A Visit to The School

10 February 2015

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Sophia and I had been talking about going on a trip to India and volunteering at PPES forever. As our

Junior year in high school came to an end, we started making plans and by July, everything had begun

to come together. We were headed to India and PPES with a lot of excitement and some specific goals:

develop a long term relationship with the school and the students, experience their day to day life/

give them an insight into ours, establish hands-on STEM activities for the school, pilot the peer to peer

global mentoring program I had previously established, and help train the girls for their upcoming half

marathon.

I had visited PPES in summer of 2011 and was looking forward to seeing how the school and the

community around PPES had evolved in the past three years. One significant change at PPES since

2011 is the addition of a call center. The call center provides additional jobs for the vocational training

program at PPES. Girls can choose to work at the call center after they graduate. Being the only place

with air-conditioning on campus, the call center became our safe haven throughout our stay at PPES.

We went there when our unaccustomed bodies could not handle the heat. At the call center, the girls

book seats for the popular and extravagant Kingdom of Dreams show in Gourgon.

Every morning at PPES, we would talk to KK Sir about the upcoming day’s plans. He often listed a few

classes which had a free period. We would go in to these classes as the teacher was leaving for a break

and introduce ourselves. We played various games with the girls such the name game, Simon’s says and

telephone; these games helped the girls get comfortable hearing us speak in English and tested their

comprehension skills. We also brought two electric circuit kits to the school which could create over

200 circuit combinations, including music, a fan, and a light switch. It was fun to explain the concept of

electricity to the girls, demonstrate how to construct a circuit and then let them explore and discover

the many ways to make different circuits on their own.

Sometime we would have a chance to go outside and play games with the students. We adored running

around with the girls and teaching and learning games from them. They taught us one of their favorite

games, Kho, and in turn loved the Frisbee and jump ropes we had taken for them from the US. Several

of the girls at the school were training for a half marathon and would jog laps in the field in the morning.

We are both long distance runners for our high school and provided some drills and stretching exercises

for the girls and their instructor to use. One time, we tried jogging with them but even though we are

cross country runners who run 8 miles a day, we had a difficult time keeping up and got very sweaty.

Our typical day consisted of waking up, taking a much needed shower and walking out of our room to

a delicious breakfast sitting on the table. We ate breakfast and dinner at the guest house with Elsa Ji,

the school nurse, any other volunteers that were there at the time, and Sonum, a girl who attended

the school but lived at the guest house. We would go watch the morning assembly or help with the half

marathon training at 8am and then talk to KK Sir about the rest of the day. We sometimes observed

classes, such as the computer class or the math class. We walked around to different classes, getting to

know the girls and the school. One of the days, I (Anika) preformed a Bharatnatyam classical dance for

two of the classes and the girls were highly interested and appreciative of the dance form. I taught some

of the girls a few steps and they were excited to learn more. After school ended, we would journal about

the day (usually in the comfort of the cool call center) and in the evening we relaxed and one day went

to visit the city of Anoopshahar.

In addition to working at the school, we had the chance to visit a hygiene clinic, a government hospital,

and a few surrounding villages. It was an eye opening experience to see the way of life in the village first

hand and their everyday activities.

At our very first visit to the call center, we met Shivani. She has recently graduated from PPES and was

working at the call center. She has been accepted into a program at Bellingham Community College in

Washington state and was headed to the United States a week after our departure. We got the chance

to talk and interview her in detail and ask her about her experience at the school and future plans.

Since Bellingham is only a few hours from our home in Portland, Oregon, we hope to host Shivani here

sometime during her college stay.

We want to maintain long term connection with the girls at the school. During the past school year, I

had started a tutoring program between a few older girls at PPES and peer students at our high school

in the US with an objective to assist the girls in math and English and cultivate a cultural exchange.

We had some road blocks due to no internet connectivity at PPES for a few months and long distance

communication challenges. While on-site at PPES, we worked closely with the math and science teacher,

Ashok Sir, to get the tutoring website set up. We created Google+ accounts for 10 girls in the twelfth

class and showed them how to access a Google Communities group which we had created for the

tutoring club. This year at our school, we will choose 10 students and pair them up one-to-one for

individualized assistance to help increase the girls’ math and English skills. We hope this can be an

exchange of cultures and a good learning experience for students on both ends. Being in India allowed

the idea of the website to come full form quickly and we hope the success of the program will continue

to expand and evolve in future years.

