It was an early start for me today as I needed to get across the city to a meeting. Given that we needed to be heading to the airport by midday, I was on my way to Samne Ghat shortly after 8am. It was an interesting journey. The primary school that I was visiting is attached to a hostel for teenagers but it’s not on Google, nor do local people have much awareness of its location. Consequently, it took a little while to find. The rickshaw driver took me close but didn’t know the last part of the journey. I wasn’t hugely drawn to ask his help anyway as he’d already paused journey to pass a quick pipe with his friends. Various locals sent me one way then the other. After a few phone calls and a burst of bike assistance, I found myself signing into Jeevan School’s visitor log and meeting a remarkable man named Sheelu Kujur.
Formerly a lawyer, Sheelu now runs Jeevan School. The walls are lovingly adorned with familiar educational material.
The students were smartly dressed in their uniform and listening well to their teachers. I saw maths and science in progress, as well as this group who were studying insects and having different species painted on their faces to remember them.
Look for the butterfly and the ladybird here:
There’s a library and a computer room. A large clean kitchen. The children are given breakfast and lunch every day.
The nutrition is especially important for the children whose nearby home looks like this:
Once more I heard stories of deprivation and hardship for young people that make you shudder. Mothers at thirteen. Children abandoned or abused. And good people who battle red tape and funding regulations to feed, clothe and educate as many as they can.
We have now protected the flicker of light in Disha and worked to make it a beacon – collaborating with Act and Help to maximise the life chances of their children; building self-confidence and discipline. Now we have to figure out how to help more children shine.
Another hairy rickshaw ride (through the oncoming traffic because the driver was impatient with the gridlock) and it was a dash to pack and get set for departure. Charlie and I had a coffee and cake to keep us going:
…then it was a fond goodbye to the Ashish Cafe staff who have once again made the FairFight team at home during our work.
Our ever-reliable Genie, Dheer, popped up with Moyee and his car, although I think he would have preferred a magic carpet as the traffic everywhere was beyond appalling.
After some detouring through villages and jumping out to move other vehicles himself to achieve a hairpin bend in the densest of horn-blaring traffic, Dheer got us to the airport. Then a series of bumps: irregularities with boarding passes; a delay over a split bag; a late departure from Varanasi; Jet being denied entrance with us to Delhi’s departures because her flight is twenty minutes later than ours…we’re not in Kansas yet, Toto.
So I’m writing from Delhi airport and my head is full of ‘what’s next?’ I know what I think the project needs. So as ever we have to start from there to see how we can make it possible. More hard work ahead.
Meanwhile, in 2 weeks time middle Kajal will be taking on a huge adventure. She has qualified for the national championships in Kolkata. Ashadiya has allocated her a chaperone so she can make the journey with the girls from Sensei Sohan’s dojo.
She is hugely excited and she’s determined to win a medal. I asked her how she would feel if she lost and came home with nothing and she shrugged and said ‘then next time I will train even harder’. This attitude is consistent across all the girls and a credit to Devesh who ingrains it constantly. No self-pity, no jealousy, just an embrace for the opportunities they are given. With the worst start in life, they are the most optimistic and positive souls you could ever meet. Thank you for following their story. This chapter is ending now but another is opening and it looks wonderful.