Inge looks back on her visit to Bangalore
In January 2012 Inge visited Bangalore to join in the celebrations of the 1st anniversary of Edelweiss pre-school in Bangalore. She shared her experience after returning to London:
When I came to Bangalore my intention was to stay for a long weekend, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Edelweiss school, and visit the slum where the school is located. After 3 days of bright and enthusiastic kids, welcoming teachers, and an impressive trip to the slum, I didn’t want to leave anymore. It’s hard to say what my expectations were, when venturing out to Bangalore. They have definitely been exceeded though, so much so that I know I will be back in that city for sure.
After being part of the Alphabet Club for many years, I finally got to see what our charity really does.. I think I’ve realized how much we can actually help people with just a little of our time and energy, and how incredibly rewarding that is.
I had never been to India before and braced myself for an overwhelming experience, crazy traffic, and many stares. I was wondering if seeing people live in very poor and inhumane conditions would really get to me.
I mainly found people to be incredibly warm and welcoming, and in spite of the poverty people live in, there was always a positive and generous spirit. For a week me, Troy and Dirk – a good friend of Troy also helping out on the project – shared many crazy riksja rides. We were always warmly welcomed at the schools. The teachers from Building Blocks are very dedicated and really took the time to show us around the school. I was told everything about the kids and the curriculum.
The kids learn phonics and English vocabulary by singing songs and dancing, so they are learning and having so much fun with it. What impressed me is the quality of educational materials, and how structured the curriculum is. The teachers know exactly what they are doing every 15 minutes of the day. They enjoy working at the school very much and put in many hours. They even come in on Saturday to plan their week, and stay at school longer voluntarily so the kids can stay in school even after classes, where it is safe and clean. And the kids were the highlight of course. They are full of energy, love showing off their English skills, giving hugs or high fives.
Life in the slum
Other then visiting the schools, we had a chance to walk around in the slum, meeting the mothers of the children, and seeing their living conditions. The mothers were proud to invite us into their house. And the fact that westerners take an interest in them and want to help, is received with a lot of gratitude.
The mums are mostly in their early twenties and will have up to 3 or more children. It’s their daily responsibility to take care of their children and sometimes their parents, too. This is a challenge, since they live in very small and basic houses. They have to store water wherever they can, because running water is only accessible every other day. Cooking will be done on a stove, but if they don’t have one they will have to find wood to cook on. More then one mum told us how happy they are to see their child go to school and come home speaking English. They can now see a future for their children, away from the slum, and away from poverty.
What’s next for the Alphabet Club charity
I’ve seen how we are helping and have also seen how much more is needed. It is estimated that about 20% of Bangalore population reside in urban slums. I am wondering how many more schools we can fund, and hoping it is many. Our most recent plans are first of all funding the expansion of the Carnation school – another pre-school run by Building Blocks. The school will be moving to a beautiful, spacious building offering room for 100 kids. This means 40 more students, which is great news! Additionally, ABC and Building Blocks are currently looking for a building to start a entirely new school.
Other then starting new schools, we also have to look after our current students. This year, the oldest children will turn 6 and have finished their pre-school education. We’ll need to do as much as we can to make sure they continue their education. What education is available to them, and how can we educate the parents and support them in the admission process? Sending the kids to a primary school will involve some cost for the parents who are generally very poor. An example I have seen involved a 9000rs admission fee and monthly fees of 200r (even though that differs per school). To give you some insight, those monthly fees amount to a little over 3EU. For us, not much at all, but for these families it can be a big extra expense.
Thanks to many people at ABC
All these good things happen thanks to many people, including everyone who has ever attended an AlphaBet Club event. Many thanks to all our volunteers, who are dedicating their time and energy, and all friends of AlphaBet Club who have made extra donations. Worth a big thank you for sponsoring are our Amsterdam friends Alternatives for Children who have been generously helping out with the monthly expenses at the Edelweiss school. It would be wonderful if more people involved with Alphabet Club would have the chance to visit the schools in Bangalore.
Just by buying a ticket for the next event you are contributing to our charity, but you can also make an extra donation online. If you are interested in volunteering, in Amsterdam contact Brea on breaquinn_at_thealphabetclub.org
Alphabet Club Education & Nutrition Projects in India
- 2 Schools opened, Edelweiss and Freesia in last 3 years.
- We serve over 5,000 nutritious free meals a month at our schools to students, free of charge
- Average cost to send a child to our pre-school is 1 EU a day
- Families are very poor and average family size is 5 (3 or more children, parents and grandparents)