Creative Problem-Solving Edition: How Laptops and Internet are Changing Education at LDA

Exam stress The Indian education system is based on the old British colonial model of final exams determining the grade for the entire year. This is especially the case for our 5th and 8th class students whose final exam papers are set by the state. Our teachers must make sure our kids are proficient with the syllabus since any of it might be on the final exams. Since we don’t know if the government will hold exams as they usually do in March, our aim is to prepare our students for all eventualities. LDA’s teachers are well trained and have all the certifications required to teach in India, but nothing could have prepared them to teach during a pandemic. Painting outside his home because there's not enough space indoors. The pandemic has complicated an already difficult situation for people who live on the borders of society, eking out a living or just barely making ends meet. Even before the pandemic, many of our kids didn’t have a place to study at home, some don’t have electricity, nutrition is poor, they’re migrants and only with us for a short time, they can’t afford books and other school supplies, and some of them work to help support their families. Now, in addition to remote learning, we’re concerned about our poorer girls being married, with less food in the homes the girls’ nutrition will be neglected in favour of their brothers and fathers, or that they’re replacing their mothers as primary caretaker because many of the poorest mothers work - someone has to look after the little kids who aren’t going to school. Some families opted to leave Dehradun and return to their villages [...]

By |2020-11-12T17:13:50-06:001:23 pm|General|

How To Teach During a Pandemic

We miss our kids' smiling faces! We’ve been really busy figuring out how to teach our kids and support our community as the pandemic worsens in India. The last 6 months seem unbelievable and we’re sometimes surprised that KHEL, along with everything else, hasn’t just collapsed. We have had moments of despair when we’ve wondered if KHEL would survive another month, or if we would lose a friend or family member.  But then we remember KHEL’s history and the histories of our people – staff, kids, families, community – who have dealt with extraordinarily tough times and have always come back stronger. We hope that will be the case this time, too. If we don't keep educating our girls, their futures are bleak. India is currently second in the world for Covid cases, behind the United States (third for deaths, behind the US and Brazil). Wealthy and well-to-do children across India are studying comfortably from home. Middle class students are struggling to keep up because they don’t have laptops, only smart phones. They’re still better off than most of LDA’s students because they have the other things they need to succeed – electricity, internet/wi-fi, free time, a quiet place to study and attend online classes, adult family members with steady jobs so that electricity, internet and other services are stable, and parental support. For KHEL families, if there are younger siblings and both parents are working outside the home, childcare and other home related work falls to the girls, cutting into their study time. This includes time intensive chores like fetching water from a well or pump and collecting firewood in the nearby forest. The UN states that, worldwide, we are [...]

By |2020-09-24T18:35:33-05:003:24 pm|General|

The Year So Far: January through Early June 2020

What have we done at KHEL and LDA so far this year? Well, it’s not been the typical year but we’re still doing what we have always done – educating kids and supporting the community. ***Little did we know this would be the last time we celebrated anything with our kids for quite a while... Here are the highlights from 2020 so far: The year started out normally, with the kids still on winter break * Bhagwat recovered from his broken ribs and came back to work * The kids came back to school * Some of our kids received special service awards from a local nonprofit * The Indian government held a deworming camp at LDA * We took some of our older kids to a leprosy colony * Hunny, one of our Scholarship Recipients, completed his in-person training in Hotel Management in Delhi and came home to Dehradun * (Around this time the news out of China became grim, and other countries started locking down, self-isolating, and quarantining) * Our 8th class students had their graduation party * India still felt like nothing bad was happening but we could see the worldwide trends so we started to educate our kids and community on Coronavirus * Shrishti, one of our 7th class students, earned a gold medal at the Uttarakhand State Boxing Tournament * Schools were closed * Some 8th class exams took place at LDA and other schools with only the teachers and 8th class students present. Other exams were cancelled. For the cancelled finals, monthly and half yearly tests were averaged out to give final marks for the year *  Ammaji and Stomy decided not to go to India this year * [...]

