A few years back my Aunt Hema Shah and 2 of her friends travelled to India to volunteer at a rudimentary school in Jaipur, India. They taught basic English and Math to primary school age students who were orphans and street kids. These children had no other access to a school and would have otherwise remained uneducated. My Aunt was touched by their living conditions and the conditions of their school. The school composed of two very small classes in a run down building with a very small chalk board on the wall. The children sat on the floor or sometimes on a thin blanket on the ground. Often times the classes were held outside because the space was very crowded and the heat was unbearable. These children had no clean water to drink or wash with and very little to eat. The school was run by Pranay Udawat and his wife Amita Udawat. They relied on the generosity of those around the world that came there to volunteer their time and teach these children. When my Aunt came back from her trip she asked us all to collect school supplies so we could ship them to the school. The pencils, paper, notebooks, crayons, teaching aids were much needed for these kids to learn. We also sent blankets and clothes because these children had no blankets at night or sweaters when the weather was cooler. When the children opened the boxes of supplies, they were so very excited. That image touched all of our hearts and inspired me to start this non profit, Planting Pencils.
With the help of donors, Pranay and Amita, through Sankalp Volunteer Society were able to open a larger school and offer their classes to many more orphans and street kids. The new upgraded classes were bigger with more space for learning and teaching. There are bright colorful desks now for the children and they have backpacks to hold their books and supplies. They have clean drinking water and clean water to wash their hands and decrease the spread of germs. Pranay and Amita still offer the opportunity for people around the world to come and volunteer. The original students from the old school have advanced their knowledge quite a bit. They now know how to read and speak in English and Hindi. They have learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and even algebra. They take science and social studies, and they are health and thriving! That pencil that was planted years ago has now grown and flourished! Without this opportunity to attend school and learn, many of these children would not be alive today. They would have lost the fight with poverty, hunger and disease. They now have the ability to get a job, protect themselves and their family and contribute to society. This is just one example that shows that education can change the life of a child so dramatically. The focus of humanitarian aid needs to shift to educating all! Only then can we stop the cycle of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and disease.