Due to my tight schedule we only had the morning to spend more time at the school. However this time we were to visit 2 other schools in the locality both operated by RDF, but both not as advanced as Kalleda. A driver was given to us for the day and we had an English teacher take us on our tour of the first school. It was in another village and in comparison to Kalleda was very small. It was obvious that funding was desperately needed, particularly when we were shown that parts of the building were in a state of disrepair. Yet RDF have persisted and tried to overcome the obvious structural problems by moving classes outdoors and simply making the most of what they have available. We was shown around by the head who told me it was his absolute privilege to have us at his school and that it was his pleasure to take us where we wanted and show us anything we wanted. Typical of the hospitality throughout RDF we visited every class and were shown examples of work whilst Charlie and Abi again interacted, Abi had a whole class of 10 year olds doing Makatong that she had taught them. We were shown the administration behind the school and I was impressed at just how professional they were with the obvious lack of resources. Again we saw nothing but happy kids who were keen to show us the way they lived.
We headed to the second school which was a high school and again we were greeted with open arms and given complete unrestricted access to the entire school. A young boy sang for us and he had the most amazing voice as he sang a local song. We saw girls reciting poetry and I had a conversation with two girls who had an excellent grasp on the English language, a real credit to the whole organisation and the girls themselves. There was a photographer who was keen to get pictures of our visit for the local news and for the school itself which I guess reinforces the fact that the villages are very isolated and rarely visited.
The heads of all three schools we visited were keen to get feedback on what we felt they were doing right/wrong, I am always happy to offer constructive criticism but I could offer nothing but praise for the excellent job they are doing.
We had to leave at midday to get back to Hyderabad, as we left Kalleda School we had kids running behind us waving and laughing and smiling, pleased to have been a part of our visit. We said our goodbyes and left the place which had gifted us many memories and given us an unprecedented insight into rural India and something 99% tourists do not get the privilege to witness and experience.
We headed back with Marina and the driver. We of course got lost and I wondered how since the driver kept asking directions. Marena explained that Indian people do not like to say they can’t help and so simply wave in a direction whilst doing the funky bobble head.
En route to Kalleda Elizabeth and I had spotted what looked like a huge fort on the world’s biggest piece of granite. So I was keen to stop off on the way back and Marena was up for it too.
We eventually found it. The driver waited whilst we scaled what is essentially a million year old brick fort built on a massive rock about twice the height of Everest. We scaled it in awe and I tried hard not to let on the fact I was dying at the top, it really was high, very high and steep. After we had spent an hour in amazement we descending using a different way found by Marena, personally I think she was looking to get a photo of me rolling hundreds of feet down a rock as I lost my footing on the ridiculously steep descent. I was never worried though, Marena is a Harvard student and so she used a very precise mathematical method of evaluating that it was safe for me to take my young children down who were white with fear. It’s a simple equation – Goat x 5 (on the rocks) = safe
I was to be staying at Vanditas home and was to be having dinner with her that night. However she called and said she had to go out and so she would see us in the morning. So when we finally got to Hyderabad Marena and I had decided we should go grab a Chinese and catch a movie. We went to drop our things off at the house and the family that cooks for Vandita had made a huge meal for us. The food was gorgeous and the kids loved the homemade chicken curry and chapattis. Afterwards we grabbed a taxi and went to watch a Bollywood movie. We saw Ravanaan which is the big movie at the moment and although it was as cheesy as is possible it was full of great music, fantastic dancing, beautiful Indian women and some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen. Though the kids and I couldn’t understand a word, we all sat through the two and half hour movie and we didn’t stroll out of the cinema until after midnight.
It was the end of two of the most amazing and touching days of our lives. The following morning I spoke with Vandita about what we had experienced and how we felt, she extended her thanks for visiting and that it had been her privilege. We discussed the future plans for RDF and there are big hopes for the whole organisation. But it still depends on volunteers. RDF is funded wholly by donors and relies on both donors and funding, essentially it is the backbone of the whole organisation and is literally crying out for people to come and help out.
http://rdfindia.org/ RDF provides all meals and accommodation but more than that they provide an invaluable opportunity to help out those less fortunate in what will be an exceptionally rewarding experience.
The kids left RDF having experienced a cultural difference rarely witnessed by children their age, they saw how a school is run completely different to their own yet they shared that magical bond that is so natural in kids. I have no doubt that their experiences will help form their personalities and hopefully will help mould them into great individuals.
I took something very different from the experience, from the school and the chat I had with Vandita post visit, I realised that wealth is irrelevant to happiness. True happiness is found in the simplest of things, be it children making things out of old boxes, or singing songs amongst themselves. Happiness costs nothing but a little optimism, belief and a smile; something that is very infectious throughout the whole RDF organisation.