February 24, 2017
BOOKS FOR KHAJURAHO – 350+ books, 90 kilograms and 3 heavy suitcases!
A community project in India by India Unbound & friends – what’s the best way to get involved in a community project in North India?
Education is a powerful thing and as a recent trip to India reminds us, it is also a privilege. Last year India Unbound put the call out to friends, family and our past passengers to join us is putting together books for a library for a school in Khajuraho, North India. We were overwhelmed by the response – with more than 350 beautiful books being donated for the Wonderkids School in Khajuraho.
Wonderkids began about a decade ago with just 12 students, started by one of the local guides we use in Delhi – Sanjeev, one of our most popular and knowledgeable city guides – and some of his tourism colleagues. They started the school for children from the local area that come from families below the poverty line and are aiming to give them an education, a better chance in life and an environment where they can have an up bringing like normal kids. The school has now grown to close to 150 students – of which about 60 percent are girls (most of the teachers are women too!) – and all from very poor backgrounds. Convincing families to allow their children an education has been a challenge as families often rely on those children to provide some income.
In December and January 2016/2017 we travelled in North India for work and were honoured to be able to take the books to the school and meet the staff and children there. We had been lugging around the books in 3 very heavy suitcases – weighing close to 90 kilograms in all! (Don’t mention excess baggage and what are the weight restrictions on domestic flights in India!) For those that gave books, we wanted to share with you a little of what we saw and learnt at the school.
We received a warm, beautiful and very Indian welcome by the students and the staff. There were a lot of marigolds, garlands and handshakes, and some of the students performed some traditional Indian singing and dancing for us. We had a look at the school – which is based in a very small building, with just a few classrooms. The school is very basic – though the children seemed happy and were working hard. There were hand drawn posters on the wall of some of things they were learning – subjects like farming, solar energy, the human body. There were many young students there – with a class of children as little as 4 years old – up until the young teenagers. The students take a lot of pride in themselves – looking more immaculate and presented in their school uniforms than many others we’ve seen closer to home! We gave them the books and even were able to read them a few stories. Some of the more educational books – for example a science text and a book about the human body – were very popular with one of the teachers.
From our visit we also learnt the school recently has its first student go on to study medicine, a young woman who has received a scholarship and is studying in Delhi! What an amazing story.
Currently the books are in the office and we are happy to report being used. We understand at the moment book shelves are being built for them to be placed in. Our hope is that the staff and students will use them everyday, to develop a love for reading for learning and for pleasure. This `library’ is something that can stay with the school to be used by many different children in the years to come. Having the books there creates that possibility.
We recently had an email from Sanjeev and here’s a little of what he had to say.
“I must extend my thanks to you and family for the visit to the school. I had one night stay at Khajuraho on a tour shortly after you left and had an opportunity to meet the kids as well as the staff of the school. The books are very popular with the kids and are very, very useful too.’’
We are delighted to hear the books are popular and useful! India Unbound aims to give back to the communities and places we work with and to engage with the communities in a positive manner. We are grateful to have been able to help build a library for the Wonderkids School.
We’d like to thank the following people and families who helped so generously with this project: Scoot airline for donating the luggage allowance to get the books to India; Brown and Bunting Booksellers in Northcote, Barry & Wendy Moule, Melanie Myres & family, Buster Pearson, Jenni Harris, Quynh Nguyen & family, Charmaine Kvalic & family, Katrina Effern & family and Bill Harris.
A very big thanks to you all who made this possible.
Going forward we plan to collect some art and craft supplies for the school, which Lincoln will take in September during his small group tour North India Revealed tour with Remarkable East. Sanjeev has also mentioned the possibility of getting some bikes for the girls who travel in from far away, which we love the idea of. We’ll keep you posted on this also.
Each night as we read our son books before bedtime we see the impact books have on a young mind. We are blessed to have so many books at our fingertips, and glad that in some small way we have been able to share that with other children. Thanks again to all who made this possible.
Madelene, Lincoln and the India Unbound team