Friday, June 15, 2007

Premonsoon showers!

Last night two of my friends, Christina Kang and Daniel Mokrauer-Madden arrived to stay at the University Residency! It's great to see them: Christina is working on a photo documentary on our team's work and will be traveling around the world documenting other PSC fellowship work. Daniel was a part of my IDEAS team project that created a Tuberculosis curriculum to educate Indian children and create early awareness. He is on brief stop over in New Delhi before starting the implementation of our project in Lucknow, India.

They arrived late in the night and we awoke to some heavy "premonsoon" rains. When it rains, it pours here and huge lakelike puddles form quickly. However, workers quickly brush away all the water and by noon the scorching sun comes out and dries out any remaining wet ground. Rain definitely cools the temperature for the day and everyone seems to be in better spirits now that the heat wave has passed!

A drenched Julie running from our auto rickshaw. Note its size compared to the snazzy Deepalaya bus.

Daily, I have been working with Yamilee and two Rai Foundation students, Meenu and Priya, to go out with the education community mobilizer and visit one of the surrounding communities. We have crafted an education survey to help us better understand the family dynamics and reasoning behind sending a child to school. Specifically, we are investigating whether there is any prejudice against sending girls to schools, the percentage of slum children that even attend school, the percentage of children that drop out of school, as well as the reasons behind all these trends.

We were able to visit one of the most disadvantaged communities today, called Neheru Camp. Christina and Daniel came with us too. It was a bit of a walk but we finally reached the settlement, a rich maze of small buildings and open sewers. Old ladies were trying to sell mangoes, bananas and vegetables but all their produce was covered in flies. There are a lot of unemployed men just sitting around and almost all the women are housewives. Our day at Neherua Camp was very productive as we just situated ourselves in a tiny schoolhouse and women from the community came to speak to us rather than us visiting each one of them. It has been so refreshing to see that despite their poverty these people are animated, excited, and generally very joyful about life. They all believe in the power of education and want the best for their children; it is just disheartening to see that so many of their children are unmotivated to continue schooling past a certain age.

Conducting surveys in a small school house. My partner Meenu is in the white shirt.

Afterwards we were invited to participate as "honorary guests" in a school-wide poster presentation contest given by vocational students. It was odd being given honorary first row seats and being treated with drinks simply because we are from the U.S. Our Rai Foundation counterparts were invited to be the judges, which was quiet amusing and a bit like American Idol.

A poster presentation given by vocational students. They coordinate group outfits and their posters are so colorful.

Fun food for the day:

Enjoying sweet lassi, a yogurt drink, in a clay cup! yummm

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