Monday, 18 December 2017

One year has passed

About one year ago, Vijay and Vio went to visit Aryan's family for the first time. A lot has happened since then. We have founded our association and our work is no longer limited to the family. Still, everything began with this family - so where are we after one year?

Vio og Vijay told Cathrine that the family did not have enough to eat and their living conditions were quite bad. So the first thing Cathrine and her family did was to better their living conditions by funding improvements on their house, as well as getting them a bike and a sewing machine. Cathrine and her family also agreed to support the family monthly to make sure they had enough food while we work on a long term solution. The goal for the project is for the family to manage on their own and help the family with the childrens education. Today the family is better fed and since the kids get enough to eat they are able to learn better. Most of the kids know how to read now and are improving their skills in english too. And the family has more goats (seven total - they had three a year ago)! All this is good, but are we closer to a long term solution for the family?

The answer is YES! We have already mentioned the goats and we hope the number of goats will continue to grow. Also - early next year the family will receive their own landbooks and if all goes as planned they will put down their first harvest before summer (their land is used by someone else without their permission... long story... but soon this will be resolved we hope). We have been working on this for the better part of this year and it is nice to finally get closer to them having access to their land (someone in their extended family has delayed the process, but as the family gets their own books this matter is solved as well). It will still take some time before the family can manage on their own, but things are moving in the right direction! Cathrine and her family will continue to support the family in 2018 and when it comes to education for the children, they are in this for the long run!

We have come a long way in 2017 and are really happy with the progress. None of this would be possible without Vio, Vijay and Ravi in Friends in Khajuraho Association!! We are forever greatful for your commitment!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Warm jumpers on the way to Khajuraho

It is getting cold in Khajuraho and Tikri, and Cathrine decided to send about 60 jumpers before Christmas. The parcel is now on the way - and Cathrine also put some Christmas treats in the parcel for our students in Tikri. If everything goes as planned (that is a BIG if) - the parcel will arrive in Khajuraho by mid December.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Goats, work, arrested principal, land and debt

It's time to do an unpdate on Aryan's* family; this time we have good news, bad news and "medium" news. We'll start with the good ones! This week the family got two new members as one of their goats had two healthy babies. The family now has seven goats total, four more than when we started this project! Not long now before the goats outnumbers the people in this family.

Another piece of good news is that the oldest son, Prakash*, is working at the moment. He works for a contractor building a house. This is a temporary job, but we hope the contractor is satified with his work and will use him again on a later occation. It certainly is an opportunity for him to show what he can do and demonstrate his value as a worker. Prakash* is happy about the job, and his mother even more so.

And then to the bad news; The oldest daughter, Roshni*, was enrolled in a local university to learn how to design and sew clothes. The principal/owner of this university was recently arrested, accused of illegaly occupying government land. In addition to this he is accused of taking land from poor families by force. Hence, the police has taken control of all his properites and the school is closed. The future of the university is uncertain. We are happy that the police has taken steps towards the prinicpal/owner, but this means that the students no longer get the education they have paid for.

We are working on solving a land issue for the family. They own a piece of farmland, but don't have
access to the land since someone else has taken control of it (not he principal though!). This is a bit complicated and hence this issue is solved directly between Cathrine/her family and Vijay/Aryan*s family. They have hired a laywer, but are waiting for the original documents from Aryan's brother. His sister owns a adjoining piece of land which is also illegally occupied and the brother is not willing to give the documents unless we also help his sister. This is somewhat understandable and we have offered practical support to the sister as well. Now we are waiting for her to be present, because we can not do anything for her if she is not on site (she lives in a different village).

The last issue we are working on is some old debt the family has. This is also solved privately between Cathrine/her family and Vijay/Aryan's* family. The family borrowed some money from a group a long time ago and Vijay is trying to locate the person who founded this group in the first place. This is important to solve the current conflict about interests on the loan. Anyway; Vijay has money available to pay of the original debt, but we are witholding the money until all matters are solved.

Otherwise, life is as usual in Tikri, with the younger girls in shool during the day. All the kids participate in our literacy program, together with a few other kids in the neighbourhood. And if you haven't read the recent blog written for us by the English teacher in Tikri, you can read it here.

