Sending smiles from India,
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
The Glass Half Empty
Sometimes, we get confused with ourselves, with others, and, frankly, with the world. We mix up whether what we are doing is for ourselves or for others. We get so deep into our work that we lose track of what the goal is and if there is even one. As we work and love and care, we simply forget that what we want might not be what others want.
Most of the time, you hear about all the success stories of helping orphans, slum children, village kids, and child laborers. You hear about how we feed them or clothe them or get them into school. Most of the time, you do not hear about how hard it is for this to actually happen. And you might not even hear about the failures.
We started with seven girls regularly going to school from the Lakhtokia slum, but the number quickly fell to five, and then after three weeks dwindled to only one. Kasitan, the star student, is cleaned, dressed, and ready to go every day at 3:00. With a backpack on her back, and shoes on her feet, she comes from a house hidden behind the other slum dwellings. Stable, with a clay built toilet, and wooden bed, Kasitan's family house never gets knocked down by the government. Her family may very likely pay the government so that they do not knock down the house. As I've said before, it's all about the politics.
Last week, after the government knocked down the houses again. Kasitan became the lone child going to school. You have to ask yourself: how can anyone feel the desire to go to school after their own government knocked down the only stability they had? Instead of sitting in a classroom for two hours, these kids probably understand they need to be out picking up trash to make money for their next meal. Explaining the opportunities they could have by going to school goes in one ear and out the other. To say the least, nobody is around to convince them otherwise. Their parents and elder neighbors are not the best role models.
When we take the girls—and they're usually always girls—to and from school, other questions arise. Whenever we walk with them, they beg for chewing gum or a new pair of shoes or even a phone as we pass various stores. At this point, you feel that you have become a source of giving stuff rather than providing opportunities. You get frustrated and confused.
At the beginning of this week, the number of girls going to school went back to five. Their houses are built again and thus they are more willing to go to school and keep trying class out. Three of the girls (including Kasitan) are regulars. The other two come every now and then. We tried something new at school this week: at the school, they changed clothes, and then after class they changed back into their old clothes. We encouraged them to do this, because this way they can have a school uniform that stays clean and well kept.
The first day, they totally understood what was going on. They willingly changed out of their clothes, not begging or asking to keep the school outfits. Some of them even folded the outfits up and put them back where they belonged. Simple and easy as that. When I dropped the girls off in the slum after school that day, I was so happy I did not want to let go of their hands. I just wanted to whisk them away and take them with me.
But the second day was different. After finishing their day at school, and running to me saying in Assamese, “I like school, I like school,” they ran off to the changing area. But as I was getting their regular clothes out, four of the five girls sprinted off outside with the school uniforms on. They ran in all different directions as I sprinted after them almost in tears. I was only able to grab one girl and get her to change. Kasitan, the star of the bunch, was the only one who had not run off.
They can lift your heart up and they can tear your heart in two. They can prove to you that they want more than the life they have been given, and in one second they can blow it up.
Sending smiles from India,
Below are photos from this week: