Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ninash Foundation Annual Report 2012—2013

During December 2012 and January 2013, Ashok Malhotra, Founder/President and Linda Drake, Treasurer of the Ninash Foundation visited the Foundation’s 5 Indo-International schools established by the SUNY Oneonta Learn and Serve participants (1996-2008). At present these schools are providing education to more than 1200 female and minority children of India. They were accompanied by Dr. John Young, {Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Oregon State University, USA} and Dr. Jean Fang, {Retired Professor of Foreign Languages, Oregon State University, USA}. Dr. Kevin Brien {Philosophy Department, Washington College, Maryland, USA } also joined them during their visit to one of the Indo-International Schools that is situated in Mahapura, Rajasthan.

Visit to the Indo-International School in Kuran, Gujarat

During their visit (Dec 31, 2012-Jan 2, 2013) to the Indo-International School in Kuran, Gujarat, they were accompanied by Principal Ram Gusai and the teachers. The 280 children who in 2001 could speak only the local dialect of Kachhi, now showed their proficiency by reading, singing and reciting poetry in the four languages of Kachhi (local), Gujarati (regional), Hindi (national) and English (international). They also presented their skills in the use of computer by sending emails as well as in educating themselves by learning and speaking English through the use of various internet programs. The children also danced and sang songs for the visitors.Another highlight of the visit was the meeting with the local Panchayat (the political governing body) of the village that provided entertainment for the New Year’s Eve celebration. During an open forum with the Sarpanch (mayor), Panchayat (mayor’s council), Principal Gusai, Ashok, Linda, John and Jean discussed the basic issues of importance to the village. Following issues were put forth for discussion and implementation:To make the remote village of Kuran as a Model of Rural Educational Center for the State of Gujarat, India and the World, the following items were discussed:
1. The village needs to explore a source of fresh drinking water: To do so, the village needs to hire an agency that would check the possibility of digging an electrically operated well for fresh water and will provide an estimate on price, depth of the well and the time period within which it could be constructed. The Panchayat fixed April 30, 2013 as the deadline to get all the information on the project.
2. The village needs to clean up the rubbish: cleaning work to be divided among the children of the school and the people of the village. Cleaning to be done in four different steps: children should clean up the area around the school by carrying out the rubbish to a hole dug up for burying the garbage; people living in the village to clean up the area around their houses and to carry the rubbish to a hole dug up for that purpose; the head of the Panchayat should check on the surroundings of each house; award the cleanest three houses; and reprimand the owners of the dirtiest ones.
3. Furthermore, the Panchayat requested the Ninash Foundation in cooperation with the local governing body of the village to help finance the building of a road connecting the present elementary school with the newly built high school. The road will be lined with trees, bushes and lights for safety.
4. Principal Gusai of the Indo-International School (IIS) will appoint a couple of teachers to write down the oral history of the village in terms of its beginnings, folk lore, medical practices, art, artifacts religion, marriage, birth and death practices. The oral history would be written down and translated into English and the book would be put in the Kuran library as well as a copy will be presented to the state of Gujarat.
5. IIS would create a new shelf in the existing library in memory of Bertil, a poet friend of John and Mimi Koller and Milton Forman. This shelf will contain poetry books in Hindi, Gujarati and English. Also a mobile library with poetry books would be put in each class room. Furthermore, a poem would be read in the morning at the school assembly and a teacher would read a poem appropriate to each class; and prizes will be set up and given annually for reading and writing the most poems by a student and a teacher.
6. Students of IIS will follow the slogan of “each one teach one” by going back to their homes and teaching at least one sibling or a parent how to read and write as well as impart computer skills to other children from the school. The goal would be to have the entire village of 1400 people to become fully literate, which would be used as a model for the state of Gujarat, India and rest of the world.
7. Sakuba, a teenage girl who was born crippled and could not use her hands/fingers/arms, came to IIS when she was 4 years of age. She has been using her feet/toes to read and write. She has turned out to be such a bright teenager that she showed her computer skills by using the mouse through her toes/feet. A local NGO will be offering financial assistance to get her crippled arms x-rayed and surgery to be performed so that she would be able to get a use of her arms up to 80 % of their capacity. By getting the use of her arms, she would be able to finish high school and then go to college, get a job and might be able to get married and raise a family with dignity. This touching human story might be the focus of the next Ninash Video!
8. A student who lost one eye to an accident and could barely use the other has been declared as almost technically blind was thankful for being given the opportunity to get an education at the Indo-International School. This incentive might help him to finish high school and college education leading to completing his further studies. This could also be another touching human story that might be the focus of the next Ninash Video!
9. We also visited with Raju Kapadhya (a local NGO), who showed us a school for the underprivileged children serving a tribal community (near the village of Khawda) that was teaching 9th and 10th graders. The school needed three new rooms: one for computers and two for class rooms. The local NGO requested the Ninash Foundation to provide funds to build a computer room whereas two classrooms would be built through the village Panchayat, teachers and a local trust.