*Names have been changed to protect the family's identity

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Teaching in Tikri - by Kat

*This blog is written by Kat who is currently working as a volunteer for Friends in Khajuraho Association and has taken on teaching English in Tikri as well*

Walking along the garden path and up the ill-formed stone steps, the smiling family greet us each day with a chorus of ‘namaste’ or ‘good morning’ from the more confident pupils, a rush to prepare the classroom, and a cup of sweet chai. Their home consists of two rooms with one bed, a couple of chairs and household objects such as clothes and cooking materials. In the early mornings the children are either rocking the just-got-out-of-bed look, or are bright-eyed and combing recently-washed hair. In the late afternoons we welcome the goats when they come home from grazing and only leave when it is too dark to see the board (which has meant resorting to using torches once or twice!). With their mother watching from the step in the corner, the atmosphere moves comfortably between that of a living space and an orderly classroom.

The age difference, spanning from one cheeky five year old girl to a hard-working eighteen year old, has resulted in a couple of disagreements over erasers or ‘whose book is whose’, but overall it does credit to their family as the siblings are kind and look out for each other. I think the children enjoy the opportunity to think and focus, as one afternoon I remember two of the girls looking sullenly at each other with red eyes, but within twenty minutes their dryer eyes were darting between the board and their books, scribbling down words.

We teach four times per week to a large family and a couple of their neighbours. I do an hour of English, then Vijay does an hour of Hindi. Initially I joined in the latter (I’m a beginner as of moving to India!), but recently some new and more advanced students have joined the class, so I use this time to give them extra tuition. My focus is on beginner lexical sets and we’ve covered animals, colours, numbers, fruits, vegetables, family members and pronouns. Each week I add in a few key phrases such as introductions, however in reality full sentences are too complicated for the vast majority. Most of the children struggle to remember or even read out words of three or four syllables (which I think is due to under confidence and a lack of concentration – both of which we’re working on through encouragement and repetition). Therefore, rather than start on grammar I wanted to build up their confidence with vocabulary, so we practice lots of spelling, drilling, copying words and word searches. When we covered prepositions I made sure to use all the previously mentioned sets of words, and of course draw some pictures on the board – imagine cats in boxes and apples next to bananas. Our only resources are pens, paper, the board and a few handwriting books, so I’ve developed a newly acquired talent for drawing cartoons of elephants, which the children find hugely amusing (but my lions need some work!).

In the first few weeks it was difficult to measure improvement, and not because they’re beginners, but because most of the children hardly attended school and when they did the level of teaching was poor. Their lack of education is apparent in a number of ways in the classroom. Before I begin I’d like to write a quick note about my observations. I’m new to teaching English and I haven’t studied psychology so my interpretations are informal and still developing.

Firstly, they struggle to recall information, even during an activity when the answers are on the board. I believe their teachers prioritise learning by rote rather than instilling an understanding of meaning and thus creating a lasting memory of word groups. It will be a slow process to overcome this, with lots and lots of encouragement. Over the last few weeks however I have been able to mention some words, in particular animals, fruits, colours or prepositions and they are excited to remember them.

Secondly, despite knowing the alphabet (and even some still make mistakes) they often can’t adapt their knowledge of letters into reading a written word and speaking it out loud. I found this quite shocking at first, that a teenager who attended English classes throughout his schooling would know the sounds of ‘b’ ‘a’ and ‘t’, but be unable to connect them and say the word ‘bat’. This indicates a potential difficulty in transferring knowledge from one activity to a new setting. I’m working on it by correcting them while pointing to the written word and repeating syllables when I introduce new words.

Lastly, their ability to comprehend instructions or grasp the aim of an activity is poor. I’ve seen this in direct contrast with the children I teach in the Khajuraho Old Village. Many are from slightly better socio-economic backgrounds and live in more accessible locations, so they attend better schools on a regular basis. Even with my lack of Hindi, in the Old Village if I ask the pupils to read out loud, drill words or complete an activity on a sheet, such as a word search or true/false statements, they eagerly get started. In Tikri they often look up at me hopefully, but they don’t have experience of classroom conventions so they aren’t ready to take on new activities. For this reason when we start a new drilling sequence or I’m asking each student for an answer, I’ll start with their cousins who attended a school in Delhi and have recently moved back to Tikri. They can understand what I’m looking for and the others have a moment to catch up. Nevertheless, I’m happy to say that this issue has improved! I’ve seen more engagement from all of the children and a willingness to try more. While the oldest boys may still sit at the back of the class, they no longer avoid eye contact and stare stubbornly at their books. At the beginning Vijay often had to step in and prompt their cooperation but now they look up more and join in with their siblings. There was a particularly inspiring morning when one of them picked up my ‘Guide to Beginner’s Hindi’ and started to copy out a whole paragraph of his own accord.

