By Grace Schmidt
I’ve traveled to Cuba. I’ve been to Florida. I’ve even made it to Mexico, but not one of those trips will ever compare with what I did this past summer.
My name is Grace Schmidt, and I’d like to share some of the things I learned while volunteering in rural India.
Travelling with Me To We and Free the Children, I spent three weeks as part of a team building a school in the village of Barind, India, a community of about 300 households spread over a fairly large area.
Distance from homes and the need for children to help around the house and farm to provide income for their families meant only about half attended school. With the help of trips like the one in which I participated, things are changing.
Free the Children works alongside community members to help establish the resources needed to pull themselves out of poverty.
We spent our days digging four-foot-deep trenches for the foundations for a new classroom. The hard work meant we left the build site hot, sweaty and tired, but it was worth it for the reaction of the children when they came out to see us.
They were unbelievably thankful and always wanted to play games with us. It didn’t matter that they knew next to no English and we knew but a few words of Hindi. Their gratitude, and our desire to help, transcended the language barrier.
One little girl in particular will always stand out for me. Kalas was five or six years old. She loved to play with my sunglasses and to play tickle tag. I marvelled at how happy she was, despite what little she had.
Then there was Mutki-Bai, a mother in the community. She took us to her home and led us on her daily walk for water, a trip she makes a minimum of 10 times a day, walking through fields and climbing rocks to get to the village’s open pit well.
We worked in partners to carry a small container of water back to her home, while Mutki-Bai carried an enormous can at twice the speed we did. Incidentally, her house is smaller than my bedroom at home.
India is still with me in my heart and recalling those three weeks reminds me of the difference a single person can make. I’m taking my belief in air chance at education and turning it into action. By the time I finish university, I aim to raise the $10,000 it takes to build another school.
If you’d like to help me make a difference in India, you can contact me by email at [email protected].