I’ve been told by a few people that the only thing that’s missing with my blog is videos, pictures and improved spelling and punctuation. I will endeavour to improve on all three aspects.
The reason for the spelling and grammar though not being amazing is probably an apt way to start this next post. In short I wasn’t really ever taught grammar and punctuation at school. Well I was, but not to a standard which left me with an astute understanding of how it’s used.
In all honesty I was a slow learner at the time and classes seemed to pass me by quicker than I could give the lesson just given the proper thought I wanted to give it, leaving me slightly confused as to what had just happened – I wasn’t alone either. Since those days flew by, and those of you who know me can testify, I can sometimes be found wanting grammatically. Not to say that I can’t put things across eloquently, concisely and in a gramatically correct manner, but sometimes it slips and shows.
I was disinterested in school further on and always scraped by doing the bare minimum, as long as I passed exams I was alright, much to the frustration of ‘the parents’. I didn’t think exams were an accurate judge of my intelligence then as I went through phases where in each subject, when I was engaged, I would find myself getting amongst the highest marks in the class. I spent time relating what I was learning at school at relating it to the world my parents worked in and the two didn’t correlate. But that was just me, it was the way my mind used to work.
Anyway, on with the real reason for this post. An orphanage. Run by Stella…
Stella, seems to be the type of woman I would have loved to have learned from. She currently has an orphanage near a place called Ahmednagar in the Maharashtra district of India.
Orphanages are by no means all amazingly run and providing of a high quality standard education to those who can’t afford it, you have to be cautious as some are breeding grounds for child abuse or just pocketing money meant for sponsoring children, but this one is definitely leading the way for all the right reasons.
Abortions… A familiar story
It all started for Stella about 10 years ago, a women she knew had rung her up to tell her that she was having an abortion and to ask Stella if she would go to support her. Stella refused to be there for the abortion, a matter of principle, but said she would go over afterwards – after all a friend in need… etc
Stella turned up at the time she said she would, but to find out that the abortion had failed (was an injection based abortion done too late) and that a baby girl had been born. Stella’s friend was cursing her luck – women, or rather baby girls have it hard in India – not only are they ‘expensive to keep’, but there’s also the dowry costs and the stigmatised mindset that they aren’t as able as boys to earn their keep or enough for the family.
A woman of good intentions
Stella told of how she felt compelled to look after the child and make sure the child got another place to stay, she knew of an orphanage and her intentions were to take the child there and leave it to get on with it’s life. She didn’t in the end, and instead found herself adopting the girl.
10 years on and the Orphanage she felt compelled to start is thriving, I turned up on a sunny day with a whole host of kids (there are about 86 of them now – video of them all dancing at the bottom of the page), all from impoverished families or from prostitute mothers or nomadic tribesmen – ‘the lowest rung of society’ running around with beaming smiles on their faces, willing to shake my hand at any given opportunity and then run off laughing.
Stella called them inside (it should be noted that it was a weekend) to the TV room as it was time for cartoons, and then, after exchanging pleasantries, ushered me into her office.
Over the last ten years (and she has memorabilia all over her walls to prove it) she has established an orphanage and an educational infrastructure for the kids she cares for which not only rivals but equals some of the best commercial schools she knows of. All children she says are getting A’s or A+ she says enthusiastically and as she goes on you can see why.
Foundation to academic success? Do we rush things too much?
Her main methodology which she bases everything around is open-ness, nurturing each child and thoughtful love. She tells of stories of difficult children she has managed and passionately advocates listening, being caring but frank but always there for the child. It may sound cheesy to the cynics out there but I can promise you, the longer I spend in and around issues, especially dealing with young people or marginalized people the more sense it makes. Could this be our biggest issue? The lack of this?…
She has an education system which caters for the slow learners, always making sure that if someone isn’t at the right standard she finds out why and not only that, but helps them understand what’s wrong and works with each individual to improve their grades, something which improves their confidence/self belief/self worth and many other things.
She teaches them Hindi, English and even says that she’s started teaching the kids French and German (although I didn’t test these two). She teaches the children about Sex ed, something which isn’t freely taught in a conservative and religious country, but from which a lot of the major human rights issues seem to stem from. She gets the kids to celebrate all main religious festivals and holidays and to embrace them along with encouraging competition between the children she cares for, something which is quite a progressive aspect in india and has done so well with her work that the heads of the police for the state and the head of anti-corruption have not only promoted her work but tried sending their kids to her school/orphanage to hang out and try and learn from her kids.
This is significant, it’s significant because caste is a big issue in India, if you are tainted by being from a certain class your opportunities are automatically limited, even more so if you’re from poor family or if your mothers a prostitute, something that’s widely unaccepted in India and is seen as a permanent stain on who you are, no matter the circumstances that lead to you being in that position.
A pyramid depicting the caste system, these are very rigid and, for instance in the arranged marriage ethical value set it is very rare for people to marry into a different caste
She works by the premise that she wants jobs to come for her kids because of their ability and individuality instead of having the kids leaving her to search for hard to come by jobs, something which for most schools/colleges etc, I imagine, would be seen as the pinnacle achievement.
She seems to be close to that – her first girl, the same girl she saved all those years ago is closing in on that time and with Stellas growing network of influential admirers from various fields, all of which pay well, along with their awareness to the major issues like anti-corruption (something she has taught the kids about) and openness to people from all backgrounds and her development of their academic selves seems to be setting up the children for a table-turning social dynamic change in the fields these children end up in and to the mindsets of the people they meet and influence in the future.
It’s never going to be as perfect as it seems or as I write it up. To think there aren’t issues when you’re looking after 86 kids and that “all you need is love” is going to be the solution to all problems would be naive, but it’s a very solid starting block. A good foundation to have.
It’s her ambition levels that she has for the children she takes on that makes her inspirational. She doesn’t stop settling for the basics of giving a kid a simplistic level of literacy, something people say the government schools settle for. It also shows how many of the issues that seem to exist in India (let alone the world) can be sorted out at such an early age, by giving children not only the understanding of the environment they live in and themselves but by giving them the tools to make the most of themselves and each ones individual talents. Her ambitions extend further and she wants to create a orphanage and schooling system for over 300 kids and at aged 50 she has plenty of time ahead of her to achieve this.
I leave you with a video of the kids. Notice the ones who are doing what they want.