Good morning, m’am

Class 12 students from Pardada Pardadi.

I'm so happy to be back in India again for the 11th time. This is my home away from home where I feel a passion and purpose in the work done here. There is so much going on here each and every day.

I start each morning, sitting on the balcony, drinking coffee (brought from the US, as this is still Nescafé country). It is peaceful and calm, looking out over the wheat field ready for harvest. Cattle egrets land and peck at the freshly tilled dirt. The sounds are the songs of countless  birds. A majestic male peacock lands on the crest of the roof. Once we get to the school, the sounds and sights change from nature to the voices of 1400 girls, who all greet me with, “Good morning, m’am."

One morning began with a monkey pulling on my screen door. Startled and scared, I pulled the screen shut, yet he tugged on it again, anxious to get in. I pulled and slammed it, hoping the loud noise would scare him away, but he just bared his teeth at me. As he screeched, I locked the screen, realizing this was an incredible photo opportunity. He wasn’t leaving, and two of his buddies showed up. They had a lot to say,  chasing each other around, before jumping off the balcony.  I stayed in my room until the coast was clear. Ah, life in rural India....

I’ve had the privilege to spend all of this visit with Virendra Singh - a.k.a. Sam - founder of Pardada Pardadi. He has afforded me so many opportunities over the years, allowing me to visit places and have experiences that have broadened my understanding of the life of the people.  A visit to the prison, a brick mill, where slaves work in unimaginable conditions, the home of a Muslim friend after his return to Mecca, and so much more.

Sam returned to his birth Village after retiring from U.S. DuPont South Asia.  He committed his retirement to improving the lives of girls and women here, through education, empowerment and employment. His work has really just begun, as the school is currently undergoing an expansion, which will allow for 3000 girls. 4500 women are in self help groups. NTTF, an IT school in Bangalore, where many of our graduates attend, has just opened a branch at our school.  Thousands of families lives have improved through his dedication and commitment, as well as the support of volunteers and donors throughout the world. Today, families here are just starting to recognize the value in educating their children.

This trip has included immunizing 1400 girls for typhoid. People here die of this disease, a waterborne illness. Recently, a child at the school died from typhoid, creating the impetus to ensure our girls are kept free of this fatal disease.  A team of doctors accomplished this project in 3 days. Next, the girls will receive Hepatitis B. These vaccinations are all made possible through donors.

Diseases such as TB and malaria are common. We currently have students now with TB. One has been hospitalized since January. She is an orphan which is all too common at our school. When she is released from the hospital, she will live at the school temporarily until she recovers.  We will  find a safe orphanage for her to live. I had the opportunity to take students to a medical lab in the village for blood work for malaria. The blood work cost $1.20, so you might envision the clinic and conditions.

We installed liquid soap dispensers from Amazon India at the school.  Students and teachers are being taught to use them, which is a big task. This may sound simple, but they have never seen soap dispensers before. The biggest challenge is ensuring they use just one squirt!  The goal of this project is to soap always available to all girls and staff.

Thanks to donors, we will have a mobile medical van up and running from our school within the next few months. This is a project that I dreamed about for 2019, and it is becoming a reality. Though a partnership with Wockhardt Foundation, they will be providing a Doctor.  700 million Indians are without medical care. Our van will allow doctors to go into remote villages, where women and children have no access to medical care.

Pardada Pardadi CEO, Renuka, and  I met in Delhi with Aakar, an organization that has equipment to manufacture sanitary pads. The school made pads for several years, but the production center close down for a variety of reasons. I am working to reestablish this program to ensure all of our girls had access to sanitary pads. This is a crucial issue in India. There is a documentary, "Period, End of Sentence" which just won Best Short Documentary at the Academy Awards,which was filmed in the village near here. It is eye-opening and interesting and is available on Netflix.

My favorite part of being at the school is visiting the homes of our girls. We have been to many homes this visit current students and graduates. Bhavna, is hoping to come to US for nursing school, so it was amazing to see where she lives now, knowing where she will land in the U.S. Her family is proud and supportive. Another visit was to the home of a graduate who is studying and working in Delhi, and loving it. A visit to the home of three sisters who were not allowed to continue in higher education saddened me because the hope they had while attending PPES has been snuffed out.

Today, almost all graduates are going on for higher education. These girls will be financially independent, prolonged marriage, have fewer children and have lives much different than the lives of their mothers and the women who have gone before them.

In the 9 years I have been coming here, so much has changed. There is a fire in these girls, a fierce determination to learn, study and grow. A confidence and spirit, brought about by hope. Education brings hope. Loving and providing support to our girls is what keeps me coming back!!

PPES is grateful for the support of all of our friends and donors. We can’t do the work we do, without everyone who has believed in Sam Singh, and has generously supported without you. For more information go to https://education4change.org/

Mary Cairns

New Garden Township

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