A Visit to The School

10 February 2015

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

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