We are delighted to welcome Divya Lakshmi to our small fundraising team. Divya is based in Mumbai and will be developing our network of supporters within India. She spent her first day at Educate for Life back at school, but at no ordinary school…she went to Hunar Ghar!
The first 9 AM school bell at Hunar Ghar after a month long winter break sounded as eager as the children, who gathered at the school foyer for the morning assembly like buzzing honey bees. I had not heard a school bell in 15 years! I remembered dreading going to school after a long break and hoping for my maths teacher to be absent. It did not feel like that at Hunar Ghar. It was very cold, yet children hopped cheerfully, greeting one another, forming a circle for their morning prayers. My heart danced and I smiled ear to ear as I saw them pray to Goddess Saraswati, sing and clap in perfect synchronization. Was I dreaming? What is so different about Hunar Ghar?
Hunar Ghar is not a typical school. It is a centre for holistic development. A place where learning is fun. A place where learning is made practical and simple. It is a place where teachers are students themselves. Learning all along from children, from peers and from trainers appointed by Educate for Life. I was lucky to attend one such teacher training session during my visit to Hunar Ghar.
At Hunar Ghar, the belief is that every child has an innate desire and ability to learn and can transform themselves into a shining star if given the right opportunities and support. Teachers at Hunar Ghar are trained regularly, not only with the aim of enhancing their skills, but also to inculcate an understanding of child development. Teachers are trained not only to impart knowledge but also to be able to help every child develop a love of learning through engaging activities such as games, art and experiments.
It is said that a way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. The idea applies to the brain as well. At Hunar Ghar, the warm, nutritionally balanced and tasty meals ensure that children remain energetic, attentive and curious throughout the day. Breakfast was a full plate of spiced beaten rice with peanuts (poha) and lunch was rice with potato peas curry and ripe papaya. The meals are prepared at the school kitchen by cooks employed from the nearby community itself. The entire menu for the month is set by our health and community team. During my visit, this team was out and about in the community as part of our Safe Motherhood Programme, encouraging women to choose to give birth not at home but in an institution where there are skilled attendants.
My first day at Educate for Life was well spent at Hunar Ghar. As a part of the team now, I can say with pride that Hunar Ghar is so far the best thing that has happened to the community at Bakhel. The roads that lead to Hunar Ghar may not make you imagine so. One can never tell that far ahead of the dusty roads, beyond the boundaries of direct state governance, where basic healthcare is more than five kilometres away, amongst the mud houses, fennel and wheat fields is a school where children, laugh, sing, run, share, play, and learn- apparent childhood moments that lakhs of children in rural India still don’t experience.