Visit to the Indo-International School in Dundlod

From January 3-6, 2013, our group of four visited the Indo-International School in Dundlod, accompanied by Director Dr. Ganga Singh (President of READS), Principal George, and teachers where we met with 580 children from both the primary and high schools.The school ran an open forum to discuss various issues of interest: children and teachers asked about the festivals, foods, climate, schools, education, teaching, snow, sports, games, etc. as well as the size of the airplane, number of passengers, time difference between India and the USA. The wonderful exchange of ideas with the children and teachers lasted for more than 2 hours.
10. Linda ran a session with teachers and staff to discuss the various uses of computers and how this knowledge could be used leading to better jobs for teachers and children. We also proposed the setting up of two awards for teachers and children who would be mastering the computer skills during the next year and sharing them with other teachers and students. Moreover, as incentive for the teachers and students, two I Pads will be given away to the best qualified computer teachers who would impart knowledge to others.
11. It was proposed that the IIS to create a new shelf in the library in memory of Bertil, a poet friend of John/Mimi Koller and Milton Forman. This shelf will be full of poetry books in Hindi, Rajasthani and English. Moreover a mobile library for each class room will be created where some of these poetry books would be put so that they will be available for children. Furthermore, a poem to be read at the start of the school each day; each teacher would read a short poem appropriate to each class; and prizes to be set up and given annually for reading and creating the most poems by a student and a teacher.
12. On January 5, Linda gave away 25 goats to the 25 poorest of poor people of the community with the following instructions: each goat is given as a gift from an American family who cares about the families in India. When each donated goat is fed well like one’s own children, it will give a good quantity of milk, which should be used by the family for its own consumption and extra milk to be shared with the neighbors; the goat should not to be sold or slaughtered; and each person receiving the goat will either sign their names or give a thumb print indicating that they received the goat. The goat giving ceremony lasted from 4-5:30 PM. Before these goats were given away, Linda and Ashok visited 5-6 families that received the goats to check out their living conditions. Since 2006, a total of 178 goats had been given away helping more than 700 poorest of poor people of the Dundlod village. As in the past, most of the money to  buy and give away 25 goats was raised by children and teachers of the Riverside School as well as the members of the Oneonta community.
13. At the Indo-International School in Dundlod, a local businessman donated six new computers to the IIS computer Center and promised to give more in the coming years. The inauguration of the computer room was done by Dr. John Young and Dr. Ganga Singh. This inauguration ceremony was followed by children performing various dances and singing songs for the visitors. Ganga, Linda and Ashok gave inspirational speeches to the children and teachers spreading the message of service and learning through the slogan of “each one teach one.” Children were excited to share their future plans of getting into police academy, becoming teachers, lawyers, doctors, computer specialists, politicians, taxi drivers, nurses, and even the Prime Minister or President of India.
14. Ashok also met with a couple of members of the Panchayat (members of mayor’s council) of Dundlod who promised to plant flowers, trees and bushes in the newly built park across from the Dundlod Fort. The idea to create such a park was the brain child of Ashok, which has been in the making for the past few years. The members of the Panchayat promised to have the park ready to be used for the recreation of the people of the village as well as for special social/religious ceremonies and political gatherings of the local community. They would have the park completed by next year and will open it with the next year’s goat giving ceremony.
15. The 580 children and 30 teachers as well as Principal George of the IIS were thankful for receiving a gift of the water well through the generous financial support of the Empire Toyota of Oneonta that helped build the well. They also thanked Raj and Christina Malhotra for providing financial support to fund the salary of a music teacher. They were also grateful to the donors of the Ninash Foundation that provided funds to build Jack Finestone Music Room and Hari Chand Chopra Culture room to be used for the High School classes.
16. The principal and teachers proposed and discussed with us the need for a playground and a park cum eco-garden for the children. A piece of land in the back of the school that is not being utilized for any productive purpose is to be used for creating such a playground/park to serve as a  recreation place  for  the  children,  teachers and local community. To build the play ground and the garden, funding was requested  from the Ninash Foundation.

