School at Govardhana
We started this little school in early 2016 as an informal meeting with local children at the foot of Govardhan Hill. Our meetings evolved into a structured class with regular meeting times. We now have about 40 children coming regularly to class.
We recently implemented the Learn to Read series by Dr. Edith Best (Urmila devi dasi) into our program.
The class started in the open air, then moved to the roof of a local family’s house. For now, we’ve shifted to a hall in a beautiful new ashram which has been donated by a very generous person from Agra.
What we’ve been doing
English and Hindi Class
We split the children into two groups: those who know the Hindi alphabet and those who don’t. The idea is that the children who don’t know Hindi can learn basic Hindi reading and writing first, and the rest will learn English using the Learn to Read program.
The Childrens’ Background
The children come from poor (not destitute) families. Most families have a small house which many extended family members share. Some have one or more milking buffaloes and/or a kheti (field where wheat and other crops are grown). We would estimate the average family probably makes about 4-5,000 rupees per month. (about $55-$75 USD)
Most of the children go to school. Some go to the government school nearby which is very poor in quality. Others attend better local schools in Govardhan which the families have to pay for. Contrary to what one may expect, most of the girls in this area do go to school.
We’ve received clothes for the kids from all over India, as well as abroad. We collect the clothing until it looks like we have enough for everyone and then we distribute.
We set up a changing room and have each child try on clothes. If there is nothing good that fits, we go to the market and buy something for them. It’s not always easy because the parents have their preferences too, for example they might want you to buy clothes that are too large so the child can use them for the next year as well. We did our best to honor parental and child preferences where appropriate.
On festival days like Diwali and Govardhan Puja we have class parties. A Diwali Party includes an offering of lights (deep daan) at the foot of Girirajji, puja of Giridhari, rangoli-making, and food distribution. On Govardhan Puja, we make Govardhan Baba out of cow dung and perform puja, then distribute the prasad (food offered to God). We estimate that 80-100 children and a few adults take prasad.
Many of the children beg in the street to get pocket money and to pass the time. (Parents generally encourage rather than discourage such behavior.) But the children are hungry for education and when there are alternative activities, they readily choose those activities over begging.
Volunteers are invited to create their own workshops for the children. This could be a one-time workshop or something more regular. We feel this is really important as this gives them exposure to new skills and people, and new inspiration for what to do with their lives moving forward. So far we have had workshops on yoga and crocheting, and kirtan.
We took a survey of what the children’s parents do for a living. Most of the fathers work in construction or drive an auto rickshaw, with the occasional peanut seller or painter. The mothers are housewives, with just a couple of teachers. Our children want to be doctors, lawyers, policemen and teachers. We want to give them a feeling for what jobs exist out there in the wider world, and what is needed to reach whatever goals they choose.
We also want to show them examples of excellence at every level of society, so that in case they do end up becoming rikshaw drivers or construction workers, they can apply the principles of excellence and become the best in their field of activity. For example, Annadurai is doing something unique in Tamil Nadu with his “Amazing Auto” concept. Click here to view.
Whenever someone wishes to feed the kids we offer food to Girirajji and have a little class party with his prasad.
We provide school supplies for the children. This includes book bags; notebooks; pencil boxes loaded with pencils, erasers, and other supplies; markers and crayons, etc.
What We Have & Provide
- Kirtan – singing, dancing and organized fun
- Hindi class
- English class – with Dr. Edith Best’s (Urmila Devi dasi’s) “Learn to Read” program
- Regular workshops by volunteers and/or local artists (Art, Music, Karate, Yoga, etc.)
- Class field trips and organized parties
- Clothes and gifts
- Plenty of healthy food
3 out of 40 children sponsored
What we need
To lease a nice school room
For class equipment like blackboard etc.
To provide food, clothing, uniforms etc.
- Volunteers to teach workshops
- Donations of clothes and materials