By |2020-06-12T14:41:05-05:0011:29 am|General|

Dev Reports from the Field – Mumbai Lockdown 2020

Dev is a KHEL Scholarship Recipient. He's been living and working in Mumbai since graduating from a Hotel Management course in Dehradun. He had some down time while in mandatory quarantine and wrote this. This isn’t a translation; Dev speaks 3 languages - Malayalam, Hindi, and English. Stranded in a City: Lockdown 2020 By Dev Kumar The world tried just social distancing as a way to fight Coronavirus, but it wasn’t enough so many places implemented lockdowns. Some places only had suggestions for ‘social distancing’ by staying home to keep yourself and others safe, and other places had (and still have) very strict lockdowns. India’s lockdown began on 23rd March 2020 and went into effect immediately. Transportation was shut down and only essential businesses were allowed to stay open. Hundreds of thousands of people were suddenly stuck wherever they were. The feeling of being stranded For many people the situation became critical immediately. People dependent on daily wages and even people with full time jobs suddenly had no income. The economy started to crash, and people worried that the jobs they had before the pandemic wouldn’t be there even if they were allowed to return to work. The hundreds of thousands of migrant workers which India depends on to do so much work were stranded wherever they worked, with no jobs, no money, and very little or no access to healthcare or safety supplies. They just wanted to go home but they couldn’t. And it wasn’t only migrant workers; many professional workers were stranded, too. India is a large country, and people go where the opportunities are, moving from one corner to another for work. And now, all of them were stranded, cut off from [...]

By |2020-06-09T12:25:10-05:001:06 pm|General|

Shrishti Sings a Song

It's hard out there right now. Take good care of yourselves. We're all doing our best to keep ourselves and our families safe. Here's Ammaji, taking a walk on the isolated farm where she's staying for the duration. She's well looked after by family. Some days it's still too cold but she's doing what she can to get some exercise. Ammaji says 'hi' to everyone, and is getting really good at taking selfies! She says, 'You can't help anyone if you don't take care of yourself. So get some exercise, and find a reason to laugh every day. And have faith.' *** We're inspired by what everyday people are doing to help their communities. Click the links to see what these amazing people are doing! In Minnesota, USA, Nordeast Makers is 3D printing face shields for hospitals. *** And people need to eat! Chef Andres and his wonderful organisation, World Central Kitchen, takes mobile kitchens to hard hit communities, and feeds everyone. *** Our 7th class student, Shrishti, sings a song to share with her friends and family. In Hindi she says to wash our hand every day with soap for 20 seconds, to wash the top of our hands, the bottom of our hands, and all over our hands. In this way, Coronavirus will die. *** The area around LDA is under a complete lock down - nobody in our out until the end of April, possibly longer. This has made it impossible for KHEL to distribute food rations to the very poor. Instead, we're working with a larger group in Dehradun. Dry food rations are supplied by local shopkeepers and then handed over to the police for distribution to the homeless [...]

By |2020-05-29T15:48:19-05:003:48 pm|General|

Covid-19 and KHEL

This is a letter of love to you. I’ve been trying to write this for a week, composing and discarding professional sounding emails. It didn’t work and at the end of each day I still had this blank page. Right now, we’re just humans, trying to make it through this unscathed, watching, horrified, at the cascading effect of Covid-19 ravaging one country after the next. Hunny, Beni's younger son, scoured the market for masks. They were very expensive so he found a mask maker. We bought 300 masks at rs30 each and distributed them to sanitary workers and other essential personnel. Some of them had never had a mask before so Kamli, our City Councilor and Beni's wife, showed them how to put it on.       The Indian government closed schools a couple weeks ago, so all our staff is at home. Seeing how things had gone in China and Italy, and where they were headed in the US, we planned ahead and paid them early for March (someone has to physically go to the bank to do this, there’s no automatic processes in place for small businesses like KHEL). We told them to buy dry rations like rice and dahl. We told them to stay inside. They’re doing their best to stay in touch with their students but not all students have phones. We’re now starting to get phone calls that this child or that parent is sick. Manju, our Headmistress, working from home. By nature and nurture, I don’t scare easily. I have my practice, and the Himalayan Tradition (I hope you have a source of strength and comfort, too). And yet some days I have a sense of [...]

