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Day Three: The Things We Share

If there's any kind of magic in the world, I think it must be the wonder of understanding and sharing with others. I feel like there's so much to be learned--not in you or me, but in the spaces between us. Even though I'm separated from the kids by so much--an ocean, a language, circumstance--there's also so much that brings us together. And to me, that's the best part of Jharkhand.

9:00 a.m. Language Study Part 2

Today, I continued my study of powerful vocabulary with the eighth grade class of Sindhu Kanhu Shiksha Niketan. I tried to bring some vibrancy into the classroom by staging a quirky skit featuring five of the students. The actresses had a lot of fun improvising with costumes and jokes, and the performance was met with a full minute of applause from the class.

The student playing the role of the teacher even found a pair of old glasses to use as a prop.

To wrap up the lesson, I turned to art. I gave each student a sheet of paper and a bag full of colorful pencils and markers. Then I asked them to draw a PSA explaining what was important to them.

It took a while for everyone to get started--they were a little shy to draw their values on paper--but once they started drawing, I was amazed.

The things they drew showed an intimate, heartwarming perspective into the blessings that ruled their lives--the rain, which blessed their crops. The earth, which nourished their villages. Jharkhand, which was their home. Their parents, who sent them to school.

I truly believe that art is the most supreme form of understanding. Because colors and shapes and imagery can weave bridges for peace wherever there are walls, it's an incredible way for us to share what's important to us. The things we share may be as simple as stick-figure parents or triangle-top mountains, but to us, they mean the world.

11:00 a.m. A Brief Outline

With the guidance of the local artist, Amar-ji, I finally got started on my secret project: a wall mural, which I'll be painting with the help of local kids! The mural will be displayed on the wall of the boys' hostel pavilion, serving as an enduring and visible reminder of the friendships we made during my stay here.

Stay tuned for the finished product later this week!

3:00 p.m. Into The Villages

In the afternoon, I left the GRC and headed out into the villages of Jharkhand. The early monsoon rains made the farms glisten, highlighting the brightly-painted houses and thatched roofs and furry goats.

There, we visited a one-room schoolhouse powered by Ekal Vidyalaya. Classes were held under a covered patio in the village temple. Over fifty children sat in rows on burlap mats, listening attentively to the young teacher. Villagers pumping water at the well waved to the children while they studied.

Despite the rain, there was something absolutely sunny about the way the children smiled--shyly at first--as they worked through math problems at the blackboard. They challenged each other to alphabet contests, bellowing out scores with the fervor of cricket referees.

I was fascinated to see the students huddled around tablets, which displayed colorful animations of everything from simple geometry to Hindi grammar. Despite the rural surroundings, the tablets provided a powerful connection to the children's future, allowing them to transcend the disadvantages in their homes.

A local volunteer demonstrates use of the tablet to students.

I was also fortunate to be able to interview Ms. Pinky Mahto, the school's teacher. An inspiring and big-hearted young women, Pinky-ji grew up in the same poverty that affects many of her students. Through hard work, Pinky-ji not only graduated from school, but went to college in Delhi and even earned her post-graduate degree. In spite of her success, Pinky-ji chose to return home in order to help other youth like herself.

Pinky-ji instructs students in geography using the tablet.

In spite of our vastly different circumstances, I connected deeply to Pinky-ji's story. It reminded me of what I had learned yesterday in the tailoring center about the strength of passionate, empowered, and community-minded women. I firmly believe that the hope and the strengths that we share can drive our communities forward. Women like Pinky-ji make me believe that.

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