Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sukrupa School: Creating Ripples in India

Monica Bradley, volunteered in Bangalore, India for two years teaching underprivileged children at Sukrupa School. Currently she resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her husband and son.  Below she shares her rewarding experience.

    Daniel, Priya, Rajkumar

Four years ago, I lived in Bangalore, India on assignment for my husband’s work. While there, I spent two years volunteering at Sukrupa School. I taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th standard students. After my first day of teaching, I went home and cried. It was overwhelming to me being among such poverty and I was unsure if I could return. But, I couldn’t forget the smiles on the children’s faces that I had met. They were so happy and loving to me despite their circumstances. I returned to the school with a profound desire to not only increase their knowledge, but also to shower them with unconditional love. Yet, they taught me so much more! Volunteering at the school was a very humbling, rewarding, life-changing experience for me.
In 1971, Suguna invited a handful of underprivileged children into her home and taught them basic subjects while their parents worked. A decade later she was teaching 150 children.  Her daughter and son, Krupa and Sathya, saw the wonderful work their mother was doing with these children. Years later, while both of them were successful in their own careers, Krupa returned to India in 2002 and founded Sukrupa School. Later, Sathya joined as director. Krupa desired for underprivileged children to have an opportunity to escape a background of poverty and illiteracy and have a chance to succeed in life. Today, over 400 children attend the school.
In India, the people are assigned their caste (social class) at birth based on their parent’s caste. For the millions born in the slums,  there is little opportunity to escape.  In the slum located near the school, parents earn about $1.00 a day. The majority of parents do not want their children to attend school, so they can help earn money for their family. They do not understand how valuable an education is for their child. It is especially challenging to retain girl students whom are often married at a young age. Not educating a girl has far reaching consequences for her and the generations to follow. Educating girls reduces poverty, increases self-confidence, and empowers the home. 

Below are a couple of responses from some of the students I taught:
“I left home when I was young to earn money for my family. Shortly after that, I met Krupa who invited me to come to school and be one of her foster children. I am so grateful for Sukrupa School. I’m one of the lucky ones because I was rescued from the streets and not sold into marriage as a child. Now I can make something of my life.  I can make candles, clothes, and handbags to sell. My dream is to open a store of my own.”                                                                      ~ Sony, residential child.
“While visiting my uncle in my home village, he discouraged me from returning to school. He said school was not important. I was confused and it was hard for me. But I know that I must study so I can be an Engineer someday. I am one of the lucky ones. Not every child can get an education.” (5 years ago).                         ~ Rajkumar, residential child attending St. Joseph’s Pre-University                      College, Bangalore.
The school has become a refuge for the students and they are thankful that they can go to school!  So grateful, that even when the children are out of school for a couple of weeks due to religious holidays, they still come. While I volunteered at the school, it was my privilege to witness how grateful the children are for the little things in life. The things that majority of us Westerners take for granted.

For instance, one day a box of 400 pairs of used shoes was donated to the school. The children rummaged through the box finding a pair in their size. When they found a pair that fit, they were so excited! They ran and jumped trying out their ‘new’ shoes. It did not matter to them what color or brand the shoe was.

Another time, a box of mechanical pencils was donated to the school from a friend of mine in the United States.  While I was tutoring some children, a couple of older girls happily came into the room holding their new pencils and thanked me for them.

Another time at the school, a box of toothbrushes and toothpastes were donated from a friend of mine in the United States. I watched the children excitedly choose a toothbrush. “Thank you Aunty!” They all said cheerfully. They were so happy to have their own toothbrush. It was my privilege to teach them how to brush their teeth for the first time.

I was also greatly impacted when one of my 1st standard students, Archana, was given her very first doll from a friend of mine who was sponsoring her. When I handed it to her, she stared at it and then looked up at me with her beautiful big brown eyes and asked, “is it really for me Aunty?” Tears of gratitude swelled in her eyes while she embraced it.

One experience that I will never forget was on Christmas Day in 2008. I arrived at the school and following a wonderful Christmas production of Journey to Bethlehem, I gathered my students together and we sang Christmas songs. Before I could give them each a small gift, they had formed a line and took turns handing me random trinkets they had brought with them from home. “Merry Christmas Aunty!” Tears came to my eyes as I thought about the generosity of these dear children.

Every child deserves the right and privilege of an education, despite their social class. With an education they are empowered to achieve their full potential. Mother Teresa wisely once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”