We came back from PPES with many memories and life experience that will stay with us forever.

We look forward to a lifetime of friendship with all the wonderful people we met and an ongoing

relationship with the school and the community.


Anika Raghuvanshi

Community Development Through Empowerment of Rural Indian Girls

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It always seems impossible until it’s done-Nelson Mandela


The impossible became possible through education and training. Reluctant to send their daughters

to school initially, inhabitants of Anupshahr, one of the most backward districts of Bulandshahar in

the state of Uttar Pradesh, have seen a sea change in the community through the education of girls

provided by Pardada Pardadi School. Presently there are over 1200 students from 62 villages in the

school

A visit to the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society(PPES) programme and interaction with the girl

students who exuded positivity, gregariousness, confidence and happiness left a lasting impression.

Rahul and I were slightly taken aback when we spoke in Hindi with the girls but got responses like “good

afternoon sir/mam”, “what’s your name,” “where are you from” in perfect English. Most of these girls

belong to some of the most socially deprived communities of the area but free education and job

opportunities have made a large number of rural girls and women self-sustaining.



First we came across Gulshan, a speech and hearing impaired worker at the Production Unit for making

BlackBerry suit bags. It was inspiring to know that she is one of the fastest workers, despite her

physical challenges. As part of the economic empower programme of Pardada Pardadi various other

products such as cushion covers, pillow covers, bed covers, purses, saris, dupattas and coasters are

also produced besides the BlackBerry bags and are sold at stores both internationally and in the country.

The Unit is run in partnership with BlackBerry India and manufactures 8000 suit bags per month for the

company. Each girl is paid Rs 5 per bag and gets paid for the number of bags that she is able to produce.

Work which was earlier considered to be a male domain has been easily taken up by females.




Then Asha’s story of education and empowerment was truly inspirational. She belonged to one of

the first batch of students to pass out in 2006 and continued her higher education outside the school.

Now she works as a counselor at the school, counseling dropout students and their families on the

importance of education and tries to convince them to join back. She proudly mentioned that she was

able to voice her opinion about wanting to marry an educated and supportive man who would allow her

to work after marriage.



We wound up meeting other family members of Asha on a visit to her parental home and heard some

more motivating stories. Priyanka, Asha’s neice got an opportunity to study in Bangalore at the Nettur

Technical Training Foundation(NTTF) and then further train at the TATA Steel Company in Jharkhand.

Asha has set a precedent to study and work for other girls in her family and the community.

PPES’s commitment to health and hygiene could be seen at the health centre, which was clean and

bright and equipped with basic necessities where two doctors and a nurse were busy examining

patients. The doctors visit weekly to cater to any health ailments of the girls, while the nurse is present

daily at the clinic. Eye check-ups, dental examinations and vaccinations are provided through the health

centre.

It was also encouraging to know that girls are also taught basic self- hygiene like bathing, brushing teeth,

combing their hair, etc at the school. The school also has a sanitary napkin manufacturing unit where

low cost napkins are manufactured by the girls and then provided to students as well as teachers and

the community at a subsidized rate. The school contributed 4000 napkins to the Jammu and Kashmir

flood victims this year.

Toilets and showers have been built in the villages for the use of the villagers. Usually after a girl passes

out of school a toilet is built in her house which all family members can use. Tips on health and hygiene

are passed on to the community through these girls as they are themselves very motivated to go and

teach others about it.



Besides being taught embroidery, applique work and computers, the students are also taught how to

prepare meals and serve them in a hygienic manner. Some of them were busy serving the mid-day meal

which is provided to the students along with two other snacks during the course of the day.

Next on the agenda was attending a meeting of community women of the dairy micro-enterprises

best practice programme. The local women were into the 4th

they were being trained on how to take proper care of their milk producing cattle namely cows and

buffaloes, increase milk production through proper feed, etc. We also visited the Bharatiya Agro Industy

Foundation Animal Development Centre where we were briefed on how artificial insemination to

increase the production of milk in animals was done.



Then we met some more community women at a meeting of Women’s Self Help group. Groups of 10

women save a small amount of money each day and put it into a kitty which is rotated amongst them.

