Archive for the ‘Volunteers’ Category

The Silver Oak Tree Nourishing RDF!

Silver Oaks, an international school in Hyderabad has been helping RDF schools in multiple ways for over a decade! This relationship has blossomed and grown stronger by leaps and bounds each year, which has hugely contributed to RDF’s work with rural, underprivileged children.

The Silver Oaks management and staff have created a sense of compassion in the students towards rural children through awareness activities and school visits. Each year, not only the management and staff, but also the students have been saving money to donate to RDF. They have initiated a unique programme called ‘Coins for Our Country’ – a fundraising drive, wherein students saved money from their pocket money for RDF’s cause. Other creative ways that have been employed are organizing bazaars, doing chores, creating art etc. This year, we received Rs. 10, 00,000 from the school! We truly feel blessed at the empathy and effort of the Silver Oaks community!

In addition, they also organize regular teacher training programmes for our teachers in order to improve their teaching skills and employ child friendly activities to build a fun and engaging classroom environment. Recently, Maths teachers from our schools visited Silver Oaks to interact with their Maths teachers. They sat in and observed their classes, interacted with the students and learnt interesting ways to teach the subject. Some RDF students also accompanied the teachers, in order to observe the school practices and meet the students.

Our teachers and students feel very motivated with this level of support and mentoring. The Maths teachers were quite excited about their visited and are already implementing the new methods they learnt for teaching and learning of Maths. In this way, we are working hard, with the constant support of our well wishers like Silver Oaks School, in order to provide our deserving students and teachers with an energetic learning environment

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!

A Good Hand for Handwriting

The two Government schools in Bahadurapally that are part of the School Quality Improvement Program – a partnership between RDF and Tech Mahindra Foundation follow RDF’s best practices when it comes to upgrading student’s and teacher’s skills. RDF continues to do its work with rural, underprivileged children due to its committed education partners and also thanks to passionate trainers and volunteers.

One such passionate volunteer was invited to the Mandal Parishal Primary School and the Zilla Parishad High School for a training training program on ‘Handwriting Skills’. Aimed at techniques to improve handwriting skills for Primary and High school students, the workshop was facilitated by expert handwriting specialist Mr. Azaz Ahmed.

The school was abuzz with excitement as many had already viewed his handwriting skills session on YouTube and Whatsapp. During the workshop, he trained students in writing in Hindi, Telugu and English. He explained new techniques to develop good handwriting, including how to and how not to write.  He also won hearts by singing Sanskrit slokas and narrating motivational anecdotes to the audience. The feedback received from the students and staff was very positive. Mr. K. Balraj, the schools’ Telugu Pandit said that he loved Mr. Ahmed’s way of teaching and found it an unforgettable class. The schools intend to have him back for more sessions soon!


Effective Use of Teaching Learning Materials

The growth and success of rural education and schools lies in the hands of skilling rural teachers in good child centred and goal oriented teaching practices, of which an important aspect is designing high quality teaching learning materials. These teaching learning materials need to be low cost in order for teachers to get trained with new information and knowledge easily and effectively.

Ms. Sridevi with teachers at her workshop

Ms. Sridevi with teachers at her workshop

It is also crucial that urban educators, teaching experts and volunteers provide their time and expertise in order to help the significantly larger base of rural student population (compared to the urban student population) as it has been shown that quality teacher training can bring tremendous improvement in learning outcomes

RDF was glad to have Mrs. Sridevi onboard to train the Tech Mahindra Foundation staff on producing teaching learning materials that are easy to make and help bring out key concepts in the topics being studied. She explained the relevance of having bright posters in the classroom as visual aids to help children retain key points from a lesson.

Learning how to use blackboards effectively

Learning how to use blackboards effectively

She also taught how to use coloured paper and recycled paper to make easy materials such as birds, flowers, leaves, stars etc. Teachers were asked to design a poster on one theme of their choosing. The teachers made two beautiful posters on ‘Save Water and ‘Follow Traffic Rules’. Teachers also learnt how to use the blackboard creatively to teach numbers and alphabets to primary children.

Posters made by teachers

Posters made by teachers

The teachers were very pleased with the wonderful session and are looking forward to putting their training to use in their classrooms.


