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Harini and Pavitra, dressed in their blue and white school uniforms, had come to school that morning with their parents – Harini with both her parents and Pavitra with her mother – so we could interview them to get a sense of what the EACH ONE TEACH ONE scholarship program meant to them.

 

“If you could say something to the whole world, what would it be?” I found myself asking Harini.

 

It wasn’t a question I had planned to ask her. She paused for thought, then replied,

 

“Trees are very important for humans. Trees breathe by photosynthesis, and that’s good for humans, because we need oxygen to live. They give us oxygen to breathe, and they each give life to a whole ecosystem. We need to love trees and protect them. I would say to everyone in the world that we must take care of trees.”

 

An uplifting message

 

What an uplifting message from a twelve-year old child.  If only the world’s politicians would speak with such clarity about the natural world.

 

In her office, where the principal, Mrs. Ruby Puthotta, greets visitors with a warm, engaging smile, every wall was lined with shelves and more shelves of trophies, won for athletic achievements over the years by the girls of Lady Sivaswami Ayyar Girls Higher Secondary School. The school is in Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal in South India.

 

Harini and her schoolmate, Pavitra, who is thirteen, are two of the 300 children at the school who are able to attend school thanks to the EACH ONE TEACH ONE scholarship program, run by the C.P. Foundation, Chennai.

 

Harini and her parents live in Tharamani, outskirts of Chennai, twelve miles away from Mylapore. The three of them had caught a train early that morning to travel to meet us.

 

When Harini is not at school, she spends her time painting natural scenery and, especially — you guessed it – trees. She tells us that there are lots of trees and bushes around her house.  She loves animals too; there are community dogs that live in her neighborhood. When she finishes school, she wants to join the Indian Administration Service to become a civil servant.

 

Her mother, K. Jayanthi, takes care of the home, and her father, Mr. Kaliraj owns and runs a sidewalk shop that sells ice cream and snacks. He says it’s fairly busy, and he enjoys his work, which he’s been doing for around twenty years.

 

A future scientist

 

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Harini’s schoolmate, Pavitra, who is thirteen, rides her bike to school every day. She lives closer to the school than Harini does – only about a mile and a half away, and she’s fascinated by science. She loves to read books about nature – especially about the stars and the planets. She’s fond of animals too, particularly dogs and horses.

 

Pavitra intends to be a scientist one day and is especially intrigued by chemistry. When she’s not at school, she spends her time doing handicrafts, especially making pink paper flowers to decorate her room.

 

Harini’s mother, Jayanthi, works in the home, has a talent for sewing, and makes clothes for her family. Married for 25 years, she and her husband have three children. She tells us, “When I’m making lunch for my children in the morning, I’m just really happy and grateful that they’re able to go to school.”

 

She wants her children to have good lives, and she is focused on that. Pavitra’s sisters are eleven and nine years old. Harini’s eleven-year old sister also studies at this school and has a scholarship.

 

Giving young people a chance to learn

 

Under the guidance of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, President, C.P. Foundation, the project has been coordinated by Mrs. Malathy Narasimhan, of the C.P. Foundation, after the passing away of Mrs. Shakunthala Jagannathan, Founder Member of EACH ONE TEACH ONE, in the year 2000.

 

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The principal, Mrs. Ruby Puthotta, gives us some background on what this program means to the students being sponsored. 90% of the students at this school are very poor, while 10% are middle class. Over half of the students are able to attend school only because of the scholarships that they receive – from the C.P. Foundation and other charities that also offer scholarships.

 

She explains, “We have a lot of children from very poor backgrounds.  Some of the girls do domestic work early in the morning, and then again after school to help support their families. We’ve identified 45 children who work before and after school, and we’ve set up a special coaching program to help them. The All India Domestic Workers Association helps by paying for the teacher that does the coaching.”

 

Legally, children can start to work in India at age 14, so without a scholarship to be able to stay in school, these girls would have only a dreary future ahead of them.

 

Thanks to generous sponsors though, there are now no limits on what they may accomplish. Their sponsorships will take them through the twelfth grade, and the chances are good that they will qualify for scholarships to go on to university.

 

A wider reach

 

It also means something really important for the rest of us — that the world will not lose all that these gifted young people have to offer.

 

The world is in need of their talents and energy – and very much in need of the deep understanding that “trees are very important” – and are vital to our future.  What could be a more meaningful message?

 

A promising future for these youngsters will make a big difference – not just for them, but for us and our world as well.

 

 

 

By Sharon St Joan

President

Forest Voices of India

 

How you can help

The CPR Foundation
(the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation)
Chennai, India

The CPR Foundation

– empowers women to start their own businesses.

_ runs schools and sponsors the education of children from low-income families in South India.

– instills the concept of ahimsa (“do no harm”) through the art and culture of India.

You can help by clicking on the Donate button, and choosing the CPR Foundation. Another great way to help is to send this link to a friend.

Bless you for your kindness!

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