“It’s nice to see your smiling face,” says Manisha as I walk into the office of the Abhyudaya School. Prior to Manisha, I had never been told how nice it is to see my smiling face – sure I’ve had the usual “It’s nice to see you” or “I’m so happy you’re here,” but interactions like these always seem to lack a certain kind of sincerity. Manisha’s genuine happiness about seeing me smile was as refreshing as the air conditioning just starting to cool my overheated body, and only reinforced what I had been feeling all day: I was in the right place.
On Tuesday, we started the documentaries we will be working on during our final weeks in India. My group was paired with the Abhyudaya School, which provides underprivileged children with an education, and a chance at a better life. With education as their platform, the Abhyudaya School guides young boys and girls in a holistic journey of self-discovery and growth. Beginning in 7th standard, ages 11-15, Abhyudaya supports these boys and girls until the completion of their education, which means until the children decide they want to stop, even if that means supporting them through graduate school. The children that attend Abhyudaya are referred to as “sitaras,” which means star in hindi. These little stars are selected from the schools around the area, and then begin taking classes at Abhyudaya on the weekends, and are paired with a mentor. Abhyudaya is unique in that it is not a full time school. The sitars attend their regular government funded schools where they learn all the necessary subjects, and then on Saturday (after their regular school day is over), and Sunday they study supplemental subjects like english or drawing. Each sitara is paired with a mentor, who is a graduate student at S P Jain College of Management and Research. The mentors visit their mentees at least 24 times an academic school year where they work on building the sitara’s confidence, and helping him or her find their full potential.
I am amazed every day that I visit the school at the beauty, grace, and intellect of every sitara. I ma thankful to Abhyudaya for opening it’s doors to me, and allowing me to learn along with the sitaras.