Saturday, 29 October 2016

Friday 28th October. Education, Education, Education.

We arrived at Seelampur, about 9-30....a daily miracle, Amanda prays every day for safe journeys.... and someone needs to. The roads here makes Scilily look gentle. The morning group singing was led by Subodh, the energetic committed christian ASHA leader of Seelampur centre.  The thought for the day was led by Ruth, very appropriately adapted to be perfect for ASHA. It was all the more  powerful to hear someone saying "expect miracles in your life "when the speaker is a grandmother. The work of God though ASHA has enabled 1600 slum kids to go to University which helps them get jobs so they have a chance to buy their family a home and be lifted out of poverty in one generation. That's miraculous to me. Joining us for the day was Phil Leighton (Friends of ASHA GB) and his grandson, Dan.  Another Granparent here.

Then we went to a poorer area of Seelampur slum, Block A , located by the river which floods regularly.ASHA has been building relationships there for 2 years and is now trusted. They have a mobile health clinic in a van, and helped the community lobby the MP to get water pumps. The ASHA college students give lessons in writing to the kids. When ASHA first came to this part of the slum very few, if any kids , attended school. Now 50% do. We met one bright girl who is in year 12 and has caught up so well she hopes to be the first from this area to go to College. Her Mum, a member of the ASHA initiated women's group, was so proud. ASHA health workers also monitor the weight of the under 5 s and distribute bananas and eggs , some are seriously underweight but they are showing weight gain gradually. I also saw folded blankets that had given to the community last winter by ASHA.  One of the slum dwellers thanked us for coming to visit, their smiles and Muslim greetings did suggest they were pleased we were there.

We returned to the ASHA centre for lunch, delicious eggy bread, spicy potatoes and bread and spreads. I chatted with Hina a student helped by ASHA who confidently explanned her plans to do a PhD . After lunch we had another treat, an experience of a life time - Elephant and camel rides. This was back at A Block slum and was awesome. The elephants sauntered along with 4 of us on top, and a youthful driver, one was a child like Mogli, sitting on his neck, guiding the elephant along a beautiful patch of vegetable growing land, v fertile just by the river. The money we paid for the rides we understood will go into the slum because the people from the slum run these rides. The would not accept payment from the 2 ASHA staff with us.

In the evening we went to the flat of Dr Kiran and Freddie Martin, ASHA's founders. We had a delicious curry buffet. Four ASHA students came with us. Peter was suitably impressed when he found out one of them had just got a First from Delhi University. One of the students, Shiv, danced and had us entranced. Michael Jackson's moonwalking incorporated into a kind of Hindi street dancing. Then he got us to join in......which was actually fun and chaotic. The students were very patient and tolerant with us as they tried to teach us moves. I have a feeling Kiran and Freddie's flat is a place of good food and fun parties, but mostly it was obvious the students had been their a lot and were much loved and part of the family.

I personally feel so grateful to have been able to come on this trip, and especially to have come with Peter. Any doubts about whether we would be of any service have gone. Watching the ASHA students interacting with our students confidently, encouraging each other to see Education as the ticket to future choices, for themselves and their younger siblings and friends, has given me even more respect for teachers everywhere and ASHA as an organisation.


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