It gives me great pleasure to once again connect with all of you. At the outset, I must express my gratitude to all of you for believing in us and most importantly having the trust that your money will be put to good use. Specifically, I would like to mention that 19 people from the Batch of ’94 from the Mayo College, Ajmer have decided to contribute Rs 2,000 each month so that we can fund one of our learning centres. Kudos to all of them. Thanks to all of you, we are no longer hand to mouth and now have some breathing space. Of course, I can not yet claim that we are financially self reliant though we continually strive towards that.
In whatever I have done in my life, I have always put people first and this time should be no different. The rainy season has set in and with the heat now being a matter of the past, foreign volunteers have started coming in. We presently have Carla from Uruguay and a French-Australian couple Jean and Angela, with their lovely 4 year old daughter Lila. Alicia from Spain and Carla from France bid us adieu on July 16. At the moment, one of my students Shaswat is also with us in Agar.
It was very heartening to know that we are now searchable on Google. 6 students from the Aayojan School of Architecture found Masti ki Paathshala on Google and visited us on July 14. They are designing a community learning centre and therefore thought it a good idea to visit our space. On July 15, Dr Iqbal Malik visited us in the village. She holds a Ph.D in man monkey conflict and runs an environment oriented not for profit organisation called Vatavaran. On the same day, Devendra and Mun Shukla, both renowned artists, paid us a surprise visit along with their son Aril. Devendra has promised that he will soon return to do an art workshop for the children. Vishal Bhatt from the Innovation and Science Promotion Foundation (ISPF) visited us on July 16. The children were just too happy to play with the science ‘toys’ that he had got. My dear friend Vipin Khandelwal, a finance professional, is visiting us on the 23rd and 24th of July. Finally, on the 24th of this month, we are expecting 4 students from the Shiv Nadar University, Noida, for a 10 day research program.
I am glad that we have made reasonably good progress in the education space. We opened our 2nd learning centre in the neighbouring village of Bhanwata on June 3rd. Of course, things yet need to stabilise there. Due to a paucity of manpower, we have yet to get our act together there. On the brighter side, we have recruited a local boy in Grade 9 who goes to the Bhanwata learning centre for 2 hours every day. While some of you may say, ‘child labour’, both Ajay and his family are elated. This is also in line with our philosophy of recruiting local youth.
Of late, I was a bit upset for I thought that the children were not really learning much. However, I was surprised with the confidence and the knowledge that the children exhibited when both Dr Malik and Vishal Bhatt visited us. I have mentioned below some of the things that are to come in the near future:
- Masti ki Paathshala shall soon be a part of the rhizome that is being led by Vatavaran, the environment oriented not for profit organisation being run by Dr Malik. We should soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding and formalise our relationship. This will surely give us access to many more resources.
- We intend to soon formalise our relationship with ISPF. Vishal has already agreed to send us a packet for each child, which will contain 20 science experiments, at a subsidised rate of Rs 500 per packet. They will also do 2 training programs during the year.
- We intend to soon set up an astronomy lab. Thanks to a dear friend, we now have an entry level telescope. With the skies pouring cats and dogs, it of course is not the best time for astronomy. And this is what has delayed our plans.
- We intend to soon broaden our penpal program. Some of our children have written letters to a family, based in the UK, having 3 children. We intend to now broaden this both in terms of the children participating in this and also in terms of geography. Accordingly, I take this opportunity to request all of you, especially the foreign volunteers, to connect us with children in your countries.
Things are moving well in the livelihoods space. Mr Paul Larson, who is helping us market our goods in the US, has asked us to send samples of 18 pieces that he has chosen. We hope to send the shipment by the end of this month. We also plan to soon do a workshop on dyeing and printing using natural dyes. Since the workshop would entail expenditure of about Rs 50,000, we are presently trying to find ways to make the workshop happen. As mentioned above, 4 students will be coming from the Shiv Nadar University, Noida, for a 10 day research program. They will be doing a preliminary market study to help us market agri commodities in October / November this year.
As you can see, there is a lot of action happening on various fronts. Our execution has been a little weak due to a lack of manpower. Therefore, we should soon start looking for a person who could work alongside me.
As always, please feel free to write in or call or best visit us in the village.