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Ashoka Youth Venture:  Adopt  a Rural School Program

Project Director for India: Apoorva Rangan

Project Director for Haiti: Callie Roberts

Project Advisor: Adarsha Shivakumar

Youth Venture Director of Bay area: Amy Wilson.

Venture mentors: Ravi Mistry and John Granados

Why Adopt  a Rural School Program


When we work  at the project site in India, we see many kids from the nearby villages happily playing on the muddy roads unaware of their future. Many rural schools have poor learning conditions. The situation in Haiti is no better; We have heard heartbreaking stories about the poverty and misfortune the children face. With the recent earthquake the already depressed conditions have plunged into extremely dismal conditions for the children.  Our project sponsor, Michelle Lacourciere, Director of the Sirona Cares Foundation is dedicated to helping improve the lives of the children in Haiti.  Her foundation helps to provide the children what they need to thrive: like nutrition, access to clean water, clothing, shelter, and medicines.  She has been working with the Mission of Hope School to establish its first tri-lingual library.  We have been inspired by the work that is being done by organizations there, and we want to help too.  Most of the children in  Haiti are undernourished and lack basic necessities to thrive.  Our project has brought these children to our hearts and we cannot turn away from them.


 

Don't they deserve a better chance at life?  This question pricks  our heart almost every day, and this is why we came up with the idea of “Adopt a Rural School” venture.  We believe that the future lies in the hands of children!

The Program Goals

The fruit and vegetable food group is the heart of a healthy diet for everyone.  We at Project Jatropha believe it is important for every child to eat fresh fruits every day.  Firstly we are establishing a mini fruit garden in the school premises.

 By enabling the children to plant and care for fruit trees we will help them get some of the basic nutrition they need.  Learning the skills of maintaining a sustainable garden will benefit the rural school community.  They will discover and connect with the art of sustainable agriculture.  In addition, this effort will engage them in a creative activity and teach them lessons of responsibility and self-reliance. 


Secondly we are providing the essential books and help them establish  a mini library  in the school and  thirdly, we are providing the locally available science kits  to establish hands on  mini science labs  that will improve learning conditions in the schools.  During this process, we will also teach the students about environmental issues, like the importance of environmental protection, and the dangers of climate change. Our program is dedicated to creating positive change and improving the lives of the children in sustainable ways.

 What have we done so far?

The first step was to secure seed funds to launch this program.  In the beginning of 2009, Ashoka Youth Venture was accepting applications for a seed grant of $1000 from bay area youth who wish to launch social ventures. We came up with a detailed plan. We chose Somana Halli Higher Primary school from Rural India and the Mission of Hope School from Haiti. Apoorva came up with a detailed program proposal for the school from rural India where as Callie took upon the task of writing a proposal for the school from Haiti. In March of 2009, we defended our proposal in front of a community panel and we were awarded the seed grant for the Adopt a Rural School program. 

First Model: Somana Halli  Higher Primary School in Hunsur area 

A Collaboration between Project Jatropha, Talent  High School  from Hunsur, India and Somana Halli Higher Primary (Elementary)  School from Hunsur India.

 


During our 2010 summer project site visit, we successfully launched this program in our first model school.

 Step I : Selection of science kits, School books and saplings for garden:

We held a meeting with the science and humanities teacher, Ms. Nalina. She explained to us the necessities to establish a solid, basic science curriculum. We did research on the available science kits in Mysore. We visited several learning supplies stores, libraries, and book stores. We compiled a list of books that are usually read by elementary school kids. We took our parents to help us choose some of the books in local language. We shared the list with Ms. Nalina to seek her approval. Most of the books we chose were appropriate for the school children. We bought books in  local language Kannada. and English. Choosing the science kits was a fun experience. We purchased almost all of the kits that were available after getting a firsthand experience of using them.
The last part was choosing the plants for our fruit orchard program. In our previous visit, we had assessed the land availability in the school premises. Based on the availability of land, we came up with a precise list of plants. We visited the local plant nurseries and spent time in choosing the appropriate varieties. The list includes Teak, Pongamia, Mango,  Curry Leaves, Sapota Guava, moringa etc. We purchased the plants the previous day itself so that it was easier for us to pick them up next day morning before going to the school.

 Stpe II : Collaboration with Talent School of Hunsur for Anchor:


Through our Advisory council member Basavaraju, we met the cofounder and Head of Talent school in Hunsur, Mr. Naveen Rai. He was very impressed with the Project Jatropha work, he wanted to join hands with us. He was interested in collaborating with us. We thought this was a very good opportunity for us to talk to them and see if they were interested in becoming our partners.  We met with 9th and 10th graders to see if they can join us in this program. We wanted them to help us by being our anchor school. As their school is in close proximity to Somana Halli School, they volunteered to join us on the big day of planting. They have now taken the responsibility of overseeing the maintenance of the garden by frequent visits to the school in our absence. This idea of choosing a collaborator/partner/anchor school was given to us by one of our mentors Ravi Mistry.

 STEP III : The Big Day of Planting:

 

That Friday Aug 13th was a special day for the students and teachers of both Somana Halli and Talent School. We reached the Somana Halli school at 9 AM. The Talent school students joined us soon after. We had a special assembly at the school premises. The kids were very excited about this.


 

 We gave the science kits, and books to the teachers. We spoke to the kids. We dug pits, planted the saplings both in front of the school and within their premises involving the kids of Somana Halli and Talent schools. We watered the plants along with the kids. It is a gated facility. This is of great importance prevent the cattle grazers from entering.

STEP IV : Assigning Responsibilities to School Children:

 



We spoke to the kids at length in small groups and explained the importance of those plants. With the help of the teachers, the students were divided into groups and given responsibility of specific plants. Each group is assigned with weekly duties. They have a sense of ownership.

 STEP V : Bonding with the students:


The last activity was mingling with the kids. We sang and danced together. By the end of the day, we were like their older siblings. We were all teary when the time came to say good bye. However, we told them that this is just the beginning of a wonderful relationship. We will return again next summer to see the progress. Next year they will join hands with us to expand this into other schools. In the mean time, students of Talent school will take the responsibility and visit the site and help Somana Halli school kids in maintenance. The first year is critical as it is new concept to all of them. However, we are very confident that this will be a huge success.
Our sincere thanks to Amy Wilson, Ravi Mistry and John  Granados for all their help, support, and timely advice. Finally, thanks to Ashoka Youth Venture for providing us the seed grant.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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