Gina writes:

For the next two weeks, we have a visitor and a roommate! Annie is from the U.K. and has been fundraising for SOVA for the past five years. She visits every year to check on her projects. We are benefitting from her history with SOVA and knowledge of India to tag along on some visits to SOVA projects and other cool trips in the coming weeks!

Yesterday, we had the chance to visit SOVA's residential school for girls. There are two schools, one for 29 girls and another for 38 boys. Annie's fundraising efforts provide 100% of the support for both schools, so she is particularly interested to see them each year. The schools are for uneducated children and dropouts from the most remote villages with the poorest conditions. The education that the children receive catches them up to others their own age and prepares them to enter the government-run schools.

After the initial greetings, we were given a brief tour.

This is one of the two classrooms. The girls were a little shy, so Annie played a game with them. She said a word in English and the girls raced to be the first to find the object in the room.

In this room, each girl has a box in which she keeps her personal items. Each night, they move sleeping mats from this room to the classrooms, where they sleep. Very basic, but better than the situations they came from...

This is the kitchen.

After the tour, we all sat on the veranda again. Corey and I offered to lead the "Hokey Pokey," which was a big hit.

We followed this up with rousing renditions of "Head, Shouldres, Knees, and Toes" and the "Chicken Dance!" They loved these, because of the fact that the words and movements go faster and faster and faster.

The girls also did a group song and dance for us and then the youngest girl, Rosie, sang for us. Well, she started to sing, but then got nervous, so another girl helped her out.

Rosie is five years old. When she was three, her mother died. Her father then sold her to another family for household work (imagine a three-year-old becoming a domestic servant!). After some time, the police found out about the situation and through a series of events that isn't totally clear to me, SOVA decided to take her under their wing and invite her to the residential school. Understandably, she was traumatized when she arrived at the school, but now, more than a year later, she is well-adjusted and charming.

After our song and dance exchange, we helped Annie with a fundraising video that she's making. She reworded Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," so we taught the kids to sing, "We just need some education; We just need a place to grow; No life of labor with no future; Hey, sponsor, throw us kids a rope." The kids got restless after awhile, so I hope our work is good enough for her video. It's a creative idea.

As a side note, the SOVA staff person in charge of administrative tasks for the schools is our friend Satabdi. Her main job is in the accounts department, but she also is the canteen manager and, now we know, the schools manager! We like her, she's smart and funny and kind. Here we are just outside the school.