Archive for the ‘Youth Empowerment’ Category

The Spirit of Giving and Volunteering

Volunteers – their spirit of giving, their generosity of time, effort and commitment have been an integral part of RDF’s story since inception. RDF has been progressing for over two decades, not only due to financial support from organizations and individuals, but very importantly, also because of the many individuals who have volunteered their time to support RDF’s work.

Ms. Geeta Nambiar, an educationist from Chennai has volunteered with many NGOs across the world. She recently spent one month based in Matendla School, to offer her services to the students and the school team there. With English being a necessary language and skill in today’s world, she focused her efforts on working with Pre-primary and primary children and teachers to build their English communication skills. She also spent time with the villagers who asked her a very important question – “What is the use of staying for just a month? To make a difference you have to stay for a year.” She was unable to stay longer, but feels that in order to support the school and community’s development, other volunteers should try to stay longer.

She wrote a beautiful note about her stay at the school and her interactions with the local community –

Ms. Nambiar, in a teacher training session in MS

It was a privilege, indeed, to help the teachers with their English, at this school, which started under the trees, nearly 20 years ago and waited for 7 years before it got its beautiful building.
I was deeply moved to hear that every brick was handmade by the parents. These unlettered farmers and shepherds realized the value of education and later, the value of English when they requested for the change of medium.
The villagers were warm and friendly and invited me to their homes and many asked many questions. As first generation learners, educated in the Telegu  medium, the sincere, dedicated teachers truly deserve support .
The school is run with transparency, honesty and integrity and optimum utilization of resources including human resources. Discipline is strict but benevolent and the students happy, healthy, friendly and confident. Congratulations to the RDF and to the staff and students on what has been achieved in Matendla. May you go from strength to strength.”

Ms. Nambiar’s commitment created a wealth of experience for the children, teachers and the extended community. Her stay will be cherished forever in our memory and we are very grateful for her selfless support!

Mr. Kaeding’s note about the 4 schools

Another visitor to the RDF Kalleda School campus recently was Mr. Erik Kaeding, an educationist and attorney from California, USA, who has been supporting RDF’s sister NGO, the India Rural Development Fund (IRDF), for several years, through fundraising efforts and also served on the IRDF board. This was his third visit to RDF and he took the time to visit the four schools. He observed classes, interacting with teachers and students. He appreciated the training the teachers have gone through that enables them to create student friendly teaching and learning techniques that enrich the classes. He provided feedback and suggestion for improvement, including suggesting other child friendly techniques for teaching. He also took a tour of the organic farms and the school labs. He was impressed with the expansion of infrastructure in the four schools that includes more classrooms and school buses. The methodical transition to English medium and the increasing use of English in conversation and in teaching also made a positive impression on him.

Mr. Kaeding, interacting with villagers

He met several parents in each school, taking feedback on the education system and facilities at the schools. He was very happy to learn that the parents are satisfied with the facilities and the quality of education being provided and that the children are also happy and proud to be a part of RDF. He also met several alumni to discuss their careers, giving them tips about furthering their skills and ongoing learning and development on the job.

We are immensely grateful to every volunteer who supports RDF and the advice and help that they extend to the entire community. In their unique ways, the help Educate, Engage and Empower these deserving rural communities!

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A Culture of Compassion for Agriculture

Learning from one’s local environment and community is very valuable for school children. While learning from textbooks for a curriculum is important, it is equally important for students to be able to connect textbook knowledge to real life challenges around them.

RDF children belong to financially backward, rural, agrarian communities. Most parents are either small farmers, farm labourers and cattle herders. Learning about challenges in farming is necessary for them, if they are to begin thinking of sustainable solutions – this is the vision RDF has been actualizing – by educating them about the world around them, engaging in deep and meaningful ways with the local communities and empowering them to understand the challenges and find ways to help them in various ways.

In Kalleda School, as part of a Science field trip, students  of Class 8 visited farms in their local village to understand the challenges in a farmer’s life and to observe the use of a Harvester machine. The farmers were happy to interact with the students, demonstrating how the harvester helps them save time and money. The farmers explained how it is getting difficult to retain farm labour and the economic burden of agriculture. Use of technology such as the Harvester machines is helping farmers, but they need more help to make their lives financially sustainable. They also had a productive discussion about paddy and its diseases and methods being employed to ensure good crop year on year.

