Tuesday, May 21, 2013

She is smart

During my last week in Guwahati, I am very busy having last dinners with friends, and soaking up every single mili-second I have. It is definitely an emotional week.

This past weekend, Olivia and I held an Operation Smile student conference. 34 students from a couple of schools came to participate in Guwahati's first U-Lead conference. From breakout sessions, to team games, we had so much fun sharing our passion for service and thinking of ways to help Operation Smile. Six of these students will be going to the International Student Leadership Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. This Conference was what got me interested in Operation Smile to begin with and I know that it will change these girls' lives as well.

Kristin Lay speaks at U-Lead Guwahati 2013. 
U-Lead participants listen to Kristin Lay's talk on Pratyasha. 
Playing games. 
Discussing plans and making goals for the year. 


Today, I told the four slum girls I take to school everyday that I am leaving. Because I cannot speak Assamese, I asked the girls and their mothers to meet with me and the Don Boscoe afternoon program coordinator at the school. The coordinator's office is a calm space, and I thought this was the best option. This was the same teacher who at first commented on how the slum girls were unclean, dressed badly, and had to change if they were to come to the afternoon program. Now she is very into getting these girls into school and keeping them in school. I feel that we have helped alter the way she thinks about this matter. 

The teacher explained to the girls and their mothers that I was leaving for America on Sunday. The girls were very confused. They began asking questions, like would I be coming back again? That broke my heart in two. 

She then spoke more directly to the mothers. She explained more about the two schools the girls are going to—Panbazar girls school in the morning and Don Boscoe school in the afternoon. She spoke about why education is important and described how it is every Indian child's right to have an education. Apart from this, she told them that they are mothers to very smart, determined girls who really want to go to school. I think that was a bit of shock to these moms. I mean who has ever told them they have smart children? Finally, she explained how hard I have worked to keep these girls in school and that when I come back to visit, I will be very sad if they are not in school.

When I leave, this is the plan: Kristin will take the girls to school in the morning. Then, in the afternoons, the moms will rotate taking the kids to Don Boscoe. The moms made a plan to alternate days, which made me feel somewhat confident that they have an interest in their daughter's educations. But honestly, it is hard to tell whether they really mean to continue bringing their kids to school, or if they were just saying that because we were all in front of the teacher.

"There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you." -A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh).

The clock hit 3:30 and the girls ran upstairs to their classroom while the mothers stayed behind asking the teacher questions. And then, the moms started explaining how much they look forward to me coming in the mornings and sitting in their houses, and how much they cannot wait to cool me down in the afternoons with their hand fans. They described how much the girls love me and how everyone in the area loves having me around. I learned the girls even have been asking their moms to save up rupees to buy me ice cream. I could go on and on, but the teacher's eyes were full of tears, and yes, one tear rolled down my cheek but I quickly wiped it away. I need to learn how to be strong like the slum women. 

And people ask me why I cannot imagine leaving.

Sending smiles from India,

P.S. Nurses Day...

Nurses Day is celebrated around the world to honor nurses and their work.  GC4 celebrated with a special event (filled with speeches and artistic performances) and lunch.  The "non-nurses team/medical team" made a special dance performance. Here, we are performing Gangham style. 

Finishing up the performance... Bollywood Style! 
Most of the GC4 team!
Just fooling around in Lakhtokia!

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