Thursday, June 27, 2013

Slum Reality - challenges in education and opportunity

The following blog post is copied from a GPM summer 2013 participants' personal blog. Brianna Fisher is a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corp participant with Gabriel Project Mumbai. She is also the first Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles' Fishel Fellow. We are grateful to her for sharing her ideas and feelings with us:

Imagine a typical day of elementary school.  For me, it started with waking up in my own bed, eating breakfast that my parents prepared for me, and then getting driven to my school.  When I got there, I went to my class, which consisted of kids my own age, and sat at my own desk which was filled with an abundance of crayons, markers, paper, and other school supplies.  If a classmate couldn't keep up with what we were learning, they would get some extra help, maybe in the form of a tutor or an after-school program.  I would eat the lunch my parents packed me and play handball or on the playground during recess.  After school, my mom would be waiting for me and would ask me about my day and what I learned.  She would drive me to soccer practice and then to art class or a play-date with a friend.  I would end the day with dinner with my whole family.

Now, back to India.  I’m teaching 2 classes of elementary school-aged children.  While I had all of the tools I needed to be successful, these kids lack most if not all of those tools.  They wake up in the morning, usually in a one-room shack with their entire extended family and walk up to an hour through trash and fecal matter (often barefoot) to get to their classroom, which is a small, dark tin shack filled with kids ages 3-14.  There are no desks, and the only school supplies they have are little chalk boards or a small notebook.  Most of them are malnourished and will not get much to eat that day.  After class, they either work or they wander the slums looking for some entertainment, even in something as simple as a stick.  I had people who believed in me, but many of these kids, especially the girls, don’t have that kind of support system.
This is the reality here. 

Some photos from our walk to and from the classroom:

A lot of people have been asking me, “How can you handle all of that?” “Isn’t it just too sad?” “How do you not cry?” etc.  But believe me, when you walk into the classroom and are greeted by a chorus of “Gooood morning, teacha!” and these huge, adorable smiles, it’s impossible to feel sad. 

I also feel fortunate to be able to not just see and be made aware of these issues, but I have been given an opportunity to do something about it.  I’m thankful every time I see a student’s face light up because they got the answer to a question correct or when we successfully teach the class an English song.  You can tell that they love every minute of it and are so eager to learn, and that inspires me. 

You come to quickly accept the reality of life in the slums when you see how the people living there don’t dwell on the hand they've been dealt.  They go about their lives and work hard to provide for their families.  And for the parents who agree to send their kids to school, they work hard to provide an opportunity for a better life for their children through education.  It’s admirable and provides a flicker of hope for the future of India.

Some photos of the classes we are working with:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

GPM welcomes our summer 2013 JDC Entwine Multi-Week Global Jewish Service Corps Fellows

We give a hearty welcome to GPM's summer 2013 JDC Entwine Multi-Week Global Jewish Service Corps Fellows:
Roxanne, Sami, Brittany, Brianna, Melissa, Rachel and some others on a bike tour of Mumbai

Roxanne Brodsky, San Diego California
Roxanne is currently studying to become an elementary school teacher. She is involved with SDSU Hillel where she holds a position of Vice President of Tzedakah. In this role, she has instituted monthly mitzvah projects for Hillel students. She works as a 3rd grade Judaica teacher at Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego and also as a nanny. She is very involved in community service with an organization in Hillcrest, CA, delivering food to people who are home bound due to health issues. Roxanne also does yoga, bikes, hikes and surfs. She tries to get to the beach as often as possible.

Brittany Cooke, Miami Florida
Brittany received her BSc in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida and studied abroad at Edinburgh College of Arts for a summer semester. After graduation she interned at TOMS Shoes Headquarters in Santa Monica California. Her duties as Social Media intern included managing online viral accounts and multiple social media campaigns. Brittany was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa, where she was a Girls Education and Empowerment Volunteer. Brittany’s role was to enable girls and women in the community, give them the tools to educate themselves and have greater capacity to contribute more to their communities. After this she completed her Master of Science in International and Intercultural Education at Florida International University where she is also employed at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. She works in the Office of Student Affairs. Brittany enjoys sketching, painting and fine arts and in her free time she travels, bakes and reads for fun.

Brianna Fischer, Los Angeles California
Brianna recently graduated from UCLA with degrees in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies. At UCLA she worked in the UCLA Events Office, planning major university events, as well as the Daniel Pearl Foundation, organizing international and local events promoting peace. Brianna shows her dedication to humanitarian work by volunteering at Skid Row to combat poverty, organizing alternative spring break trips with LA’s most under-served populations, working at a refugee center in Rome, volunteering as a camp counselor for disadvantaged children in Jerusalem, and volunteering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Brianna is also passionate about education, and has tutored at an underprivileged middle school, taught international students and faculty at UCLA and has worked as a counselor at Camp Mountain Chai. Brianna spent last year studying and volunteering in Italy and New Zealand as a Kramer Global Scholar. In her free time she loves traveling, outdoor activities, sports (she is a die- hard Real Madrid fan), playing music and meeting new people. She strives to leave her mark in the world by inspiring others to become positive change-makers.

Samantha Klazkin, Plantation Florida
Sami Klazkin is a senior at the University of Florida where she is majoring in International Studies with a focus on the Middle East. She loves everything about UF and being part of Gator Nation! Sami is a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi where she serves as Philanthropy Chair on the executive board and is extremely involved with Gators for Israel. Born and raised in South Florida, Sami attended Jewish Day School from kindergarten till 12th grade. She learnt the importance of Tikkun Olam and being active in the pro-Israel community. Sami volunteered in Ecuador and Israel, her most coveted experiences. Last summer, Sami interned at AIPAC in Washington DC and gained an even greater appreciation for the passionate people working on strengthening the American-Israel relationship. Sami’s number one passion is traveling and learning about different cultures. She loves reading, hanging out with friends, going for runs (she completed a half marathon) and listening to Dave Mathews - she once drove 17 hours to see him in concert!

Rachel Salston, New Brunswick New Jersey
Rachel holds a BA in Neuroscience and a minor in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University. Rachel is a first year student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University. An alumna of Yeshivat Hadar, Rachel is also a current part time student at Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. Currently Rachel works part time as a trained Soferet STaM, a Jewish ritual scribe, trained under Jen Taylor Friedman, the first woman in modern times to write a sefer Torah. The majority of Rachel's time is is spent as a chaplain at Robert Wood Johnson University where she is a student in the Clinical Pastoral Education Program. At the 200 bed hospital, Rachel works as a pediatric and women’s services chaplain. Rachel also spends time working on the nascent egalitarian minyan at the East Brunswick Jewish Center and serves as one of the service coordinators, Torah readers and service leaders. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys paper and glass crafting, baking, swimming, and cooking various international cuisines.

Melissa Rutman, New York City
Melissa graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 with a BA in Philosophy and Political Science. At Penn, Melissa was involved in Hillel as well as the International Affairs Association. For the past two years Melissa has been working as a paralegal in her home town, New York City. She will begin law school this fall. Melissa enjoys many types of travel, from family trips to China to backpacking through Eastern Europe. Throughout her travels Melissa tries to learn and practice foreign languages such as French, Hebrew, Russian and she is working on her Spanish (and of course, Hindi).