Whoever keeps the kitty at home is accountable. They also inter loan the money at a certain interest

to other women. The amount has to be returned when the next monthly meeting takes place. This has

empowered the women, teaching them basic financial recording, self- reliance, and helps then lead a

life of dignity and self- respect in addition to proving then with an alternate livelihood. The organization

wants to create a new model of alternate livelihood for women which are sustainable and scalable over

a period of time.



Finally a visit to the Solar Lantern charging station at the locality of Madargate where the incharge

briefed us about the solar lanterns provided to villagers at a rental. Since most of Anupshahr gets only

a few hours of electricity supply in the day, these solar lanterns have now made it easier for children

to study in the home as well as for adults to use the light while doing their chores, thus reduce health

hazards from using kerosene and firewood.



This is a truly laudable initiative of empowerment of rural girls and the community and should be

replicated!


Anuja Upadhyay

A tête-à-tête with the Toilet Guy!

09 March 2011

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At Pardada Pardadi, Mr. Ron Fuchs’ name is synonymous with that of a toilet’s. You think of a toilet, you think of Ron, and when you think of Ron, you immediately think of a toilet.



Ron makes sure his commitment brings him to Anoopshahr from Baltimore, USA at least once every year. Before he took off his flight back to the US on March 3, he completed the inspection and jump started the construction of a community toilet in one of the most marginalized communities in Anoopshahr. There is so much that a PPES toilet is connected to: Health and Hygiene, Employment, the cause of a Green Environment, and much much more. And, it’s not just in the mind anymore, it’s in the process where people are teaming up in innovative ways and bringing in great IDEAS! We’re sure you have something too, get in touch with us on info@pardadapardadi.org

A tête-à-tête with Mr. Ron Fuchs as we know him

81 toilets in 12 villages in one year. How do you see
this outcome/achievement?


It’s a good start. I would like to have at least one toilet built in every village that sends girls to PPES. The idea is to set an example, to show what can be done with a little effort.

Why and how did you think of gifting a toilet to the families in villages? There are open fields where people poop lavishly.

The idea originated during a visit to China. China has made great strides in both rural and urban sanitation. I originally suggested a community toilet for Sam’s village, Bichola, but Sam thought we should try individual toilets first. We developed a model based on World Bank experience with slight modification for the Indian culture and environment. A toilet is an alternative to the open fields which provides privacy, safety and sanitization not available in a field.

Do you think the concept of hygiene standard is overblown to suit the western standards? Is a toilet all about a matter of accessibility?

I believe that health and hygiene standards are universal, not Western or Eastern. Dignity, privacy, safety and health don’t recognize political or cultural divides.Our toilets are the “squat pan”type, very foreign to Westerners, but just if not more functional.

What is the value of a toilet in your life?

In life there are certain basic needs, the most basic being food, clothing and shelter. Shelter is more than a roof over your head. A toilet to me is in that basic need category, though once acquired; it’s certainly taken for granted.

Can you recall a particular incident or a story when you felt ‘why don’t we have something as basic as a toilet in Anoopshahr?

Yea, on my first visit to Anoopshahar, jet lag had me awake at 5:00 AM so I went for a walk and initially could not figure out why there were women alone in the fields at that hour. That’s when the China experience gave me the idea.

Could you share some of the setbacks, especially the ones that made you frown?

I had hoped to train a local team to build our model toilet and be available for private engagement. So far we haven’t been able to make that work. I still have difficulty with the Indian male who has no interest in working but will sit around a work site all day and offer advice. I am also frustrated by the large number of village kids who should be in school but are not.

Can we put your story simply as’ I want to construct toilets, and I am going to Anoopshahr?’

No, it’s a story that begins with an inspiration from seeing hundreds of girls at school, looking you in the eye and saying, “Good morning Sir.” The story continues with Sam willing to try out an idea if he thinks it will benefit his India. I just had the luck to be in the right place at the right time.

Where do you and the toilet project go from here?

Back to the first idea, ‘Community toilets’. More “bang for the buck”. One seat in a community toilet can be used by a hundred or so customers ever day, verses the 5-10 family members who will use an individual family toilet. In the smaller villages we will continue with the original model. Me, I love India and just about everything about it, so I’ll be using the “toilet project” as an excuse to return again and again.