The Harvester machine

Through this trip, student became much more aware of the difficulties present in eking a living through farming, awareness about how Science and Technology can help farmers and that there is still a long way to go in order to make this more productive and less cost intensive for them. We hope this reality and its inherent challenges will help our students utilize their academic and life skills learnt in RDF, to return and help our farmers – the backbone of India’s economy

Not just Teachers!

Children studying in rural and semi rural areas face such hardship in their lives, yet their tenacity at such a tender age leaves us amazed!

Rohith, now 12 years old, was all of 2 years old when his father was killed by relatives in a property dispute. Sadly, his mother, who was pregnant, was also suspected of being involved and was sent to prison, where she gave birth to her brother. Left almost orphaned by this tragedy, he was sent to live with an uncle who sent him to a state run children’s home. After serving 7 years of her sentence, Rohith’s mother was released and was reunited with her older son. With the help of state agencies, his mother is now employed at an all women’s petrol bunk in Bahadurapally. Both he and his younger brother are in the same class in MPPS, Bahadurapally.

Working together with classmates

Studying hard in class

With this difficult start in life, both brothers were shy and quiet in all classes, rarely mingling with their classmates. His teachers provided him with a lot of support, slowly drawing him out of his shell and make friends. Slowly, with his trust building up, he began to show greater interest in his studies and sports. He especially loves to play Kho Kho and Kabaddi. He has also shown keen interest in computers and with the help of the computer teacher, Mr. Anil, he has been doing data entry and becoming adept at using computers. Since he was looked after by an Army officer at the children’s home, he now nurses an ambition to join the Army.

Diligently doing data entry

His teachers understand his background and circumstances – they see it often with children who come from deprived, underprivileged and broken homes. It’s their care and understanding of children’s psychology that allows them to build bridges and help them open up to the positives in life. They are so much more than mere teachers of academics or activities. They do so much more with the circle of care and encouragement that they give every child in the school. With his new found confidence and his faith restored in life, we pray and hope that Rohith accomplishes all his goals and lives a happy and successful life that he so richly deserves!

Schools of Care

An atmosphere of care and support can work wonders in a child’s life. When children face challenges and constraints in their personal lives, receiving encouragement from people who care about their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing really helps to build some self esteem and confidence in the children. We are very proud that the team at the Mandal Parishad Primary School and Zilla Parishad High School, Bahadurally is doing precisely that. A partnership between RDF and Tech Mahindra Foundation to improve the education quality in the school has led to teacher training for the staff to not only build academic quality, but also understand child behavior and inculcate an atmosphere of nurture and learning.

Sushmita, currently a Class 3 student in the Mandal Parishal Primary School, Bahadurapally, moved from Nepal to India in order to work and make a better life for themselves. Missing her life and friends in Nepal, Susmita felt lonely and cried a lot. She wouldn’t not participate in class or mingle with other children during extracurricular activities. She was unkempt and distressed.

The teachers took special interest in her, treating her with a lot of love, patience and kindness. They helped her mingle with her classmates, encouraged her to play sports and games and hand held her in her studies.

Slowly, everyone noticed a transformation in her. She started smiling, began taking interest in her classes, started to make friends, sharing her lunch with them and offered to help teachers and students. Susmita continues to need support and her teachers and classmates give a lot of attention and affection to her, thus helping her to develop herself.

Simhachalam, a student of Class 6 in ZPHS lost his parents as a child and was put in the care of the orphanage ‘Kutumbam’ in Bahadurapally village. He loves sports and has an innate athleticism. This ability was noticed by the Physical Education Teacher at ZPHS who took him under his wing to train him. He has been participating at the school level and is being groomed to participate in the Mandal level games. The orphanage also has a sports trainer, so Simhachalam is really enjoying all this time spent playing his favourite sports of Kabaddi and Kho-Kho. “I love to play and look forward to our sports period. When we play, everyone is treated equally and only our talent in playing the sport is considered by our PET”, he says. His ambition is to join the Army. “I workout daily to keep myself physically fit. I run, walk and do exercises everyday because I know that to be in the Army, I need to be fit and have mental and physical stamina.” The school provides special snacks to students who are training in sports and he feels that the snacks and meals provided by the school give him the required stamina and health as they are high in nutrition and healthy. We really hope that Simhachalam realizes his dream of becoming a good sportsperson and join the Army when he is older.

