Several members of the Twin Cities Expatriate Association (T.E.A.) visited Wings recently. The students were busy preparing projects for their upcoming Project Day. T.E.A. member Eve sent some notes:
“Upon arrival at Hadassah, we were greeted by Grace and all of the students sitting outside the front of the school. Each student was working on a project which involved geography, community resources or transportation. Each girl had prepared an oral report for us. This included their name, grade and project purpose. We all even learned a few things.
Grace gave a brief orientation and school tour for the five newcomers. We were also shown the student record keeping system. The files were very complete with a photo of the student & parents, birth certificate, admission test, school – student contract & waiver. The student report card will be also included at the end of each school year.”
Eve also mentioned that the girls had a hard time understanding the stories the group read to them. Part of this is the girls not being familiar with American accents but it also illustrates the challenges we face bringing the girls up-to-speed with an English-medium school.
Thanks to all the T.E.A. ladies who took the time to visit the school and work with the girls.
Members of the Twin Cities Expatriate Association recently visited Wings and brought materials for the girls to make their own necklaces. Shah was inspired by her young daughter, who loves to bead, to share this craft with the Wings girls. She organized a group of expat women to head to out to the school to guide the girls in making their pretty necklaces. Thank you Shah, Meera, Tonya, Tara, Gabriel, Lien and Eve! What a great way for the girls to practice their English and have fun making something beautiful to keep. Here’s how Shah described the day:
“Monday morning at 9 am all the ladies going to the visit met at Qmart and set off for Wings. Along the way we stopped and purchased about 200 bananas for the girls. We arrived at Wings around 10 am and were greeted with smiles from Grace and her husband Victor. After the introductions and listening to a brief history of Hadassah and Wings School, we brought the girls downstairs grade by grade, sat them in circles of about 10 girls and everyone along with Grace’s son, James, chipped in to pass out the beads. Then we began beading, beading, beading…it was one of the happiest little scenes I’ve seen. The ladies sat with the girls and helped them to make designs and patterns with beads. They taught the girls how to tie the clasps into place thereby also connecting with the girls at the same time. By 1pm, 80 plus girls all dressed in their pink uniforms had a sparkly beaded necklace all of their own along with ear to ear smiles. Precious Precious Precious!”
The school has been open for two months now and things are going well. We have 100 students with more applications pending. We have the capacity for 150 students and anticipate reaching this number within a few months. The government inspectors have come and gone, staff has settled in and the girls are progressing well.
The school is following the Central Board of Secondary Education curriculum so the students are studying their primary subjects in English; they also have classes in Telugu, the state language of Andhra Pradesh, and Hindi, the national language. For fitness and fun we also offer karate, yoga and Bollywood dancing!
Sadly, tragedy has already struck as the mother of two of our young students died just before the school opened. The mother was young and had a baby boy in addition to her two daughters. Having succeeded in producing the much valued boy she underwent a tubal ligation at the local hospital. This is a standard procedure that in Western hospitals rarely results in complications. Yet this mother, forced to rely on the sub-standard care available to poor Indians, died on the operating table. The mother had so impressed Grace; she had been very meticulous in getting the necessary paper work for her daughters to enroll in Wings and was grateful for the opportunity the school gave her daughters. Now Grace is very concerned with the welfare of the girls. The father will likely remarry soon and the girls will be neglected. They will be seen as a burden, an unnecessary expense. Grace is monitoring the situation as best she can and is bringing in dinner from her home for the girls. As Wings is already providing breakfast and lunch for the students this ensures the girls are well fed throughout the week.
Grace’s daughter Rupa has just shot some video of life at the school. I need to convert them to a different format but hope to have them up soon. Rupa is a lawyer who is helping us with legal issues for the school. She also provides free legal advice for Hadassah, Grace’s women’s group. Thank you Rupa!
We had a wonderful official opening for the school a couple of weeks ago. A tent was set up on the road just outside the school, a band played and Grace’s son James hosted the event. Several of the students came along with their parents. Various members of the village community were there and I was especially touched that several of my fellow expats made the journey to the school.
When the students arrive they are given a brief entrance test to see what level they are at. Most of the girls are eager and bright and are admitted. In this brief video Grace’s daughter, Rupa, is interviewing a man with his two daughters. Rupa is a lawyer who comes in to help out at the school when she has the time. She is drafting a legal bond which we will have the parents sign to pledge that they will keep their daughters in school and won’t marry them off before they turn 18.
Many of the girls who have been admitted are coming to the school daily although the official school year doesn’t start until June 12th. Our principle, Mr. Victor, is giving them lessons in English so they will be ready to start the English medium curriculum. The furniture hasn’t arrived yet so the girls sit on the floor. A huge thank you to all my Hyderabadi girlfriends who got together and gave me the school’s first blackboard and a wonderful cash donation for my birthday. We bought more boards and over 100 books for the library!
Grace has been busy visiting the sorrounding villages to recruit girls. Word has gotten out and we are seeing a very positive response from the villagers. We want to make sure that we are targeting the very poor so in order to register for the school the parents must supply their white ration card, a card issued by the Indian government that indicates the family is living in poverty. Grace has also been approached from mothers of the local Marwari community. This community is well-off by local standards; however, the conservative fathers often do not allow their daughters to attend school. They don’t want to pay the fees as they feel they have to save money for the daughter’s dowry. As we consider these girls to be under-priveledged in their lack of opportunity we have agreed to take some of them on as students.
I came out to the school a few weeks ago to see the first wave of students coming to register. As happens everyday here in India, the power was out and I sat in the hot school waiting for a truck with some potential students that was on its way from a nearby village. It was around 40C and sweat was beading on my brow. Finally, after about an hour, the truck rolled in. It was a huge truck stuffed to the brim with families. About eight kids were squeezed around the driver in the cab. The back of the truck with teeming with young girls and their parents, all dressed in their finest clothes. What an amazing sight!