Monday, February 18, 2013

We are simply giving them the opportunity to fulfill their potential

Like seemingly everything else in India, the slums outside Kalva are a place of contrasts.  It is almost unbelievable that this level of poverty exists less than an hour's train ride away from the opulence and cosmopolitan bustle of South Mumbai.  The sadness of seeing a homeless family living on the street outside a Ferrari dealership is jarring.

However, when I walk through the slums every day to teach, the thing that stands out the most to me is not the contrast of wealth and poverty that exists so prevalently and shockingly throughout this city.  It is not the dirt and waste-clogged streams, or the goats and chickens picking through trash along the road.  It is the smiles of the children, the way the people living there takes so much care to keep their tiny homes clean and colorful, the care the women take in preparing food for the children, the kindness and tenacity of the teachers.  It is the humanity of the place that is the most striking thing.  To a certain extent, I expected the heat, the smells, the lack of sanitation.  I did not expect to see a small alley with brightly painted walls and clean laundry catching the slight breeze.  I did not expect the laughing friendliness of the women when we showed up to 'help' them prepare food for the children.

The children themselves are wonderful too.  So smart, so sweet and funny, so excited to be learning with us.  We prepare a lesson every day to present to the class and they learn what we have to teach them far faster than we ever expect, pushing us to be more creative.  It is beginning to feel as if we are providing a service to the wider world as well as to these children, because as these bright and eager children grow up, they have so much to offer - they can become doctors, businessmen, scientists, politicians, or teachers themselves.  We are simply giving them the opportunity to fulfill their potential, and if we did not, the world would be that much poorer. 
Elana is a participant in the Gabriel Project Mumbai-JDC 2013 Spring session

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