We are forever grateful to these two groups of students from Canada and Australia, and their selfless teachers, who encourage and inspire them to think and then act outside of their comfort zone.Their willingness to learn about, and then do something to contribute to a better life for kids in different circumstances, in a different country, far from the realities of their own lives, is exciting and humbling.
Read on to find out how and why they decided to help.
The Kids from Doncrest Public School (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
An email arrived in our inbox months ago asking for information about how Diwali, the Festival of Light, is celebrated in the Saki Naka slum community. The inquisitive letter writer is Rina Singh, a teacher at Doncrest Public School in Richmond Hill, Ontario (Canada). She was writing a book about Diwali, the loud, ear-splitting festival celebrated with candles and fireworks over 5 days in October or November every year. It’s India’s biggest holiday (like Christmas is to Christians) and is a way to celebrate the new financial year with blessings from Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Over the course of a few months I supplied Rina with photographs and information about how the kids and their families celebrate Diwali in Saki Naka. Besides her devotion to creating her book about Diwali celebrations, Rina also challenged the kids in her class at Doncrest Public School to understand how the children in Saki Naka live very different lives from their own. They read the Dirty Wall Project blog posts and decided to do something as a team effort to raise money to send children from Saki Naka to school. Their determination and dedication, their desire to contribute, and their empathy, not sympathy has enabled them to raise $1250 dollars to send about 10 kids from Saki Naka to school for another year.
Rina Singh and her students from Doncrest school.
Letter from a grade one student at Doncrest.
Below, the students describe in their own words and a short video about why they chose to help and how they managed to raise the funds. We’re happy, excited and so grateful that they did.
The Dirty Wall Project
As we worked on our geography projects (to find a NGO to do research on) we came across the Dirty Wall Project and we just had to help. We read your blogs and your story, we were touched and absolutely astonished by your inspirational work. But never once thought one day we might be able to be a part of your blogs. We saw how many kids you helped and felt the need to contribute, even if it is only a small portion. We learned from Kane Ryan that “I can’t help everyone, but I can help someone.”
Our class was thinking of ways to help the slums of India, and decided to have a fundraiser, so we sold cookies and chips. Our goal was $500 to send three kids to school, but to our surprise we raised over $1200 and were able to help ten children! Our teacher Ms.Singh was telling us all year to leave a legacy and also to be the change we want to see in the world. Then we learned about the Dirty Wall Project and were instantly inspired by Kane Ryan. We did more research and began to make a video about the incredible changes you have brought in many people’s lives, hoping to inspire our school. The students of Doncrest were fascinated and wanted to help. One little boy in grade four said he wanted to grow up and be like Kane (go to India and help in he slums)! Another little girl donated her entire savings of $14 in her piggy bank. Throughout the process of the project, we felt more empathetic towards the people living in Saki Naka community. We learned more and more about the kids, how much they wanted to go to school while we were complaining about too much homework. We felt the need to donate as much as much as possible to help. We told the whole school about Kane Ryan and your NGO, helping kids one step at a time. We bought many chips and cookies, as the sale went on, more and more kids lined up. As we saw the money increase steadily, we felt happier and more uplifted, and our hearts filled with warmth and joy. This is when we realized “a smile on somebody else’s face can put a smile on our face too.”
Rina Singh’s book about Diwali celebrations is now in the hands of Orca Publishing in Victoria, B.C. Sprinkled among the pages will be photographs of some of the children celebrating Diwali in Saki Naka. Thank you also to Orca Publishing for their kind donation of $150 to send a child to school.
The Aussie’s Visit (Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview, Sydney, Australia)
When you step off your dot on the world map, amazing things can happen. You smell, taste, see and engage in communities that were once shrouded in mystery. It’s really not so far. You don’t forget the visceral experiences that create memories that last much longer than the time spent having them.
The 17 young men and 3 teachers from Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview (Sydney, Australia) who visited us in Saki Naka in January were greeted with the excitement usually relegated to celebrities. While we waited for their bus to arrive it was difficult to keep the kids in the community from running out onto the road that hems the slum. They were watching for the white bus that I said was soon to come. They wanted to know what “Australians” meant. They wanted to know if the Australians would play games with them.
The Australian students and their teachers were on a three week immersion trip to India, and Mumbai was their last stop. In a flurry of emails, Peter, the lead on this trip, introduced himself, described the purpose of the trip and wondered if his students could visit the community while they were in Mumbai for a few days. The purpose of their trip was to introduce their students to the burdens and joys of lives lived in communities in stark contrast to theirs, with the hope that the students would have experiences in India that they would have to react to - that they wouldn’t look away, that maybe they would use their education to improve lives somewhere in some way.
They spent two days in the community with the kids who engaged them to perform impromptu Bollywood dances in the stifling heat of the tuition hut, and also had them playing games of badminton, kabadi (a type of martial art tag), and a bit of cricket in the dusty garden with one tree for shade. The teachers and a few of the students roamed the lane ways with us and visited the tiny homes of Reeta and Ranjana (who invited all the guests into her two room home to sit on the floor for a meal of poha and chai). As anywhere, when food is prepared with care and served in the spirit of generosity to honoured guests, (despite the lack of comfort and amid the crush of bodies in the small room), the conversation flowed between two disparate groups of curious people. There were questions and answers from both sides, a lot of laughter and sincere gratitude for the experience from everyone.
At the end of their visit they left us with memories for the kids in the community who were mesmerized by the height of the Australians, by their willingness to play in the heat of the day, and for the excitement they brought. The also left us with medication, bandages, cricket gear, money to pay for the food for Ranjana’s meal and they purchased snacks from Reeta.
At a hastily arranged lunch at a restaurant on the last day of their visit, they left us with a plastic bag full of rupees - enough to pay school fees this year for 25 - 30 students. We were shocked by their generosity. They explained that the Aussie students spend months prior to their immersion trips fundraising with the intent to give the proceeds to a charity they all decide on. Indu cried in disbelief.
On behalf of the many children who will benefit from the generosity of these two school groups we thank you very much!
You make the world a better place.