Students plan service-learning trip
Published: Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 16:11
New Delhi, India. Despite being approximately 7,500 miles away, this place has closely affected the lives of four university students planning on returning there this winter to aid the children of the slums.
Seniors Lauren House and Justyn Olliviere and juniors Nicki Brooks and Ned Redmond met on a university study abroad program in India this past winter. While studying there, they became familar with a non-governmental organization called Katha, which helps to educate underpriveledged children living in India.
The students said their desire to volunteer in Katha is their motive to return in the future.
Brooks said another part of what Katha does is publish books. They also take stories that are in different languages from across India and translate them into English. However, the organization's main focus is building schools for children.
"They've grown into building 72 schools in the slums of Delhi. They have a 92 percent passing rate in board exams and a 98 percent student retention rate," Brooks said. "It's flying colors and it was really inspiring hearing about it."
Redmond said the schools are like a fantasy for all of the kids.
"The school was laid out like a castle, and there were murals all over the walls of characters the kids had designed themselves," he said.
The schools are available forboy and girl children up to17 years of age.
The biggest obstacle the group is facing in returning to India this winter is funding, Redmond said.
"We are working on funding pretty much all of the time because until we get the funding, we don't really know what we're going to be able to do," he said. "That's our main concern right now."
Brooks said because the group is not an RSO, they have had to apply for funding individually.
House said she is working on her senior thesis, and thus has been able to tap into the research departments, the communication department and her adviser's English department to locate some funds for her portion of the trip.
"There are funds available, but you have to fit a certain criteria," she said. "There's really no broad sort of scholarship you can apply for, except for the Alumni Enrichment Award."
House said the Alumni have been very generous in the past, but they won't find out if they've won that award until late October. She also said the group will be looking into making contact with large corporations and companies in an effort to raise more funding.
"We've created one proposal, one budget for the group," she said. "So, we're using the same proposal, but then we also have our own personal student goal we have to make."
Brooks said they're working to make this program available at the university every year for students who are interested in volunteering for Katha. She said they are a pilot program for future service learning trips.
The program aims to draw in university students of all types of educational backgrounds, House said. This will allow for them to work on different specific projects when they return each year to the Katha schools.
Olliviere will be helping the schools with their computer programs. Brooks is looking into education tactics, while also studying how Katha is successful in nationwide education and getting children out of the slums. Redmond will be editing and publishing for Katha's Web site. He is also interested in tutoring kids to learn English so they can later break into the business world. House will be working on Katha's microfinance program.
Along with these projects, Redmond said the group will be working together to promote education to all people of the New Delhi slums.
"We have to market education to the people," he said. "In the slums, the mothers need to send their children to school to be educated, but if the children are out making the most money for their family, by begging, then the mother doesn't really have a reason to pull their kids off the streets and send them to school."
He said they are helping to educate the entire family so that they may all get out of poverty.
The government in India is supposed to provide education to all children, Brooks said. They have government schools, but Katha's passing rate and retention rate are proving to be more appealing to New Delhi children.
"Actually now, Katha is being asked by the government to try and go into the government schools and see if they can resurrect their programs," Brooks said.
Olliviere said he can't wait to get back to India to volunteer in the Katha schools and to help the children. The group plans on staying in the YWCA of India, the largest membership based women's organization in the world, for approximately five weeks.
"We came up with this concept of returning while we were there before," Brooks said. "We've had to deal with tricky little nitpicky details like getting permission and trying to find funding, so, for me, I think it's going to be about just finally getting there."
House said she is most looking forward to spending three weeks with Katha and just learning the intricacies of how the organization works. She said because they will be staying there for an extended amount of time, they will be able to learn a lot about the organization.
"Often with internships, you don't really learn much unless you're there for an extended period of time, which is why it's necessary for us not to back away from this project," she said. "We need to really figure it out and actually make an impact to know how we can contribute to it in the future."
Brooks said there is a sense of being able to conquer whatever challenges are set in her path, and is excited to actually get back to India.
"We've done it," she said. "We'll do it, and we'll get there."