We are very proud of the efforts of all the teachers who understand students’ situations and are able to make a difference in their lives. Thank you to the MPPS and ZPHS team, for once again caring for all the children, allowing them to blossom in their own, unique way.

Community Care for the Children

In this digital era, the ramifications of being in an interconnected, digital world are not confined to just urban children. It easily reaches rural children too as technology has penetrated all parts of India. Therefore, it is not unusual, even in rural India to find children spending time on their cell phones, browsing the internet, spending time on Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter or watch serials on television. The hold of such digital media and content is so strong that it has been creating concern among parents and educational institutions, as students spend more time in the digital world than the real world.

A discussion with teachers & parents

The team at the RDF VAPV Junior College also had similar concerns. They decided to enlist the support of the parents and also spoke to the students to come up with ways through which students also focused on their education, rather than whiling away time on their phones and the internet. The college now send the homework requirements and project work via SMS to each parent. They are also informed if the student is absent, especially an absence of 3 days or more. They also exhorted parents to participate more in their children’s lives and take an interest in what they are doing.

Getting suggestions from parents & students

These initiatives have led to parent’s paying more attention to their children, helping them with their projects and homework, which is having a positive effect on their attitude and their academics too! The lecturers are also spending time engaging more deeply with the children, discussing education, life skills, careers and handling challenges in life. Undertaking such social responsibility together is what makes the RDF environment a dynamic one!

The parent community feels very motivated at the support and care that their children are receiving from the Junior College. Since all RDF institutions believe in transparency of processes, they also feel free to offer suggestions to the college management in handling everyday challenges. This is an empowered community at its best!

A Special Birthday

Birthdays are typically days of celebration for children, who look forward to being with friends and family and receiving blessings and gifts from their families.

However, when Kanikonda Akhil, a student of Rollakal School, turned 14 years old recently, he decided to do something different. Concerned about the environment and inspired by the efforts being made in all RDF schools to bring awareness about environment conservation, Akhil decided to plant a sapling in his school on his birthday. He also gave a speech on his birthday, urging everyone to do something concrete that will help the environment.

The students and teachers appreciated his gesture and many students took a pledge to plant a sapling on their birthday too! Even the teachers were inspired by his thoughtfulness and they too decided to follow suit and plant a sapling on their birthday! Everyone agreed that contributing to protecting the environment was a much better way to celebrate a birthday and this planet too, rather than spending money on buying a cake and chocolates.

We are very touched by Akhil’s concern for the environment and are very proud that he took inspiration from RDF’s Social Awareness Programs and felt empowered to make his birthday a unique event for everyone. These are the waves of changes from the next generation that we see being birthed through RDF students’ inspiring actions!

Yoga for Life!

RDF cares about all its students’ overall health and life, not just their academic progress. The foundation for RDF’s work is the holistic development of the children, with a focus on developing them physically, mentally and emotionally. Yoga has been an important cornerstone in creating this kind of strong foundation in children’s lives.

Teachers from Yoga Vahini, Hyderabad, visited Matendla School and conducted a yoga training session for students and teachers. They learnt important asanas and pranayamas to help with balance, harmony, focus and building flexibility. Together, they discussed the main problem areas that occur in their lives and gave them specific asanas to do. Students and teachers felt strong and fresh after the session and noted that yoga helps them in their work, studies and everyday life in positive ways.

Slowly and surely, with yoga being such an intrinsic part of everyday life in RDF schools, even reluctant ones have been coming around and trying their hand at yoga. Over the years, students who have become proficient in yoga are taken for District and State level yoga meets, where RDF children perform very well. They have also become yoga ambassadors in their communities, strongly encouraging them to take up yoga, being proof of the benefits that it brings to their lives! Isn’t this what Educating, Engaging and Empowering is all about? 🙂