Update: MurthyNAYAK Foundation in India, Part I13 Dec 2010
As we reported recently on MurthyDotCom, during the week of Thanksgiving, the MurthyNAYAK Foundation and its board members were in India, visiting several of the organizations we support there. (See The MurthyNAYAK Foundation: From Baltimore to Bangalore, Each Life Matters!, MurthyDotCom, 26.Nov.2010.) Though we missed the traditional turkey dinner at home, we nonetheless experienced our own Thanksgiving in a very profound way. With each day we were privileged to spend in India, the message could not have been clearer: we have so much to be thankful for, and so much responsibility to do good things with all we have been given in life.
Our first stop was the Chennakeshava School in Bangalore, a visible sign of hope for children from the slums of this teeming city of 5.5 million people. Every day, some 2000 students are picked up and brought to one of the three schools involved in this effort, where they receive a nutritious breakfast and lunch, so they can concentrate on their studies. The teachers, meanwhile, feed their hungry young minds with lessons in math, science, reading, and all of the other essentials, to prepare the children for a better future, armed with a good education. The dedication of the teachers was evident in their energy and intensity, and in the comments of one teacher who mentioned, in passing, that the teachers all agreed to sacrifice part of their meager wages in order to hire more teachers for the kids, to keep the student-teacher ratio down.
For their part, the children at the Chennakeshava School were smiling and attentive, well fed, well scrubbed, and in clean uniforms, provided by the school. They paid close attention to their teachers, and seemed to take their education seriously; many are the first in their families, down through several generations, to get a chance to go to school, and they seem determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Unlike many poor children in India who are being left in the dust of the digital divide – even poor children in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley – the students at Chennakeshava are learning to use computers, sitting side-by-side at the keyboard in the school’s computer lab. Computer literacy will put these children safely on the other side of that divide, within reach of better jobs and educational opportunities that otherwise would be off limits. Without the educational opportunities provided by the school, the futures faced by most of these children would be bleak, consigned to the stagnant margins of an economy that otherwise is surging ahead to prosperity and modernity.
Sheela Murthy took the opportunity to talk with teachers, administrators and students at the school. She encouraged the students to use their imaginations, and to follow their dreams, telling them how she worked hard and studied diligently to fulfill her own dreams. Sheela told the children – boys and girls – that girls could be anything they put their minds to, and said she was living proof of that! The children were shy at first when Sheela asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, but soon were shouting out their aspirations, in turn: “Teacher!” “Engineer!” “Film star!” “Doctor!” At least part of what the Chennakeshava School is giving these children is the freedom to dream of bigger things. All of us at the MurthyNAYAK Foundation are deeply gratified to be able to support this endeavor. It truly is a privilege, and cause for humble reflection about all we have to be thankful for.