The Language of Learning

The RDF and Tech Mahindra Team have been hard at work to build the requisite resources in the Mandal Parishad Primary School. Learning the English language is a key skills that is absolutely required in today’s world. Rural children are at a disadvantage given the fact that there is no exposure to English in these areas and rural teachers struggle with competency in the language.

TMF ANITA KHOSLA 2Over the past two years, it has been our effort to provide expert resources to these teachers, such that they learn to communicate with students using basic English skills. Students too have been provided with programs and resources to enhance their skills in the language.  We are grateful to volunteers who have provided valuable time and service to engage with children and teachers at MPPS to help them improve in English communication skills. A volunteer with immense experience in this field is Ms. Anitha Khosla, a qualified English Language trainer who regularly works with teachers and children in the school.

TMF ANITHA KHOSLA 1With the objective of improving English communication skills among staff and children, her classes have had an enthusiastic response. Her approach involves recitation of rhymes with emphasis on phonetics and pronunciation and story telling.

Students have started to use creative expressions and improved vocabulary in class. Teachers too have been observed to have improved fluency and vocabulary.

With a little help from the community

The committee at work

The committee at work

At RDF Matendla School we have appointed a Sahakara Committee; the 11 members of this committee are elected by and from the people of the village once in every two years. Every two months the committee holds a meeting where the members discuss the students’ progress, curriculum, education and ideate on how to develop all aspects of the school.  The committee even addresses problems the students are facing and comes up with ways to resolve it. The committee also decides the fee exemption for students who are unable to pay the full fee amount. Its not all work and no play at the committee, they even take the students for a picnic every year. Their support and constant help is invaluable to us at RDF and it’s great to see the community help develop RDF Schools.

Beyond education…

A leadership activity underway with RDF Kalleda School students

RDF believes in the all-round development of a student. Besides academic education we believe in inculcating leadership qualities in the students.  Recently, Kevin Crouse (PhD candidate in Education Theory and Policy at Rutgers University) came to RDF Kalleda School to implement his innovative teaching methodology and develop leadership qualities in students. Students from classes 9 & 10 were formed into groups, each group led by a facilitator. Through discussion, students had to create a village, describing in detail all its attributes such as geography, political system, and traditions of the people. They had to give this village a name and represent it symbolically. Through further discussion, debate and brainstorming, they had to identify some crucial issues afflicting their village. Some of the issues identified were the lack of schools, alcoholism and dowry. The activity did not end with the identification of issues but also discussed possible solutions to the problem such as ways to reach out to local government to convince them about education and take necessary steps, spread awareness through various campaigns such as door to door advocacy and street plays. After this exercise, the students seemed more confident and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. RDF would like to extend a big thank you to Kevin and his team for their effort!

Promoting RDF

RDF staff tell visitors about the foundation at Karmayog Seva Mela

RDF participated in the Karmayog Seva Mela at the Zoroastrian Club in early October. The event — during India’s “Joy of Giving Week” — brought together dozens of NGOs, which set up stalls to publicize their good works.

Alumni from Kalleda volunteered at the event, telling visitors about how RDF differed from other schools.  G. Rani, who did her intermediate schooling at Kalleda from 2002 to 2009, described events like “dancing, archery and photography.”

Kalleda alumni G. Rani and Ishrath Fathima volunteered at the event

Alumna Ishrath Fathima, who had attended Kalleda with the sponsorship of a donor and is now studying engineering, also told visitors about the values that RDF teaches, including the important role of women. “Mothers play a vital role in children’s education,” she said.

Graduated, but not gone

Kalleda alum B. Veranna teaching students

Although B. Veeranna graduated Kalleda school and now studies at the National Institute of Technology in Warangal, he regularly returns to his alma mater.

During his own school holidays, B. Veeranna is teaching 8th, 9th and 10th physicals science classes at Kalleda. (The regular science teacher had left for another job.)

B. Veeranna — who attended Kalleda from 3rd to 10th class — also visits other RDF schools, helps with the Youth Empowerment Program, the Social Awareness Program and conducts career guidance classes for 10th grade students. In addition to assisting the students, B. Veeranna regularly translates from Telugu to English for the volunteers.

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.