Visit to the Indo-International Culture School in Mahapura (January 6-8, 2013)

17. John, Jean, Linda and Ashok were joined by Kevin Brien during their visit to the Indo-International Culture School in Mahapura. Our group of five along with Pushpendra Rathore (Artist); Yatan Rathore (Superintendent), Saroj Rathore (Principal), Mahavir Singh, Rashmi Singh (Advisors) and Liaqat Bhatti (Reporter and Photographer from a local newspaper) drove to the Indo-International Culture School in Mahapura where we were greeted by children with garlands and Tilak on our foreheads. We were also joined by a group of 30 visitors from the USA who had adopted a number of Indian children in the past. The children of Indo-International Culture School performed dances and sang songs for us. Inspirational speeches were given by Ashok, Yatan and older children regarding the value of education, culture and art. Children promised to follow the slogan of “each one teach one” by teaching at least one of their illiterate parent or sibling or neighbor.
18. John, Jean, Kevin, Linda and Ashok ran an open forum with children and teachers. Children asked Ashok to show them some meditation exercises, which they could do at the beginning of each class as well as after the recess. Ashok taught them a number of breathing and meditation exercises along with how to stand on their heads.
19. Children wanted to learn a few phrases of Chinese which Jean taught them. Kevin and John played basket ball and soccer as well as other sports with the children whereas some wanted to learn about the use of computer on which Linda gave an informational talk, on its uses and benefit toward getting a good job in the future.
20. After the children were gone, we held a conference with the teachers and the principal where the needs of the school were discussed. Two laptop were needed: one for the use of the school and the other for the use of the superintendent to keep the lines of communication open between the teachers, children and us in the USA. Through the Ninash Foundation, these two lap tops were bought for the school. These computers will be used to teach other teachers as well as children. A printer was also bought for record keeping of the school such as its enrollment, teachers’ names, salaries, budget, expenses, email, internet etc.
21. It was proposed that the IIS to create a new shelf in the library in memory of Bertil, a poet friend of John/Mimi Koller and Milton Forman. This shelf will be full of poetry books in Hindi, Rajasthani and English. Moreover a mobile library for each class room will be created where some of these poetry books would be put so that they will be available for children. Furthermore, a poem to be read at the start of the school each day; each teacher would read a short poem appropriate to each class; and prizes to be set up and given annually for reading and creating the most poems by a student and a teacher.

State of the Schools and Theme for Future Documentary

All the schools in Kuran, Mahapura and Dundlod were newly painted, the bathrooms were clean, eco-gardens were green, and libraries with books and computers supplying the necessary embellishment to teaching through the equipment and beautiful surroundings, were a sight to watch.At the end of our 2 weeks visit to the Indo-International schools in Kuran, Dundlod and Mahapura, we discussed possible ways of highlighting their accomplishment by creating a documentary that includes the touching story of the crippled Sakuba who might be able to get surgery to use 80% of her arms, to go to college and get married with a job that supports the family as well as depict the story of the partially blind student who could go to school and express his talents. This wonderful opportunity provided by the Ninash’s IIS schools to the disabled children to flourish with their talents in spite of the handicap, could be a central theme of the next Ninash documentary. Overall, the visit to the schools and their facilities, computer centers, libraries; water well and park for the community; art, music and culture rooms along with children speaking 3-4 languages and being computer literate was a joy to behold.

Learning through Immersion into India’s Culture (January 9-18, 2013)

After spending 10-12 days at the Indo-International Schools, we went on to immerse ourselves during the next 8-9 days into the historical, religious, philosophical, social and everyday culture of India through visiting Varanasi (ancient Hindu city of love, life and death); Sarnath (Buddhist city where Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment); Khajuraho (a city of Love and Erotic temples); Agra (Taj Mahal depicting eternal love) and Delhi/New Delhi (Capital of India and blend of nine cities).This trip would be used as a future model of for the SUNY Learn and Serve Study Abroad Program where the first 10-12 days will be used to visit and serve in the Indo-International Schools and the remaining 8-9 days for learning through immersion in the culture of India. 
Since these Indo-International schools serving the underprivileged minority children of India depend on the contributions from the generous donors, your tax-deductible donation can be sent to the Ninash Foundation, 17 Center Street, Oneonta, NY 13820, USA or visit the website at and donate through PayPal.