The second noticeable improvement is in their handwriting and written work. Some of the pupils, especially the older boys who work for the family rather than attend school, rarely pick up a pen during the week so this is an opportunity to practice. A few weeks in I led a handwriting session marking their alphabets and some sentences out of ‘five’. I gave most a ‘three’, and sometimes that was perhaps too generous, but this past week I genuinely gave everyone a ‘four’ or ‘five’. I was so pleasantly surprised when each child brought up their book – it really made me smile! Through these hours writing simple words they’ve not only improved their handwriting but also learnt to look more closely at the board and see how I form the letters, and to re-produce them correctly. This is a small indication that hopefully their attention span and critical thinking skills are slowly improving.  

Of course I hope to see more improvements and changes in the pupils as we enter the next stage of teaching! I’m really enjoying it and I’m so grateful to the family for their warm welcome and uplifting smiles. Now it’s on to the world of verbs as we continue to teach in a simple room on the outskirts of a poor village with goats in the garden, parrots flying over, and monkeys on next door’s fence.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Some good news from the family project!

The goal for the family project has always been to help the family manage on their own. One key element in this is to help the oldest son, 21 year old Prakash, to get a job and an income. Vijay actually found Prakash a job in February 2017, but as he was illiterate he had to say no to the job (he dropped out of school after class 2). Since then he has been offered a a place in our literacy class, which he has participated in from time to time. His biggest dream is to get a job  - and get married - and he finds the literacy class very demanding. Prakash recently went to Dehli on his own to try and find a job, but had no luck. He has also taken initiative to learn how to drive a rickshaw (with a friend). Knowing how much Prakash wants to work, Vijay started to ask around for another job for him. And it payed off! Last week he started working. We are so happy for him - and are crossing our fingers for this to work out.

We are also working on the land issue for the family. It takes time as we has decided to solve this matter through formal channels. If everything works out, the family will get access to a decent size farmland and this will really help their situation. The land is rightfully theirs, but has been occupied by someone else for some time. We hope this will be solved soon, with as little drama as possible, but indian buracracy works in slow motion.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Ravi is back for Diwali

Ravi is still busy with his German studies in Delhi, but is back in Khajuraho this week to celebrate Diwali. This means he is also back as our teacher in hindi class this week, giving Vijay some time off. We are really happy that Ravi wants to do this during his holiday. Vijay is in charge of the literacy project at the moment, and he is a good and dedicated teacher. We still consider Ravi as our primary teacher though, and are hoping he will come back to teach on a regular basis as soon as his studies allows.

The english lessons are run by Kat so Ravi and Kat travel to Tikri together. As for now, Kat's plan is to teach our English classes for the duration of her stay (until late december) - and we are thrilled to have her for as long as she wants to (and so are our pupils!).

We are wishing Ravi, Vio, Vijay and their familly, Kat, Aryan*s family, all our pupils and participants in the Cloth Bag Project a happy Diwali!

Friday, 13 October 2017

300 kilo's of fabric - and soon ready for sale!

The Cloth Bag Project recently received a massive donation from a local clothes shop, and we are told that more donation like this will come. This is not the first donation they have gotten from locals, and the project now has the materials needed for the coming months (but will accept more donations of course). If the project keeps receiving local donations regularly, the Cloth Bag Project will not depend on foreign donations and it can be a sustainable, local project, which would be amazing...

Donated clothes in good condition are of course given to families who are in need, but a lot of the donated fabric is used as materials for shopping bags. There are seven women in the project now, and they have made many, many bags! The women are careful not to waste fabric, and to come up with new designs that fit the piece of clothing they are using. The sale of these bags which will start after Diwali next week, so hopefully the women will receive their first income very soon.

You can read more about this project on Friends in Khajuraho Association's blog and website.