting, visited RDF during a trip to India. Here are her impressions of the country and the schools:

Education consultant Raychael Jensen toured RDF schools during a visit to India

One of the first significant impressions on me of the RDF students was how disciplined and respectful they all are–from the youngest little kids all the way up to the older students. The assembly march and presentation was exceptional. I truly enjoyed it and felt honored to be there as a guest. The students also demonstrated their discipline and mindfulness through the daily practice of meditating before lunch. Students wait until every last peer has been served lunch and then, beautifully sitting crossed legged, they all meditate before eating their lunch together. This is such a stark contrast to what you would typically see in an American school’s cafeteria that it really left an impression on me. I was extremely impressed by the students’ presence and respectfulness.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to tour many of the RDF schools during my time in the village. I had previously seen enough poor government schools during my travel in India to truly appreciate the significant improvements RDF has made over the typical infrastructure and quality of education in rural schools. I am not only impressed with the higher level of basic education RDF students are receiving, but also impressed by the holistic approach to educating and empowering students. Programs such as environmental awareness, social awareness, and youth empowerment provide students with the opportunity to learn outside of the traditional textbooks and instill confidence and an understanding of the importance of community service.

Students meditate before the morning assembly.


I was also very impressed with the committed staff and teachers at RDF schools. With limited resources they work hard to ensure each child is receiving a high quality education. Teachers are extremely resourceful and create hand-made teaching aids out of everything from a trash can to hand-made flash cards and boxes for practicing basic math skills. It reminded me that the most important factor in a child’s education is a high quality teacher. Strong teachers can get results even with limited resources, but I also couldn’t help but to wonder how much more they could accomplish if their available resources were expanded.

I hope to see RDF continue to expand with more schools so they can have an even greater impact on the lives of more students. I am inspired to do my small part by sponsoring a student for the coming school year. It is the very least I can do given that spending time with RDF was such a gift to me personally.

Impressed by her visit, Raychael Jensen plans to sponsor a RDF student's education for the coming school year.



A delicious thank you

RDF Kalleda's 10th class sponsored a school-wide mid-day meal for their Farewell Day

As RDF Kalleda’s 10th grade class prepared to graduate, they thought the best way to celebrate their Farewell Day was to give back to the school that had educated them.

They came up with a generous idea during their educational trip this winter. Traditionally, 10th year students enjoy a trip visiting sites in Visakhapatnam, Aruku, Shiridhi and Nashik. Parents often give their children an allowance to cover expenses. This year’s 10th grade class lived frugally during the trip, cutting down on all unnecessary expenses so they could save Rs 5,700 to pay for a mid-day meal for the entire school.

On March 18 (Farewell Day is typically celebrated just before final exams), Kalleda students enjoyed a lunch provided by their elder classmates. The entire school wishes them the very best in their final exams and all their future endeavors!

RDF Kalleda students lining up for a lunch sponsored by 10th class students


RDF Matendla’s fundraising success

Community members meet RDF Matendla students at a fundraiser in Siddipet

A thousand people attended RDF Matendla’s successful fundraiser in Siddipet, where they enjoyed cultural performances, a balamela and a science fair among activities.

It was a great opportunity for the community to learn about Matendla and they responded enthusiastically: two guests agreed to sponsor a child’s education and four guests offered to provide a midday meal one day at the school. All together, the event raised Rs 40,115 for RDF Matendla.

RDF Matendla gave cultural performances at a fundraiser in Siddipet

RDF Matendla: Annual Day fun

During her final days in Andra Pradesh, volunteer Johanna returned to RDF Matendla School. The Bridges to Understanding volunteer — who came from Iceland — and her RDF photography students captured the fun and excitement of Matendla’s Annual Day in this video.

Kalleda alum plants bright future

Kalleda alum Devaraju at the school farm

Kalleda grad Devaraju volunteers at the school farm and enjoys teaching students his farming techniques.

Former Kalleda student Devaraju is a role model for today’s younger students: he now manages a farm where he is responsible for a staff of 12 men and women, all of whom are much older than him.

The quiet, unassuming 19-year-old excels at his job. Under his management, the yield on the 68 acre farm has steadily increased.  The main crops are rice, maize and mango which are sold at the local market and the profits invested in improving seeds and fertilizers for future crops.

This year the farm’s rice yield reached record levels which Devaraju credits to excellent team work. “I learned the importance of team work from my father,” he says. “When I was growing up he took time to show me how to co-operate with other people to get the best results.”

Devaraju, who dropped out of college after finishing his schooling five years ago, also spends time helping on the nearby Kalleda School farm.  He enjoys teaching his techniques to younger students when they visit the school farm to help with the harvest.

For Devaraju, planning the crop cycle, sowing seeds and making organic fertilizers are all in a day’s work. The farm’s irrigation system is its life-blood especially during the long hot summer months when temperatures rise to 40 Celcius or more.  Devaraju says he has noticed changes in the weather patterns with more erratic monsoons.

When he is off duty, he enjoys playing cricket and volleyball.