Photo: Children at our on-campus primary school are studying hard to prepare for their final exams this month.
We are happy to report that the 83 orphans (ages 5-14) enrolled in our on-campus primary school are almost ready to take their final exams before the conclusion of the current school semester at the end of this month. During this semester the children have been studying their native Hindi and Telugu languages, English, math, science, and social studies. These children as well as our 36 orphans attending higher classes off-campus have been preparing for their final exams by receiving instruction in the classroom, doing their homework, reading and studying their textbooks, participating in discussion groups, and attending special classes in the evenings where a teacher focuses on a specific subject. When the children are not studying, they relax and have fun by playing games such as Kho Kho (a popular local tag game), Kabaddi (a local contact team sport), ring toss, skipping, chess, badminton, and cricket.
To celebrate the children’s accomplishment of taking their final exams, our native team will throw an end of school party this month where the children will sing songs and perform dances and other talents; receive a delicious, festive meal of chicken Biryani, refreshing drinks, and ice cream; and receive awards for academic excellence, good attendance, and good behavior. We will also be celebrating the fact that approximately 486 children have lived in and graduated from our orphan home since we began offering residential orphan care in India 21 years ago. In the words of our India field director: “By the grace of God we have been able to run the children’s home for 21 years successfully. We started the home with 7 children, and it has increased year by year.” At the end of this semester, some children will visit their families, some will attend academic camps such as computer training, some of the older children will receive training in sewing and candle-making, and some will remain on campus resting and helping around campus.
We want to share the story of a girl who currently lives at our orphan home, and how this has blessed her immensely and changed her life forever. This story is from Aditi* (14 years old), told in her own Telugu words, which are translated here:
“My father died from tuberculosis when I was one year old. I have two brothers and two sisters, and I am the youngest daughter of my parents. My mother used to go and look for rags in the trash and sell them [for industrial use], and with that money she fed us. Sometimes she used to go to house to house and beg for food for us. According to our family culture my grandfather used to take care of pigs, but because of our poverty we were not able to buy pigs to take care of so my father and mother use to go and find other work. But they were not able to find any work because of my father's illness.
No one went to school in my family — schools were so far from where my family lived — but my mother wanted me to go to school. My relatives and family members rebuked my mother — they said that it is not of our culture to go to school. But my mother was not able to feed me, so she sent me to school because there was lunch there (she sent me school not for education, but only for food). It was a government school, and according to the Indian caste system, there was no education for my caste of people in our location. Some people discouraged me — they said, why do you want to go to school? Some teachers also discouraged me and insulted me.
But one day my mother heard about Peace City [the name of our India campus] and its orphan home and she wanted me to enroll here. Her thought was that if I enrolled here I could get food three times a day. My mother and her family do not understand education — they do not know the value of education because every day they are fighting for food, doing so much hard work only to get food. So my mother decided to enroll me here 4 years ago. Since then I have been very happy here, getting food every day and getting a good education, and I have so many friends here with me in Peace City. Now I want to continue my education. In our caste children get married at early ages. My mother told me to get married, but I told her very strongly that I want to continue to go to school. Please pray for me and my mother. I would like to study and become a teacher to educate my people and my society. This is my dream because I understand that education is the key to develop my people.”
In other good news, and thanks to your support, we purchased new playground equipment items such as swing sets, slides, see-saws, and merry-go-rounds, which will be delivered to our campus this month. This is a great blessing to the children since our old playground equipment faithfully served hundreds of orphans over its lifetime (about 10 years), and all of the old items have finally given out with rust due to the salty coastal humid air despite our constant efforts to maintain the equipment. We also recently purchased bars of iron, bricks, sand, cement, gravel, plastic pipes, and iron pipes in order to raise the height of the campus wall 3 feet higher — we will begin construction this month. This security improvement to our campus has been demanded by the Department of Children’s Homes upon a recent inspection, so we are very thankful to get started.
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* Story names are changed to protect our program participants.