By |2020-05-03T15:20:49-05:003:20 pm|General|

2019 KHEL Annual Report

KHEL ANNUAL REPORT 2019 For 36 years, KHEL has served the community around Shiv Puri Colony in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India, with education and educational supplies, health clinics, medical and other aid, extracurricular activities, continuing education for our teachers, aid to leprosy colonies, scholarships, and by hiring locally and working with locally owned businesses. At Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children, we open our centrally located grounds to local and government activities, and we host several volunteer medical clinics. When Mrs. Lalita (Ammaji) and the late Dr. Usharbudh Arya (later Swami Veda Bharati) started helping our community, Leprosy was the overarching challenge. Many parents were too ill to work, so their kids begged on the streets to support them. Even after KHEL fed and educated them and they were clean and healthy, local schools wouldn’t accept the kids from our community because the stigma of Leprosy ran so deep. So Ammaji built a school, and she hired the same local people who turned up to volunteer when she was handing out cups of milk to the children. Now, LDA is a cornerstone of the community, a place where kids are healthy and safe, where our teachers and staff care what happens because they live in the community, and where the previous generation of our students have their own businesses so KHEL can shop for supplies and hire locally. But we’re not done because stigma and poverty may change their focus, but they continue to be challenges. We still have a steady influx of migrants and people from socio-economically depressed backgrounds. We still see discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, caste, and many other factors. There is always a group who [...]

By |2020-01-08T15:35:44-06:003:35 pm|General|

Answers to Questions from a Donor

Little Kids in the Classroom Recently, a visitor to LDA asked us some questions. It's great when we're asked questions like these because it gives us a chance to talk about KHEL's history with Ammaji (Mrs. Lalita Arya, KHEL's Co-Founder), and to record her answers. We enjoyed answering these questions and thought you might enjoy reading our answers (edited for understanding, and donor names removed). KHEL has been educating kids for 36 years. The kids in the early years didn’t often stay in school for very long, usually just long enough to get a few years of decent meals and milk. Then the girls were married off and the boys sent off to work. Or, the boys would already be working while they were in school. Even now, although our kids are getting educated, they often come from families with illiterate adults, or they’re migrant families, so it's very challenging to keep track of them. It wasn’t the norm back then in India for kids to stay connected to their elementary schools, so we weren’t in a position to track them after they left us. There was also the stigma of being associated with a ‘charity’ school. Even now, we can only keep track of them when they stay in the community. Exam Results! Now they'll apply to go to high school. When the children leave KHEL, where do they go? What schools have they attended and if you have followed them, what colleges may they have entered? We started a middle school several years ago, so our kids could continue their education through 8th grade. Since then, all of our kids have gone on to high school. There is no [...]

By |2019-12-21T13:51:02-06:001:51 pm|General|

Construction at LDA

Every year, we work to improve the building and grounds at Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, India. LDA was originally built in 1988 for 150 children, kindergarten through 5th class. Now, we’re a preschool-8th class facility that supports 300 children and adolescents. In 2019, we completed several projects in preparation for more complex construction projects over the next few years. One of our construction projects was not optional. The Education Department informed us that several of our classrooms were not fire code compliant. We added 5 emergency exit doors, making our school much safer for our kids. Four of the new doors open directly onto our playing field which floods during the monsoons. To keep the classrooms dry, we graded the ground away from the building, adding a cement skirt. Buried under the far edge of the cement skirt is an impermeable, 2 foot deep wall, to prevent monsoon rains from creeping under the cement skirt and damaging the foundation and floor of the building. In addition, we built seating around the trees that flank the side of the building with the majority of new doors, adding not only outdoor seating for our kids but a second barrier against flood waters. The edge of the cement skirt facing our main gate also has a low wall, providing more seating and a final barrier to flood waters. Three of the classrooms that needed new doors were very small. Since we had to take out portions of the outside wall and do other demolition for the new doors, we (finally!) fulfilled a years-old request from our teachers to convert these three very small classrooms into two larger ones, to accommodate our [...]

By |2019-10-29T16:01:42-05:004:01 pm|General|