On my daily bike ride to Green Umbrella I take a lot of care as I cycle along the dusty laneway leading to Karuna Kumar School (KKS). Baby chickens and even puppies run out in front of my bike. I resist stopping and trying to save every single one.
KKS is a very special school, but it too can't pick up every child in the commune. Recently I've helped the school to make some improvements to the selection tool used to evaluate families for KKS. Although I pass by many family homes in the village that look to be in significant hardship daily, for some reason nothing created a more vivid picture of the living conditions until I started this piece of work. Our little chickens go home to almost nothing.
The government distributes identification cards known as 'poor cards' to families that are living in extreme poverty. These families often have no work, or those that do bring home little more than $1 per day. Green Umbrella often hears through referrals about families that are struggling to keep their young children in school or send them at all. During a home visit they are assessed based on their materials and possessions. Is your floor made of dirt ? Your fence made of sticks, your walls made from palm leaf ? Do you own a bicycle or a moto ? Do you own a cow? Do you go to the toilet in the field ?
Just one child can be selected from each family.
The aim is to break the poverty cycle that their family is in and give these children a great education where they over wise may have received nothing. The children are fed breakfast and lunch at school, and you can visibly see the difference between their enrolment photo and today. Their eyes are brighter, their cheeks are full, they have confidence.
Kim (name changed) is one of our brightest grade 4 students and has very good English. Although she is in a class with 9 year olds, Kim is actually 12. Kim has 3 siblings and lives with her grandparents as her father is in prison and her mother left them for Thailand. Kim was enrolled in KKS as her mother could not afford to send her to school. Instead Kim picked snails in the field for the family to eat. Kim is catching up at school very quickly and her attitude toward education and her community has changed dramatically. Sadly, Kim is now sorely missed by her classmates, as her and her sister were abducted by a driver promising to take them to their mother in Thailand. I hope that Kim and her sister can be returned to her grandparents safely, and that this will not the end of her education.
Here are the words
I take a few pictures too